Sometime back, a commenter on another blog post asked questions about sending gifts to our sponsored children:
- Do they make a difference?
- Should we wait until we hear about a need?
- Do the children appreciate our gifts?
One of my earliest lessons in the importance of our gifts came from Tausi (Tanzania). I began sponsoring her soon after her stated birth date (which later proved to be wrong, but…) and immediately sent a gift of $25.
A few months later, I received a thank-you letter for both her birthday and Christmas gifts. These are the gifts she listed: a dress, sugar, rice, soap, body oil, and her school uniform (required in many countries for enrollment).
Have you ever seen items like sugar, rice or soap on a kid’s wish list? I would never have known to specify that such items be bought!
And would I ever tell a child to buy a toothbrush and toothpaste for her birthday? Not likely! Yet, those also appeared in a list, one time.
Most of the birthday and Christmas gifts I have sent to Tausi have been spent on clothes, shoes, food and the like. But one time, in addition to a skirt and a blouse, she also bought a carpet for the family’s sitting room.
Later, I heard of the program Compassion had once run to buy goats for Compassion-assisted families (in Haiti, I believe). Not realizing that program had ended, I called Compassion to ask how I could buy goats for Tausi and Denisse (in the Dominican Republic).
I learned that the program had been a special undertaking for a limited time, and the lady I spoke with also advised me to allow the family, in consultation with the church partner staff, to decide what they most needed to do with a family gift.
She added that the family might need a bed, for example, more than a goat. See how that was impressed on my mind, later:
I began sponsoring Uwizera in the spring of 2006. As her birthday would come around a couple of months later, I promptly arranged for a gift.
A few months later, I received her thank-you letter, which included this information:
“I thank you for the gift you sent me of 13,775 [Rwandan] francs. I gave a church offering of 1,375 francs. I used the remaining money to buy shoes for 300 francs, a bed for 8,000 francs. We used the rest [4,100 francs] to buy food.”
Did you get the part where she tithed on her birthday money?
I’m sure there are some Christians in our country who have always tithed on every money gift they received, but no one had ever suggested that I should. I didn’t know it was “titheable income”!
Uwizera taught me the meaning of being a “cheerful giver” and giving back to the Lord.
Other gifts to Uwizera have been used for clothes for her, for a school uniform, for a parcel of land — small, I think, that they use for a garden. They planted beans there last November.
They have also bought a goat, a hen (maybe two), and a rooster, all at various times. And she always tithes on the gifts.
I am focusing, here, on only two of my girls because I seldom receive any specific information about gifts from my other two. They usually say, “Thank you so much for your gifts.”
I have been able, one time each, to send gifts with friends for Tausi and Uwizera. I sent the gifts for Tausi a few years ago and received a letter and a photo in return.
In the photo, she was holding the gifts in front of her and had the shyest look on her face. She thanked me, adding, “I know you did this because you love my life.” Ah, good. She understood!
The gifts for Uwizera made their way last February. I had a lot to send, with some specialty gifts for sewing, so one zip-lock bag was carried by each of three gracious friends.
After listing most of the items and thanking me, she told me that her whole family (eight or nine strong) had been so thankful that they stopped what they had been doing to spend 30 minutes praying for us.
Have I ever been that grateful?
Compassion does not require that sponsors send money gifts to their children, and the amounts we are permitted to send for birthdays and Christmas are not large amounts. If you can afford to provide those gifts, you should do so a couple of months, or more, prior to the child’s birthday.
If you are able and want to send larger gifts at other times, Compassion allows family gifts of $25 to $300. The staff at the child development center will work with your child’s family and then buy the items the family needs.
Reading my girls’ thanks and knowing how they have used the money humbles me, every time. My little amounts ($25 for birthdays, $18 for Christmas) mean so much more to them than they do to me!
I hope I have made clear that:
- yes, our sponsored children are grateful.
- no, I would never know what they needed, ahead of time.
- yes, our gifts make a difference.
Don’t wait, assuming your child will tell you what they need. Give out of your abundance, and wait to hear how God multiplies your loaves and fishes.