For the past year my husband and I have been sponsoring a child. When I was growing up I saw ads for "Save the Children" and "Feed the Children" and many other child sponsorship programs, but I never thought I'd actually do it.
In 2007 Compassion International presented their mission at my church and a local Volunteer, a Fireman whose name escapes me, told us about how his relationship with the child he sponsors changed his life. He'd brought several child sponsorship packets with him for people to look through and choose if they wished. I remember the tone of his speech and how it had nothing to do with making me feel guilty for the life I lived, the things I have and the money in my savings account. There was none of the "For the price of a latte a week you can feed three children" guilt trip that I'd been exposed to in my childhood. Instead his testimony of how the little girl he was sponsoring had turned him from a tough guy into a "Big Ole Softie" made me want to go look at the packets he's brought with him. I prayed then, that if God wanted me to sponsor a child that my husband would bring it up. Well, after service I got waylaid by a friend who wanted to know about dinner plans for the evening. When I caught up to Jer in the Narthex, he said, "I picked this one". He showed me a picture of a six year old boy in tan pants and a blue shirt. I remember looking at it and feeling my heart break. This little boy's clothes seemed to be the right size for his height, but they were so loose. It looked like the clothes were wearing the boy. His name is Rahul. I can honestly say that sponsoring this little guy has been a privilege. His birthday was in January and we sent an additional gift to him through Compassion. In February we received a thank you letter detailing the things that had been purchased for him by the program staff. He received new school clothes, new shoes a new school bag and notebooks and pencils. He had never owned new things before; he'd always worn donated clothes and shoes from the church charity box. At that moment, my heart broke again, I realized the difference Jer and I were making in this little boy's life. When wrote my return letter, I assured him that we would continue to support him and that we were thrilled to be a part of his birthday. I told him about my birthday and that I turned 30 and my friends gave me a party. I told him about our vacation and sent pictures of Hawaii along with the letter. In March he sent another letter saying that he wished his "Auntie" a Late Happy Birthday. He called me Auntie! It is respectful in his country to do so, but usually it is just "Auntie Kelley" not "My Auntie Kelley". Rahul's place in our family was established in a tangible way through this communication. His letters to us are illustrated by what he's learning in school; pictures of trucks, his numbers and letters in Hindi and English, followed by a letter written by one of the staff members as it is dictated by a six year old.
Compassion International was part of our Mission's Conference, which you can read about in my general blog. When my sweet husband saw the packets lining the table once again, he looked at me and asked, "Can we do a little girl too?" I agreed and then I got called away to help in the kitchen. Later on I looked at the packets and noticed Maria. Later, when it was time to choose, I met Jer in the Narthex again and he said, "How about this one?" and it was Maria.
Compassion International helps communities by partnering with the existing local churches in impoverished communities and sets up program centers either in them, or near them, where no child is turned away regardless of religion. They then follow their Holistic Child Development Model to care for children from conception to adulthood.
I am so excited to get to know Maria the way I've become acquainted with Rahul. For a woman like me who is waiting to adopt, and enjoys children, having a little boy in India who calls me Auntie and a little girl in Brazil who will most likely call me "Tia" helps me to feel like I make a difference in the lives of children. I am honored to be a sponsor and very proud to associate with Compassion International.
Poverty, natural disasters, and illness are so devastating for the developing bodies of children; the global problem of child poverty is something that everyone can help to change. Individual efforts like mine and corporate efforts like that of Compassion International and the Red Letters Campaign are all valuable. The more of us that take part and contribute what we can, poverty will be replaced by healthy communities and the knowledge that the hope survives in spite of greed.