I've often considered, and then refrained from sharing the piece of our lives that I want to share today.
I worry too much about it being misunderstood. Judged or criticized. Ridiculed or just blown off.
I also fear coming across in a way that is not intended. Pretentious, self-righteous…. basically anything that would appear as though this story is really about us.
So I'm going to give myself a little peace of mind by asking you kindly up front how to receive my words today:
This is not about us. I'm not out to share our story and show how wonderful we are. I don't want you to be either impressed or annoyed.
I'm sharing today because I'd love for you to see this story that's not about our family, but about something so much bigger, and consider if you could be a part of the story too.
Now that you know my intentions, here we go…
I've been aware of Compassion International probably since I was in Jr. High. It always sounded like a nice thing to me. Something I'd like to consider taking part in. But I just never really got around to it.
The last few years there's been a slow stirring building in my heart. The desire to finally jump in and sponsor a child. My husband and I talked about it many times, and always agreed we'd like to do it. But the tightness of our financial circumstances always caused us to hold back, nervous to make a commitment and not be able to follow through.
Finally we just decided to go for it.
Easter of 2010 we set a jar out on our living room coffee table. That year we made a shift from filling all of our plastic eggs for hunting with candy to filling them with loose change.
We talked with our girls about the reality that they are among the world's wealthiest children, and tried to present a picture for them of what life can be for children who don't share that status.
Their sweet little hearts were very bothered by the idea that some children go without food. So much so, that they started asking if we could buy and ship a bunch of "orange macaroni" to the poor hungry children. We assured them that it would be much more helpful if we could send money to the adults who live where the children are, so they could buy them food there.
So on Easter they hunted down all of their plastic eggs, and came home and dumped their money in the jar. That was the start.
Our goal was to try to have enough money in the jar by Christmas to provide sponsorship for a child through Compassion for a whole year.
Christmas came around and our jar was full to the top.
On Christmas morning we made cupcakes for Jesus and dumped our jar across the kitchen table to count it out. With the addition of some money we'd received as a gift for Christmas, we reached our targeted amount.
Excited, we gathered around the computer together and selected sponsor a child. There were all kinds of options to filter what child you would choose, but we felt drawn to a very specific one. A "longest waiting" child.
Having researched enough about child sponsorship, I knew what this would mean. Probably a boy and he would probably be older. Not exactly a suitable "match" for our family. But we just couldn't stop thinking about what a special gift this could be for a child that had been waiting who knows how long.
It took a few weeks for the details of who we'd been matched up with to come in the mail. But when it arrived we were all so excited.
A teenage boy from India.
We put the picture that was sent in a frame and set it next to the jar, which we had begun filling for the next year.
We began writing letters to him. The girls would draw pictures to include and we would tell him silly things. Favorite colors, favorite foods, what the weather was like. We would ask him any questions we could think of, which I have to admit was a bit difficult feeling so clueless as to what his world is like.
But stumbling through, we wrote, because I had read of the importance of the letters.
And soon letters came in return.
Writing we couldn't even comprehend, translated for us in a very proper English kind of way. Slowly we learned bits and pieces of his life.
Details of his home, his family.
The climate he lives in.
What he enjoys doing.
And always, always repeated thanks to Jesus and us for our sponsorship.
We've been corresponding for two years now, and we've watched his artistic skills grow, and his excitement over progress in school build.
He's told us his parents are also so thankful that he has been sponsored.
He has one sister.
He loves going to the activities at the children's center (the place the funds are distributed through).
He has been seen by a doctor and a dentist there and was pronounced "fit and fine".
He enjoys the Christmas festivities there.
He learns about Jesus.
He believes in Jesus.
But his parents do not.
He asks us to pray for his family. And for his education.
This year we were able to send an additional amount of money for his birthday. We received an enthusiastic letter telling us he got to buy new jeans, a shirt and chocolate with his birthday money.
He says he is praying for us. Always.
We recently received a new photo in the mail. He is clearly growing into a young man. I see him and my heart aches to meet him. To tell him what a gift he has given our family. This teenage boy who's every detail surrounding his life seems to be the polar opposite of our lives. Except for Jesus.
These are the words that come to my mind:
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:10-11
Here are my thoughts on child sponsorship:
Because we are loved. So so much. Because we are blessed beyond our comprehension. Because we have been placed in a place of abundance.
We are not loved because we deserve it. We are not blessed because we are so wonderful. We are not in a place of affluence because we are entitled to it.
It is all a gift of God's sovereignty and grace in our lives and how can we not desire to pour out to others what has so graciously and freely been given to us?
There are all kinds of organizations out there. We personally chose Compassion because we saw story after story after story of the difference they are making. Stories that affirmed their integrity.
And because they are feeding and providing care for children in poverty, but beyond that they are sharing Jesus with them. Physical needs must be met, absolutely. But a strengthened body with a starving soul is still without hope. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, and it's in HIM that life is truly restored.
For the skeptic:
I know the hesitation of not wanting my money to be misused. Of not wanting to be taken advantage of.
But here's what I've decided:
Number one: my money is not really mine. The sooner I get that straight in my head, the better for every part of my life. I am a steward of God's gifts.
Number two: with that in mind, I can strive to make the wisest decision I can based on the information I have and from there, leave it in God's hands. Ultimately the money is His to begin with. And I'm trusting Him to see that it's used for good. He knows better than I do what is truly good anyway.
I would never want to guilt you into doing something you don't really want to do. I don't want you to think that if you don't want to sponsor a child that you are doing something wrong. I know God places different callings on different hearts and uses them all for His glory.
But if this is something you've been considering, I want to encourage you to take that step of faith and just do it. It is an amazing privilege and blessing!
Here are a few stories written by bloggers who have traveled to see the difference Compassion is making: