Our first boy was Jonathon from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He would write to us and have all of these wonderful drawings on the back of his letters. He is a gifted artist. We were terrible sponsors though. Oh, we sent our money every month - that was the easy part. But we rarely wrote. I struggled with how I could connect with him and so I didn't give writing letters to him as a priority. As Jonathon grew older, we received letters from his teachers commenting on his struggle to stay in school. He was being pulled in different directions from his seperated parents and by other groups, possibly gangs, that caused him to not value school. A year ago, we received our last letter saying that Jonathon and left the program. I grieved this loss! I was distraught over the fact that he had nothing from me that made him feel connected to the Compassion Program. Had I written more, connected with him more - could that have made a difference? I won't know till I see him in heaven. But everything I have read about the impact that the letter writing relationship has on these sponsored children says that YES, the letters... the relationship, is of the utmost importance to these kids. The money buys them material things that don't last - but the relationship is critical to their spiritual development. It's Hope. And Money can not buy that.
Our second child is a girl from Ethiopia. Her name is Azalech. She is now 9 years old and we started sponsoring her when she was 5. We started out sponsoring her in a similar way to Jonathon - we didn't write. I received these heartwrenching letters from her BEGGING me to write to her. Within weeks after receiving the letter telling us of Jonathon's departure from the Compassion program, we received a letter from Azalech that truly, changed my life and changed my perception of Compassion International forever...
Peace of Christ be with you. Thank you for writing to me. I am very hapy and showed the letter for my friends. Thank you again for all your help for me. I am praying for you and your family. This is rainy season and it is raining but during the afternoon the weather is very hot. In Sunday School I learned about the Good Samaritan Woman. Would you write to what you learned in the Sunday School? I will be graduated from KG and will join Grade 2 and pray about it. I never celebrate my birthday. My health is very good. My mother died ten days ago. My father came from an unknown place after my mother was buried. He asked me to withdraw my class and to go with him but my sister was not allowed to go with him. She said that you don't withdraw your education and I can help you by working some hard work and God gave you good mother from the other part of the world. Please pray for me and my sister. She is 16 years old.
It has been over a year since we received that letter and I still struggle to wrap my brain around it. I feel that God has tapped my shoulder to reveal to me what he has planned for this little girls life AND that of all of the Children living in Poverty in the World. It woke me up! God got my attention and I am listening. Not long after receiving this letter, I signed up to become a trained Advocate and Representative of Compassion International.
Azalech, one year later, is still in school. Her sister is now her legal guardian. There is 1 other sister under her older sister's care. Azalech is full steam ahead in her school work. Her last letter said she was studying for her exams so that she could move into the 4th grade.
Our 3rd child is Haoua (we say How-WAH) and she is from Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa. Haoua is now 7 years old and we have been sponsoring her for 18 months now. In the photo, our Haoua is the child on the left holding the kitty - something I can surely see my own girls doing. What has been so enjoyable and unique about sponsoring Haoua is her country's approach to letter writing. Normally, children have "letter writing days" and you might only get 4 letters a year from you child. Haoua's project allows her to write a letter whenever she feels like it. If I send her a letter, I will immediately get a response. In the relatively short time we have sponsored her, we have established a unique bond with not only her, but with her family - her mother has written to me as well.
Recently, Haoua wrote to me and she was very concerned for her mother who was about to have a baby. It wasn't until 5 days later when I received a 2nd letter announcing the birth of her new baby sister that I realized that the first letter was written WHILE her mother was in labor.
Just weeks ago, we received a precious picture of Haoua's new baby sister. Her name is Roufiatou. Isn't she absolutely precious! What I treasure about this baby is that with the recent global food crisis, Compassion has helped with supplying sponsored children's families with supplemental food. Even though we sponsor Haoua, our sponsorship impacts and supports the entire family. Many people would feel "guilty" to ONLY support just one child out of an impoverished family. But consider how much it relieves a family of one child's education, food and health concerns and it is a boost to the entire family.
Most children in Africa do not live to see the age of 5. I pray that we will be priveledged to see Roufiatou grow to hold and squeeze kitties just as her sister has done.
We have 2 new sponsored children. I was hoping to sponsor an older child and establish a more mature writing relationship. We now sponsor Sara, a 16 year old girl from Tanzania. I am excited for Sara and her efforts in school. She is an above average student and lives away from her family at a boarding school. Her last letter shared that she is going to start learning English. It will be exciting to see how that effort develops!
My husband has also taken to child sponsorship. My husband works all over the world for a major oil company and has seen absolute poverty first hand. He appreciates sponsoring a child close to where he works. He is now working in Malaysia and has chosen a child in Indonesia. It is by pure coincidence that his newly acquired sponsored child also shares a birthday on the exact date of our youngest daughter. His name is Guntur.
I look forward to sharing more about our sponsored children as our letters come in. Letter day is like Christmas morning at our house and I look forward to sharing that with you.