Compassion Experience comes to the Pee Dee

People go through the Compassion Experience tent.
Contributed Photo

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

Mike Henderson understands how something small can change someone else’s life forever. For nearly three decades he has been sponsoring children through Compassion International. Now Henderson, Senior Pastor at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Florence, wants to help others see the difference that they can make in the world. Highland Park will be hosting the Compassion Experience, an interactive tour that explores the lives of children who were living in poverty and received a life-changing gift through Compassion International. The tour will stop in Florence Jan. 5-8.

Henderson said that he first heard about the tour when he was at a conference in Atlanta and tried, unsuccessfully at first, to get his church added to the tour schedule.

“I sent in a card trying to get them to come to Florence but they were booked up until something happened and they got an opening,” Henderson said. “They contacted me and asked if I was still interested and I said of course I was.”
The 1,700 square foot space features the stories of children living in a third-world country, showing the poverty and despair that surrounded them.

“You’ll be given an iPod or something where you will hear the story of one of the children in one of the countries that Compassion is working in, from that child’s own voice,” Henderson said. “You’ll walk inside the tent and suddenly you’re in their house, in their one-room hut or whatever it may be. You’ll see how they live, what they eat, what they wear. They tell you the story of what is going on there. Then you will see what is going on in their community when you go in to another area. Eventually you get to see what goes on in the Child Development Center program that they attend. All of this is told by a child who has already gone through the Compassion program, so you may enter when it is pretty despairing but by the end you will see how hope has been brought in.”

Henderson said that Compassion suggests that parents of children in sixth grade or younger go through the tour first and then go through again with their children. Some parts of the story feature violence, such as sex slavery or abuse, and may be disturbing to young children.

Around 700 million people live on less than $2 a day in developing countries around the world. Henderson said that this tour is a great way for people to get an understanding of what those people’s lives are like and find a way to make a difference.

“I want people who come to this to find a way that they can get involved with the life of a young person in another place in a way that shapes that life and shapes the community for better,” Henderson said.

Highland Park United Methodist Church is located at 1300 2nd Loop Road in Florence. The event is open and free to everyone. Groups of 20 or more should email to reserve their space. More information about “The Compassion Experience” can be found at

Author: Duane Childers

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