Friday, July 25, 2014

An Unexpected Gift

I found an envelope from Compassion in my mailbox today. It didn't look like the usual ones, which say "A Message from your Sponsored Child" on the front. If anything, I was bracing myself for bad news. Another typhoon hit the Philippines recently, near where Rosalie lives, and I was afraid this letter was going to tell me that something bad had happened to her and her family. To my surprise, inside was good news from the Philippines! I received a second, and likely final, letter from Kurt.

This is Kurt. He is 9 years old and lives in the Philippines. He became my Compassion correspondent child in late February this year, and while I was in England I received the sad news that his financial sponsor had dropped him. That is a risk you take being a correspondent (writing to Compassion-sponsored children whose financial sponsors are unable to write) might just start to build a friendship with the child and then receive the news that you can't write to them anymore. I am not in the position to take on another financial sponsorship at the moment, so I had to let him go. I wrote him a long final letter explaining what a correspondent is, and I hope he understands that I didn't want to abandon him.

Back in February when Kurt joined my Compassion family, I found out that his home had been damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. I felt a sense of urgency to give some money to him and his family to help repair the damage. I didn't want to wait--this family needed help now! So I gave some extra money to him and his family, hoping it would be able to help them recover from the typhoon. Once I found out that his financial sponsor had dropped him, I figured I would never find out how they used the money. But then I received this letter:

The theme of Kurt's letter is "How I Have Fun". This is what he said:
During my free time, I like to play Catch Me if You Can. (I wonder if this is like tag?) When I am inside the house, I like to draw. When I am outside the house, I like to play with friends. My favourite sport is basketball. When I am bored, I like to sleep. (haha me too Kurt, me too!) Thanks for your gift to my family. Thanks for your support. We're so happy. We are six in all, my sisters Kimberly, Katherine, Gwen Rose, my father named Dante and my mom name Erma. We have a pet cat. Love, Kurt Russel C.

And attached to the letter was this picture!

Kurt with his mom and his sister Gwen Rose, and all the things they were able to buy with the family gift! A little money can go a long way to make a difference for families like Kurt's. And look at that smile! :)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Step Into Their World

Meeting your sponsored child is a rare and special opportunity. For most of us it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, if we are that lucky. I have had the privilege of holding my sponsored child's hand in Ecuador and walking around her project with her, getting to know more about her and her daily life. It is an experience I will never forget! And I wish I could go back to Ecuador right now and spend more time with her!

But what about the sponsored children you don't get to visit? What about the ones that don't tell you much about their daily lives in their letters? How do you get to know them better? How do you know how to pray for them? How do you keep them from becoming just a picture on your fridge door?

Compassion Canada has a wonderful resource called It is a place for Canadian Compassion sponsors to see extra information about their sponsored kids, when letters from their kids are on the way, etc. I check it often, and today was no exception. But today, I saw that something had changed. There are now letters from each child's project director/coordinator available in digital form, as well as a newsletter explaining how Compassion is working in their region! So today I want to share with you what I have learned about my three sponsored girls and their communities. Here are some highlights from each letter/newsletter.

First up is beautiful Misgana. She is 14 years old, lives in Ethiopia and became part of my Compassion family in 2011. She was my very first sponsored child! Here is what her project director had to say:

Dear Sponsor,
I am called Getachew Daniel, the Project Director of the center where you sponsored child attends. It is located in the Southern Nationalities administrative state of Ethiopia. This town is densely populated and the weather is mild.

God bless you for supporting a needy child in our community. Currently we are serving 240 children of the poorest families in the spiritual, educational, health and social aspects. From the total number of children 210 are saved. We have two children choirs, 20 Sunday School teachers and voluntary workers.  

The Project has set a vision and a goal to graduate these children from misery and create fulfilled responsible Christian citizens who can carry on their shoulders tomorrow the leadership of the Church and their country.

All the children of our project communicate with their sponsors three times a year. They write to them when they are asked to. We have observed that many sponsors are praying for their sponsored children through the letters they sent to their children
Compassion says that some of the major issues that people are facing in Ethiopia include frequent food shortages, which result in chronic malnutrition for many children. There is also a lack of access to safe water. Many people in this country are uneducated or not completing their formal education.
I'm glad that Compassion is working with the local churches in Ethiopia to help these children succeed in the midst of poverty!
 Next up is Rosalie. She is my newest Compassion-sponsored child. Lord-willing, she will be the next sponsored child I get to meet! Compassion Canada is hosting a trip to the Philippines next year, and I hope to go if I have enough money. Rosalie is 11 years old and lives in the Philippines. Here are some of the challenges that people face in the area where she lives:
Slums in the urban areas of Manila are unsanitary and unsafe. Children living in them are often exposed to illness, violence and other dangers. Malnutrition is a big problem in this area. Many children do not attend school due to negative influences around them.
Thankfully, Compassion is there and is providing children with better options than roaming the streets in gangs! Here is what Rosalie's project director has to say:
Dear Sponsor,

Greetings in Jesus' name! My name is Emelie M.Tapar. I am the Project Director of the center where your sponsored child attends. This project is located in the National Capital Region of the Philippines. I'm so grateful that you are supporting your sponsored child.

At the project, we begin by having devotion before we give them classes to help them develop holistically in four areas: spiritual, cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional. We have tutorials to help them in their mathematics and reading.

I believe that the project has a big impact on the children we are ministering to. The Lord's intervention in their lives and families is reflected in the way they respond to circumstances in life. If they encounter any problems, they now come to us for prayers. Such action proves that they also believe in the power of God to make them better. As for the impact of the project to the community, I am certain that there is indeed a better picture that they can see in the lives of the children in the project. With the children who have already completed from the project, the changes are evident in all areas of their lives. They children in the project spend their time in study and service to the community, as well as worshiping God. The other children in the community are on the streets, at the malls, at the movies, and at computer shops, wasting time for nothing.

The exchanges of letters between the sponsors and the child are indeed valuable. The joy of the children who receive letters from their sponsors is indescribable. You can see the smiles on their faces from the time they get the letters up to the time they answer them. When they are given a picture of their sponsor or even picture of a dog or stickers, they show it to everybody! They are grateful to be remembered and glad to know that there are people far away who love and care for them.
 You can't tell from this picture, but in Rosalie's previous sponsorship picture she has a beautiful smile. I can just imagine her how Emelie described, with a big smile on her face, showing everyone letters and pictures that I've sent to her! Imagine the joy these volunteers witness when children realize that there are people all over the world who love and care for them! If you don't think letters make a difference, read the last paragraph of this update again. God is using us sponsors to show His love to these children! Do not underestimate the influence a short note or picture can have on these kids' lives.
And finally, here is an update from the director of Blanca's project!
 Blanca was 7 years old when I met her. Now she is 9, and her marks in school are above average! She is doing so well and I am very proud of her. This is what her project director had to say:
Dear Sponsor,

First of all, I greet you in the blessed name of our Savior Jesus Christ. May you succeed with the ministry that you carry out!

I'm deeply grateful to God first for the infinite love that He's always shown to us year after year. I'm also grateful to every brother and sister who gives their unconditional support to children and teenagers in need because that's how the mission of this program is accomplished.

We teach children about agriculture and they participate in soccer tournaments and activities organized as part of the AWANA Clubs. We organize Christian music festivals, trips, and birthday parties for children and teenagers where we invite their parents. Of course we also celebrate Father's Day, Mother's Day, Children' Day and Family's Day.

The biggest impact of the project is to win souls of children, teenagers and parents for Christ. We carry out various activities to share about the Word of God with the inhabitants of the community and we have won their trust and respect.

Before Compassion started working in this community, families didn't care about education. But it all changed thanks to the work of Compassion International and today we have some professionals in the community, like doctors, teachers, engineers, etc.

Sponsors' letters make a big impact on the lives of our children and that's why they anxiously wait for those letters to arrive. When they get to write back, they do it with tons of enthusiasm, just like when they receive stickers, pictures or bookmarks from their sponsors. They love those little presents and they make them feel so joyful because they can stick them on their notebooks and books from school. I wish all sponsors could communicate with their sponsored children through letters, and I say this because some children and teenagers have never had the privilege to receive letters from their sponsors and have never built an actual relationship with them.

Just like the other two Compassion projects already mentioned, Blanca's project is doing amazing work reaching out to her, and her community, and sharing God's love with them!
Even if you can't go and visit your sponsored child, you can be assured that they are participating in an incredible program that is equipping them to overcome poverty. Reading newsletters and updates like the ones mentioned above can help you have a little more understanding of what their lives are like, and what challenges they face every day.
Second, these updates stress the importance of letters. Sometimes we forget just how much a short note could mean to these children. It could brighten their entire day, maybe even their entire week! Reading the descriptions of how the children respond when they receive letters gives me an even greater motivation to write to my sponsored children.
So what about you? How can you step into your sponsored child's world and let them know you care?