In 1984, the famine in Ethiopia reached a terrible climax with hundreds of thousands of lives claimed by starvation and malnutrition related-illnesses. As the missions reach of the United Pentecostal Church International spread farther around the world, so did their exposure to the suffering and needs of people. What had been little known or little seen in North American churches now were personal stories from missionaries and other field workers. And the people suffering were also the church family in those countries . . . with names and faces.
When the Foreign Missions board of the UPCI met in January of 1985, they devised and approved a plan to address these needs. Bro. Harry Scism, then general director of Foreign Missions, asked the board “What are we going to do about the suffering of our brethren in Ethiopia?”
In an article published in the Pentecostal Herald in February of 1985, Bro. Edwin Judd, then general secretary of the Foreign Missions Division, introduced CSI to the North American UPCI pastors and congregations. COMPASSION SERVICES is a program within the structure of the Foreign Missions Division “to provide relief from human suffering resulting from famine, disaster and disease overseas where the spiritual ministry of the church can be enhanced by providing food, clothing, medical services, aid to orphans and assistance with education, agrarian reform and sanitation.”
Later in that same year, Bro. Judd further defined the mission of CSI and the responsibility of the Church: “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (I John 3:18). When Jesus saw human need, He was ‘moved with compassion’ and deliberately took action to meet the need of the hour. By instituting our new department of COMPASSION SERVICES …we hope to enhance the message we preach by demonstrating the love of God ‘in deed,’ by doing what we can to help relieve human suffering…”
Bro. Robert K. Rodenbush was elected as the first director of CSI in 1986 and served through 1990. As a former missionary to Ghana, West Africa, he understood and had firsthand experience of the desperate needs that affect parts of our world.
In 2008, CSI became a standalone 501(c)(3) for tax purposes and legal needs but remains endorsed and affiliated with the UPCI. What Bro. Scism explained in 1988 still lies at the heart of CSI’s work: “Compassion Services and Foreign Missions go hand in hand. As we reach forth in love to help those who are needy and suffering, we also take to them the message of the love of Jesus Christ and this beautiful apostolic plan of salvation. This is yet another avenue of bringing to thousands the message of the gospel.”
We thank Bro. Daniel Scott for his efforts to research and compile the rich history of CSI. This column is only a short excerpt from his detailed work-in-progress that is intended for publication. “The ministry of COMPASSION must be ongoing. Let us love ‘in deed.’” – Rev. Edwin Judd, Pentecostal Herald, June 1985.
CSI needs your funding, support, and prayers to continue our work. To donate, please visit www.compassionservices.org. Donations, contributions, and offerings made to CSI’s international relief efforts can also qualify for direct offering credit through the UPCI Global Missions.