break the cycle Can you relate to how today’s author and sponsor, Katie Case, feels?

I bashfully type this post because the one thing I crossed off of my “to-do” list this morning brought me both joy and shame. Yet, despite my wall of pride, I feel compelled to share with you all. Perhaps because the accountability of sharing my shortcomings in hopes of doing better “next time” has become quite addicting.

Here it is …

This morning, coffee in hand, Tim and I finally sat down to write back to Jhun, the child we sponsor through Compassion International. From the outside looking in, we’re great sponsors! Jhun’s adorable pictures are on our fridge, his most current letter is usually stacked on top of the mail on my table, the Compassion website is bookmarked under my browser, and I pray for Jhun. I do. But, and there’s always a but, I know.

I can’t write Jhun letters. Er, I won’t write Jhun letters. I mean, I never “got around to it” — until today. Why is that? It makes me crazy! I know, we are actually the world’s worst sponsors. Compassion couldn’t make it any easier on us. They mail us the paper, the envelopes, the ideas. They also have a fantastic website, which allows us to donate more money online and submit letters electronically. What’s my problem?

I really think I let Satan capitalize on my fears, for lack of a better word. I take full responsibility. It’s not like Satan literally forced my hand, or more appropriately, held my hand back. I just succumbed to my irresponsible fears about writing the perfect letter or being able to do enough.

Of course I can’t do enough. I can’t. I just have to get over it and do what I can. But, instead, I don’t do anything. I mean, we send money and we love the chance to send extra for birthday, Christmas, etc., but for once in my life, I’m afraid to make this relationship personal.

It forces me to confront how crazy blessed I am on so many levels. It makes me think, again, about how unfair life is. I mean, I have thoughts that I just can’t rationalize. I just don’t get. I guess I fear what I can’t understand.

Anyway, the result is quite painful. Instead of pushing through these fears, I move on to the next thing on my list. I always jump over the task, write Jhun a letter. His new letters come and go to the top. I write his name down over and over again. His smiling face comes and immediately hits my fridge. But I struggle to pick up my pen and start the relationship. I doubt my ability to have the right words, to say the right things, to do justice to this incredible gift of a relationship.

Today we broke the cycle! I won’t tell you how long it’s been ;). I will tell you that I’m committing to write many more letters! Tim and I sent pictures via snail mail today and we also tried out the electronic option for writing a letter. It was incredibly easy. Why did I ever wait so long?


The way to Katie’s heart is through Sour Patch Kids, decaf coffee with coconut creamer, new slippers, and a 9-foot longboard. She blogs at The Case for Joy, which is where we lifted this post from.

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  1. Nov 19, 2010
    at 5:40 am

    Ever since I read about the reactions from children who don’t receive letters, I have had a passion for letter writing. I aim to write to all 8 of our Compassion kids twice a month. At this point, it would take a catastrophe or crisis to keep me from sending our love and encouragement to our kids.
    In fact, the focus of my blog has switched to posting about letter writing ideas and tips. I hope that sponsors find it, read it, and are encouraged to step up the letter writing. Those letters are SO important. So, so, soooo important. Feel free to click my name in blue to check out my blog. If you are short on time, my Devotions are easy enough to cut and paste into an email and send when you only have a minute or two to spare.
    Please, commit to writing at least once a month!

    • Nov 19, 2010
      at 8:11 am

      Michelle, our comments were being moderated at the same time and while you were writing about Compassion, I was writing about you! Ha.

    • steph burke
      Nov 23, 2010
      at 12:32 pm

      Hi Michelle. Just wanted to tell you that in recently sponsoring our 2nd compassion child I was encouraged to stumble across your blog! I had no idea that you could be a correspondent sponsor and would not have known other wise. I am now on the waiting list to recieve a correspondent child and am so excited as well as benefit from your letter writing ideas! Thank you so much! Oh and sent over 50 cards for unsponsored kids from reading your blog/responses!! Thanks again.

    • Frances Michaels
      Nov 23, 2010
      at 8:20 pm

      Michelle your blog has inspired me to new heights with my correspondence. I have added a correspondence child and I just love writing to ‘my children” and sending a variety of paper items. You opened my eyes to be more creative and more frequent in my contacts. Thank you from me and my children.

  2. Nov 19, 2010
    at 7:29 am

    Funny, I just sat down last night to write to my two girls! I blogged about it here:

    http://bohemianbowmans.blogspot.com/2010/11/letter-writing-in-spirit.html

    I used to write letters about once a quarter. I think that I was afraid or unsure how to personalize my relationship with my sponsored kids. So I never took the initiative. But every time I would get a letter of them, I would immediately write one back. Which ended up with only 4 or 5 letters in a year.

    But after stumbling across the blog of a Compassion Advocate I became inspired to write more often and more personally. Now my goal is to write at least every two weeks, and I’ve started sending extra goodies, and pretty stationary. It’s so rewarding!

  3. Crystal Way
    Nov 19, 2010
    at 8:26 am

    I write my sponsored children once each month, sometimes more if I get a letter to respond to or am sending a birthday or Christmas card. I pray God will help me continue in my letter writing and in being diligent. Thank you Compassion for this wonderful opportunity– I am truly blessed by each of our sponsored children.

  4. Michele Therrien
    Nov 19, 2010
    at 8:38 am

    I have to admit, I can definitely relate. I’ve been poor with my own letter writing as well. It’s so hard for me to know what to say, how to say it. I don’t know what to say to start that relationship and make it personal. I want to do more than write letters. I want to sent little goodies, but I don’t know what to do, how to do it. Since I’ve been visiting this site I’ll admit my letter writing has increased. I’ve been writing at least twice a month, but I feel like my letters say a lot of the same things and I don’t want that either. I decided to push aside some of my own pride and come here and see if I could get some help with letter writing and gifts. I love my sweet girl and pray for her and her family, but I want to encourage her, build a relationship with her and I have to admit I just don’t know how.

  5. Nov 19, 2010
    at 8:44 am

    Yay! So excited for you!

    I have started writing more…

    So many great “Compassion Bloggers” out there and they have encouraged me!

    I love Michelle!

    Hugs…

  6. Anita
    Nov 19, 2010
    at 8:53 am

    Thank you for this. I to have kept pushing letter writing to the back burner, I would justify it by saying it was the money I sent that was important wasn’t it? Since starting to read through the Compassion website, facebook & blogs, I am seeing that having a connection with your sponsor child is just as important as the money you send.

    • Danielle
      Nov 19, 2010
      at 11:18 am

      Anita, check out ourcompassion.org there are TONS of ideas on what to write there, besides the fact that it is so nice to be able to connect with a bunch of sponsors from around the world!

    • Nov 24, 2010
      at 10:12 pm

      Anita, I’ve heard that Wess, the President of Compassion said that if there is ever a choice between the check and the letter, then send the letter. There is only one thing more important than the letters and that’s the prayers.

  7. Debbie
    Nov 19, 2010
    at 9:33 am

    I have a large number of kids I am writing to. I realized last night just how important a schedule is for writing. Wirte it on your calendar (or make a schedule). It’s the only way to get it done. I have been on a very strict schedule for the last year. I finished up my Christmas stuff to them a few weeks ago, and said, oh, I can take a break for a few weeks, and just answer emails. Now the week is ended, and I don’t have emails answered. Back to a schedule.
    Also, for those who really don’t write, remember while it’s great to send this pretty letter with stickers etc, if you really are behind in letter writing, and can’t find the time to get all that together, then do email. If you are reading this, you are used to being on the computer. Just sign on to the Compassion site, and write them a quick email. That letter is going to mean more than, well…I’ll write them one of these days when I get some stuff to send along, and have time to write a letter…..the important thing is that you are writing on a regular basis.

    • Frances Michaels
      Nov 23, 2010
      at 8:24 pm

      You are so right Debbie. I asked my Filipino girl if email was OK or if she preferred a handwritten letter. She wrote back that either was fine as long as I wrote to her!

  8. Lauren
    Nov 19, 2010
    at 10:26 am

    We have 6 kids and I write to them at least twice a month and if I get a letter from one of them, I answer that letter also, right away. Just the thought of a child being at their project center and seeing other kids get letters and not getting at least one of their own makes me stay on track and write, write, write to each of our kids. I can at least make sure our kids get letters and pray for those children, and their sponsors, who don’t. Sometimes, it’s just a small card that says: I am thinking of you, I am praying for you, you are special, I thank God for you and I love you. Lauren

  9. Sharon
    Nov 19, 2010
    at 10:46 am

    I’m sure this has been addressed somewhere so I’m sorry if I missed it… but I’m wondering… how often is mail distributed to the kids? Does it differ by country / project? Right now I write my sponsored kid in India once a month, to make sure that he gets something every time mail is passed out… but I will write more if mail is passed out more often than monthly :)

    • Nov 20, 2010
      at 6:19 am

      Hey, Sharon. Friday’s post about Thailand seems to describe a pretty standard way of doing things world-wide.

      http://blog.compassion.com/translate-this-how-does-our-letter-translation-process-work/

      From what I understand, mail is sent from the US once a week (not sure about mail from other countries, like Canada). Once it gets to the receiving country office, it has to be translated before it’s distributed to the kiddos. I always forget whether it’s translated in the country office or at the projects. But either way, transit time to the projects from the country office depends on how easily it is for a project worker to get down and pick up the mail. If a Peruvian project is in central Lima, they might get it once a week (predicting, here), but up in the mountains somewhere, they’re probably doing good to get it once a month. Maybe it’s for these more remote locations that we have the minimum-letter requirement (it might be difficult to make the trek for letters even on a monthly basis for the remotest centers).

      That’s probably why my letters to/from the Medan, Indonesia area commonly take four months to get there. They’re on the northernmost tip of the westernmost island, and the country office is more in the center of the country…probably similar to travelling from Seattle to Santa Fe–with a lot of water in between!

      • Nov 24, 2010
        at 10:16 pm

        Generally, the letters get picked up in the country office by translators, who will translate the letters and then bring them back to the office.
        The letters get send to the country office once a week. They come from Colorado. The box(es) contain the letters from the other countres too. I.e. they go through Colorado Springs… They get shipped with DHL, in case someone is interested in that piece of trivia… :-)

  10. Sarah
    Nov 19, 2010
    at 11:03 am

    My own kids are now older – 2 in college and 1 in high school – and I really miss being the Sunshine Math Mom, and the Reading Mom, and the Girl Scout Mom… I miss being in the classroom and snuggling up with my kids at night to read… So, I’ve been transferring all that need into my Compassion kids. I’ve become passionate about writing to them – hoping to share with them the marvels of this amazing world that God has given to us. I always relate it back to God, but they get letters on everything from the solar system (in response to a comment from Peru that she loved looking at the beautiful stars at night) to the diversity of fish in oceans to the history of St. Francis of Assisi (with pictures from our trip to Italy this summer)… I always end of learning something, too – and feeling even more blessed by the gift of this wonderful world.

  11. Nov 19, 2010
    at 2:29 pm

    Well done you, I am sure Juan will be touched when he receives yoru letter.

    I had no idea there were compassion bloggers – what a great find tonight!

    I am off to check out other blogs for some writing inspration.

    Cheers Mich x

  12. Nov 19, 2010
    at 9:10 pm

    I am so proud for you!
    I visited my sponsored children back in September of this year and I visited several projects. We met some children that never got letters from their sponsors. At that moment I made a decision to spread the word: your letters make a world of difference! I cannot tell you how much joy I feel in my heart for little Jhun and for you. You have just opened doors to a beautiful friendship that will transform your heart and his too!

    Many blessings to you,
    Noelia

  13. June
    Nov 20, 2010
    at 3:09 pm

    Thank you Katie for your raw honesty. It takes courage to admit why we don’t do whatever it is on our list and continue to jump over it. This is a huge step over Satan and his attacks on keeping you (your family) from a deep and intimate relationship with your sponsor child. Thank you again for being real and laying the truth out there. Satan’s stronghold is loosening over this area. God Bless you Katie, Jhun and your family!!!

  14. Nov 20, 2010
    at 4:01 pm

    Dear Katie,
    I can 100% unsderastand where you are. I sponsor 6 children. 3 write very often. One once a year if that and the other two about threet imes a year. They all send photos. I was shocked to learn (and incredible ashamed) that the letters for most of my children are more important than the money. It wasw easy to send the money. Welll, one of my youngest really became “bad” at home and school if I didn’t write. The teacher and a minister told me in seperate letters. WOW! Whawt a wake up. I wrote him a lot then that day. I wrote short lewtters for faster translation. He wrote later of how excited he was for the “5 letters” he got at onece! His pictures changed from red/blaqck knives and teeth – even a shark to houses and flowers!!!! I later wrote to ask him to forgive me and thanks be to God a Bible story came to me to include. He wrote back he was no longer mad at me and would forgive me. I picked up my writing right there then a year later slowed down again and his letters became distant and cold. I finally faced the fact that my fear was the need to write a PERFECT letter and how rto share myself with another. Relatuionships are not my strong suit, hence Compassion truthfully. Relations from a distance. The last batch of letters I received I just collected all the letters due and not and went to a coffe shop and wrote all day long. I couldn’t have felt better because I actaully shared about me while asking about them, theitr activities and families and animals. I have eread so much of their countrys’ histories and the news, I now can write and share with them about that sort of thing also. The letters are for them a s much as they are for me. These beautiful children have begun to open my closed heart. The letters are now a blessing to me – coming and going but I had to become aware then I had to open my own heart to feelings good bad and in between. Compassion and my children with thme has been more of a blessing to me than to my children i believe.

    • Frances Michaels
      Nov 23, 2010
      at 8:28 pm

      Nancy, what a beautiful and encouraging testimony.

  15. Debbie Beghetto
    Nov 21, 2010
    at 12:11 pm

    If you really, really love your sponsor child(ren) then write a letter more often ,sent small flat surprise. They need your love and loves to hear from you. Truly letters are VERY IMPORTANT to them…this is ALL they ever ask for….this gives them such JOY that brings tears to your eyes. It’s all about LOVE and relationship. Position yourself to a child’s place and think about it.

    • Nov 24, 2010
      at 10:19 pm

      Yes, if you think about it. The sponsor first sets up the payment arrangement for the sponsorship. The child first writes a letter. That’s how they find out they are sponsored, because they have to write the “First letter. ”

      Whereas to the sponsor, the sponsorship is a financial commitment, to the children the sponsorship equals a relationship commitment.

  16. Ken M.
    Nov 21, 2010
    at 8:33 pm

    I can verify that letters are very important to our sponsored children. I usually write to my 5 children once a month. Even with once a month they still tell me to keep up the correspondence and please send more pictures.
    A few days ago I received a letter from one of my children. I was excited because it was the first letter that he wrote on his own. He was just as excited to write to me. In the letter he said that he was happy because he received 3 letters from me at once and he was very happy to write back to me.
    Sometimes I try to imagine the expression on the faces of my children when their names are called to receive a letter I had sent.
    My oldest child, who I have been sponsoring about 20 months, is 14 years old . I was told by Compassion that I am his second sponsor and his first sponsor never wrote to him. My child has never mentioned it but I wonder how did he feel seeing other children receive a letter while he received nothing. I make sure that I write to him because I want him to know he’s loved. I want all of my children to know they’re loved.

  17. Tom Easterday
    Nov 22, 2010
    at 9:10 am

    I’d like to share a personal story about how important the letter writing process is. A few years ago, my wife and I sponsored a 17 young lady from the Dominican Republic. Shortly before she graduated from the program we had the opportunity to meet her and speak with her project director.

    She had previously been sponsored for 8 years without ever receiving a single letter. Her mother had died just before we began her sponsorship and her home life was not good. Her attitude, according to her project director, was not good.

    My wife and I wrote frequently and encouragingly, and her attitude changed completely during those 2 years we had the privilege to be her sponsors.

    The relationship between the child and sponsor that can be developed through the letter writing process is critical to the overall development of the children enrolled in the Compassion program.

  18. Patti Odom
    Nov 22, 2010
    at 10:25 am

    Thank you for your honesty in posting this – I am ashamed to say that I put off writing to our precious child for way too long! I was so afraid it would not be perfect that I just never attmpted. I was worried about which pictures to include, afraid of displaying any material wealth. All my reasons were ridiculous, and I am so thankful that God helped me to overcome my fears and just share our love with her! It is so rewarding!

  19. Carolyn
    Nov 22, 2010
    at 9:14 pm

    Katie,
    I originally read your blog yesterday and I found an answer for you this morning as I was reading The Purpose Driven Life.In Day 22, Created to Become Like Christ, Rick Warren says, “God waits for you to act first. Don’t wait to feel powerful or confident. Move ahead in your weakness, doing the right thing in spite of your fears and feelings. This is how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and it is how your character develops.”
    This seemed like such a perfect word for you that I just had to share it.

  20. Chicky
    Nov 23, 2010
    at 3:33 pm

    I get letters written and then they sit on the coffee table, waiting to be mailed. Why? Search me. I’m getting better, though. Being able to e-mail helps too, since I’m at my computer more than anywhere else. I have two jobs, both of which involve extensive computer use. But I’m always on the lookout for cute stickers and I try to remember to send photos since I can take my SD card to the drugstore and print out a few pics for under $2.
    One reason I don’t hand write more letters is because my handwriting is atrocious and it takes me twice as long to write a letter by hand because I take great pains to write so the translator can read it! But I can smoke a keyboard. So there you are, I guess. But I am making the effort to make sure I write at least once a month, if not more often.

  21. Debra Stevens
    Apr 17, 2011
    at 10:49 pm

    That fear is not uncommon, unfortunately, but yet it helps those of us break out of the mold we got formed into. Perfection is my trip-up. The following is a journal post from my OurCompassion page. Enjoy :)

    PERFECTION NOT REQUIRED (3.3.11)
    “For the longest time I struggled with writing a letter to our kids. I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I have a process to EVERYTHING. A protocol, if you will, that I apply to how I do things. A checklist goes off in my my head, and if something is missing, it throws everything off balance and I can’t move forward. At all. I required absolute perfection. However, something vital and necessary seemed to be missing. Imperfection. Imperfection in the purest most sincere form.

    Since being diagnosed with an illness, I’ve let go of everything to concentrate on my health: my home business, church obligations and social requirements. Everything. However, “did that have to include writing to our sponosored kids?” I thought to myself. “Certainly not!” However, I assumed that I needed to be perfect to have ‘this’, get ‘this over here’, do ‘that’, get ‘that’ in order to be able to sit down long enough to write to our kids. I’m learning that our kids are not concerned about perfection. They are not bothered as to whether we have this or that in order, as long as we can jot down a few lines saying that we’re thinking of them, their in our prayers, and their going to be great men and women of God someday. I hate that I am not better at this. Thankfully, our kids don’t see that.

    Before I knew it, I was sprawled out in the middle of the living-room carpet with letters, stickers, pictures, envelopes, stamps, tape and anything else to get these letters together and in order. It was actually fun to be putting these “gift paks” together for the boys. I enjoyed deciding who gets what stickers, how many, what family pics he had but not him. To be honest, I was getting a passion about this within me. I know that’s the overall idea and thats all it takes to get others to understand what we do. As I was preparing the packs, I was thinking a ton of things about these boys. One professed his desire to be a police officer. In another letter, he expressed his interest as an engineer in agriculture. I chuckled at the indecisiveness. I was just grateful he believed he had a choice.

    Nonetheless, I spent the greater part of the day writing to our 3 kids and getting gifts together (yay!). I noticed I wasn’t particularly concerned with how things went or looked. It does feel good to know we contribute to their spiritual well-being. It feels great to see “I LOVE UNCLE JAMES” in bright red marker across his letter. Seeing “GOD IS LOVE ” scribbled across a sheet of construction paper from a 10 yr old (knowing what some 10 year olds endure in our free country) is like a sigh of relief for me. Even though one changed his profession from one letter to the next, to know he has a dream, a vision, a choice to decide, is truly just one of the greatest rewards a sponsor has. To know he can actually decide what he would like to be or do when he gets older is a sigh of relief.

    Neatly packaged, they are waiting by the door to go out, but not before we lay hands on them. A police officer, a doctor, a social worker. Whatever they become, the Lord made it possible through us. They can alter the future of their community because we helped them, and they want to do the same; make a difference. My nephew will be five years old this year. His mother provides everything she can for him, sometimes with our help, but nonetheless the mother sacrifices much for the child. As I think of what he may become, he’s going to do it believing he can. He receives much comfort and affirmation. I can certainly provide that for our boys.”

  22. Kaleigh
    Sep 21, 2011
    at 4:09 pm

    Okay, I feel kinda dumb asking this question, but…I don’t know ANYTHING about the whole letter writing process….When I paid my first payment, they sent me a envelope to send a letter to my child, but when they sent me the envelope to send my second payment…I didnt get an additional envelope to send a letter…plus I sent 10 dollars as a birthday gift, but havent heard anything else back…Im worried that I’m doing something wrong and my letters and gifts are not getting to my child! Help?

    • Sep 21, 2011
      at 7:25 pm

      It’s good to ask questions :-) I don’t work for Compassion, but here are things I’ve learned as a sponsor. First, congratulations on becoming a sponsor! If you click on the About Letter Writing tab at the top of this blog, that will bring up blogs about letter writing. Mail goes from you to Compassion in Colorado and then in bulk is mailed to your child’s country and then taken to your child’s project. Money is transferred monthly to the country (to save on costs) and then disbursed to the project. Both letter writing and the gift process normally take 2-3 months depending on how remote the project is. So, if you don’t receive a thank you letter within 6 months, then Compassion will check on what is going on if you call them and ask them to find out. Compassion will have your child write to you at least 3 times/year. They are currently re-vamping their entire letter writing process (if you join OurCompassion.org-a group of sponsors who post about their kids and what works for them, what they’ve learned, how visiting their child was, ask questions about something their child asked, etc. you can see the new guidelines in a journal (blog) there), which will lead to more letters if you write your child more than 3x/year. Compassion sends a sheet of their stationary and an envelope with each letter you receive from your child. You are free to write your child online by signing into your Compassion.com account under the my account in the upper right hand corner of the website, clicking on your sponsored child’s name under the ‘my commitments’ section and then selecting ‘write to’ which is on the right of your child’s picture on the page that opens. You also can use your own stationary if you leave space for a translation. Feel free to call, email, or do a live chat with Compassion or post on getsatisfaction (on right sidebar) if you have more questions as they are great at answering them. Questions on this blog aren’t an ‘official’ means of communication so they don’t always respond to older blog articles with comments.

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