Among about 40,000 historic artifacts of spiritual significance— including biblical papyri from the time of Abraham, fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and an original manuscript of Julia Ward Howe's 1862 anthem, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"—visitors to the new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., can see, on the second of six floors, a collection of far more rustic and ordinary-seeming origins.
The display contains a soccer ball fashioned in Uganda from garbage bags and twine, shoes made in Kenya from old tires and a letter from a child in Haiti to his sponsor at Compassion International, the Christian child sponsorship and development organization based in Colorado Springs.
The global evangelical ministry, founded in 1952, works with more than 6,700 churches in 25 countries to provide services, support, training and spiritually based education to more than 1.8 million children, mothers and young adults living in extreme poverty.
"The exhibit artifacts demonstrate the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our sponsored children living in extremely challenging environments and the impact that personal communication can have on the sponsored child and the sponsor," said Compassion's senior marketing project manager, Derek Jones, in a prepared statement. "We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Museum of the Bible...(and) anticipate that millions of visitors will have the chance to learn how the Biblical mandate to care for the poor and vulnerable directly impacts Compassion's mission on a daily basis."
The 430,000-square-foot museum opened in mid-November inside an extensively remodeled and expanded 1923 warehouse two blocks from the National Mall. The $400 million project was launched and largely underwritten by Hobby Lobby founder David Green as a public space to showcase and share his family's private collection of biblical antiquities, among the largest of its kind in the world.
The museum's mission is to invite biblical exploration and engagement by presenting the story of the Bible in a compelling, narrative format, through historic "snapshots" that show its influence on world events and culture from ancient to modern times - which is where Compassion fits in.
"When Museum of the Bible wanted to tell the story of how the Bible has inspired the work of nonprofits around the world to care for those in need, we thought of the great work of Compassion International," museum content director Seth Pollinger said in a news release. "As a child-advocacy ministry that matches caring people with those who are suffering from poverty, Compassion International has taken the Bible's message of providing for those in need and used it to propel a movement of charitable people to help millions of children globally."
The display, which includes a short video of interviews with Compassion alumni, is part of the museum's "Impact of the Bible" exhibit through 2019.