not all heroes wear capes I sat in a crowded, dank space and listened to the rain water dripping.

I squinted in the dark and leaned in to hear the quiet voice of Vincent, a sponsored child, living in the heart of Kenya, in the middle of Hell, known as Mathare Valley. He was an orphan, a child thrust into adulthood too soon, leading his family of siblings, alone.

He answered our questions with a kindness in his eyes, eyes that lit up when we asked about his sponsor. He said his sponsor’s name in a revered tone and told us words he’d memorized from his last letter. Someone in our group asked if he had a copy of a letter.

He sat on the edge of his couch/bed and reached behind the thin, tattered sheet that divided a small sleeping place and pulled out a much loved, worn letter from under his blanket. Vincent held the paper and grinned as he held up a picture of his sponsor, lightly touching the edges, pride evident on his face.

In that moment I realized the significance of sponsoring a child through Compassion International. Child sponsorship is a small part of our busy lives, but in many ways and circumstances, it is a child’s life. Without sponsorship and the concern and involvement of Compassion, Vincent, in his words, would probably be dead.

In my busy American life, child sponsorship was a dedicated $38 that I didn’t even miss. It was an occasional letter and maybe $10 for a birthday gift. Maybe. Sponsorship was something I did without thinking about every week or even every month. It was another thing, albeit good, that was on my long list. But I couldn’t help think how insignificant it had been to me: a few letters a year, little prayers whenever I remembered …

In many ways, child sponsorship was like an ending for me, something that made me feel good about myself, my contribution, a check off my list. But it is a beginning for a child, a new chance.

Seeing child sponsorship from both perspectives changed mine as I watched Vincent cherish his letter. It came alive to me in that tiny shack. In his soft voice he spoke sincere words I’ll never forget. They echo in my heart: “I pray for my sponsor. I pray for him every day.”

Vincent’s sponsor is a blessed man.

It was something we heard every time we asked a sponsored child about his or her sponsor. They would run and get their letters and say, “I pray for my sponsor.”

If sponsorship rescues a child from poverty, that makes a sponsor a hero.

It’s time I started acting like one.

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12 Comments Add a Comment
  1. Amy Wallace
    Apr 27, 2010
    at 5:08 am

    I remember when I was in Colombia that whenever we would ask the kids about their sponsors and if they had any letters, they would run and get them with these huge smiles on their faces.

    I agree, it really does show you how important sponsorship is when you see from the other end.

  2. Apr 27, 2010
    at 9:17 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Kristen. I loved reading the “field reports” from the Kenya blogger team in March. I continue to follow the bloggers to find nuggets about how this trip impacted them (and me!) over the long term. You really brought Compassion’s work in Kenya alive for us.

    With kids like Vincent, and Eliud (and so many more), I have come to realize that heroes are also the kids who fight through incredible odds to find a better life. The blog posts of Mathare prompted us to sponsor Joseph (age 19). The Kenya bloggers gave me a much better picture of what he faces every day. Without a cape. Joseph is my hero, too. You helped me see that. Asante sana!

  3. Terrell
    Apr 27, 2010
    at 9:26 am

    Thank you God for Compassion International. Thank you CI for taking Kristen to Kenya.
    Thank you Kristen for allowing God to use you to change our family.

    I love you. May the things that break God’s heart continue to turn our world upside down. This process is so hard, but it is so worth it.

  4. Dawn Siemens
    Apr 27, 2010
    at 9:43 am

    I am honored, privileged and humbled to be a sponsor for my orphan in Rwanda–I will do all I can to make his life better, happier and filled with the presence of Jesus and let him know that someone loves him and cares for him on the other side of the world. We, as sponsors, are helping to save children—-it’s an amazing and inspiring thing.

  5. Apr 27, 2010
    at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I have sponsored a little girl for nearly two years and gave little thought to how important it is to her.

  6. Apr 27, 2010
    at 2:12 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading the blogger posts from Kenya. I hope that when I visit my kids in Ecuador this summer that tehy will be as excited about their letters as Vincent is.

  7. Lindy
    Apr 27, 2010
    at 3:43 pm

    Thanks, Kristen! You really touched my heart with this! We sponsor a girl in Mathare, and the earlier Blogs really brought home to us what her life must be like. Your thoughts today helped me to see how important sponsors can be for these dear children!

  8. Apr 27, 2010
    at 4:49 pm

    I swear these posts are like so moving…I can’t get enough of them. So happy to be involved in such a wonderful, moving organization that makes a difference in such a direct, measurable way…although Compassion is imeasurable isn’t it 😀

  9. Apr 27, 2010
    at 6:53 pm

    Thanks for a wonderfully inspiring post once again Kristen. You and the rest of the Kenya team blessed me immensely and God continues to use you all to bless me. Thank you for all that you do.

  10. Mike Stephens
    Apr 27, 2010
    at 8:08 pm

    AMEN! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Marci in MO
    Apr 29, 2010
    at 10:50 pm

    Thank you for allowing the Lord to work through you. I know many of us hung on every word and every photo that was posted during that Kenya trip. I was so hungry for more when it was over. I still continue to gleen through ‘all things Compassion’ in a desire to know more about being the best Sponsor that I can be. Thank you for opening your heart to this trip and sharing each heartfelt moment with us. I cried many a tear through the words and hearts of the Kenya Bloggers. Very thankful to have met Vincent through your voice and heart.

  12. May 1, 2010
    at 8:39 am

    My son died 8 years ago this June. After he died, I had taken my older son to an Amy Grant Concert where we had the opportunity to sponsor a child through Compassion International. I said that night that we were going to sponsor a child no matter what in memory of Kyle Douglas Albayati. 8 years later we still have the same child from Uganda. This is just a small way that we can help someone who is alive and well and we can help keep them that way. Even through losing a job and financial crisis, God has been good and provided for our family and in turn, allowed us to continue our sponsorship of Shedrak. My dream is to someday visit Shedrak. My sister was able to take some things to him last year. I was grateful for that. Thank you Marie (sister) for all you do in Compassion International. It must be rewarding to work for a company who does so much for the needy. It makes you realize how much we have in American and how blessed we really are.

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