Compassion International, a worldwide child-advocacy ministry, is hosting The Compassion Experience at Valley Baptist Church in Searcy on Nov. 13–16. The free event features a portable interactive exhibit with more than 3,000 square feet designed to simulate homes, markets and schools of developing countries.
According to pastor James Hays, the church supports missionaries in Africa, Brazil, India and Peru, and it wanted to give others the opportunity to experience the different regions of the world.
“We thought it would be something not only our church would benefit from, but the community could as well,” Hays said.
Each participant will be guided through the exhibit from the perspective of a child who experienced poverty via an iPod and set of headphones. Visitors will experience the life of three Compassion International sponsored children from India, Uganda and Bolivia during the 20-minute tour.
Senior Jillian Kissell plans to participate in The Compassion Experience this weekend. Kissell said she heard about it through a friend in St. Louis, Missouri and expects it to be enlightening.
“I think it is important to see how others are living and what their daily lives look like,” Kissell said. “I like experiences that will get me out of my comfort zone and learn something new.”
Hays said this is the first time Compassion International has hosted The Compassion Experience in central Arkansas. According to the Compassion International website, the tour will visit 35 locations and travel more than 65,000 miles across the country this year.
Compassion International representatives will be present at the exhibit and in church services on Sunday morning. There will be a Q & A segment with the representatives during the church service Sunday, according to Hays.
Stories were requested from the Valley Baptist’s mission-supported families to be part of the church’s stop on the tour because the missionaries will have the opportunity to meet children who will be sponsored near those locations.
Hays said he hopes participants will understand the blessings of having their physical needs met, living in a developed country and having material possessions that are associated with the U.S. opposed to developing countries.
“I think it will give (participants) a heart for missions and that it will put names and faces to the needs of people around the world,” Hays said.
The exhibit consists of two 18-wheel trailers and is wheelchair accessible. The experience is appropriate for all ages and ideal for those who have not traveled to a developing country, according to Compassion International.
Hays said approximately 1,000 people have already registered for the exhibit. Reservations are preferred but walk-ins are welcome. The exhibit opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 6:40 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and ends at 5:40 p.m. on Monday. To schedule a time or learn more, visit cts.compassion.com.
“I know we have a tendency to take our blessings for granted — where we live what we have,” Hays said. “I think this 20 minutes (of the tour) will change your life because we believe it will.”