You might be getting a little tired of reading these Compassion posts. It might be too much. Maybe a bit too heavy a read while you’re taking a break during the kids’ nap times.

I hear you. I’ve been like that during other Compassion blog trips — I want to read, but I also kinda don’t. The pictures, the stories, the descriptions… They’re just so heavy and sad, it’s hard not to feel a mix of sadness, anger, apathy, and even a little annoyance at the blogger doing the writing. It’s like they’re interrupting their regularly scheduled programming, and I want to read happier stuff.

To be honest, I’d read their posts and shut down the laptop feeling guilty. And I don’t want to feel guilty, especially when my own life isn’t always a walk in the park. So I stop reading, and pick back up after they return.

The thing I’ve realized this week, though, is that there’s a difference between guilt and conviction. The guilt is what causes that lump in your throat, where you can’t decide whether to swallow down your apathy or puke it all up in anger.

But conviction is that stirring deep inside you, when you acknowledge that guilt-like feeling, and instead of letting it fester, you mold and shape it into something productive.

Conviction causes action. Conviction leads to hope.

Yesterday, Emily and I did a gut-check on the bus leaving a particularly hard water-logged visit. Our eyes kept flooding on us, and it really was getting in the way of our sanity. See, after doing what we’re doing here, day after day, it’s easy to feel so overwhelmed that you check out. Your brain flatlines.

That’s why it’s important to make sure what’s stirring inside is conviction, not guilt.

A reader asked in the comments yesterday:

“You are there, with these beautiful children, in conditions I can’t even imagine. How will you be able to leave and not just want to take each of them with you?”

A valid question. Perhaps one you’ve wondered yourself. But I’ll tell you why I keep going all day, and then come back at night to tell you about them: It’s because I’ve not seen one ounce of self-pity. Not. one. bit.

This is Maann (say Mah-Ahn). I met her today. She’s 19, and she’s had a sponsor since she was 6. At 18, she was accepted into Compassion’s Leadership Development Program, and now she wants to run a local Compassion project for more children. She wants to give back. And she has the most joy-filled, peaceful spirit I’ve ever seen.

She lives here — in fact, here’s a video of us visiting her house:

And one of Maann’s dreams is to sponsor a child.

She’s sponsored. But she plans to sponsor a child herself.

Yesterday, Stephanie wrote about Marie, a woman here with two kids who are sponsored, and yet still serves as a Compassion volunteer by teaching 9 and 10-year-olds. Her house is flooded to her knees nine months of the year.

Several of the Compassion office staff here also chip in together to sponsor a child.

These three Filipinos want to serve Filipinos. That’s their answer to the wretched poverty they can’t ignore: they do something.

Doing something is hopeful. Not doing something just makes you feel guilty.

Today, Maann said this:

“I live in a place that is a squatter’s area, and it not good for a child to live. … Through Compassion, my view of life changed. Poverty is not a hindrance for me to not study. Nor an excuse for me to stay poor. But rather a stepping stone for me to stand and be firm. I learned why God gave me my life — to serve as a child of blessings to God and his people. … I pray that one day I can do as my sponsor did for me.”

I’ve been around non-profits and ministries my entire adult life. I’ve lived and worked overseas with many of them, often in pretty hard-core conditions. I like to give to things that really matter to me, usually involving cross-cultural work. We’re raising money ourselves, in fact, for our own current ministry work.

But I’ve been changed. This week, it has changed me. My pocketbook will work differently from now on. Sponsoring a Compassion child is beyond worth it. The dollars multiply into loaves and fishes, and then some.

So that’s why we can leave the Philippines in two days and leave the precious children here — because we’ve seen hope in action. We’re gut-checking our insides, and making sure they’re digesting conviction and not guilt. These people, blessed by Compassion, have hope. Hope. More hope than I’ve seen in a long while.

I don’t know about you, but I want to give hope.