After taking a trip to Guatemala with Compassion, as a sponsor but more importantly as a ministry advocate, I felt a responsibility to protect all other sponsors from what I experienced.
You amazing sponsors out there who put your heart and soul into writing letters. I didn’t want anyone to hear this story and have it stop them from writing their sponsored child again. Let me explain …
I had been to Haiti to do medical missionary work and I thought I had seen poverty. I was confident after that experience I would not be affected by anything I saw in Guatemala. God didn’t agree and set me straight.
The home we visited was no home but two pitch-dark wood sheds. It was pouring that day and the rain seemed to just add to the feeling of despair that surrounded us. What hit me more than the physical structures the people were living in was the emotional wreckage I saw and heard as we asked them about their lives.
The mother was unable to speak after being raped by guerrilla soldiers years ago, two of her children had gone to gangs never to return again (or they would themselves be killed for leaving), and three small children looked up at us with such hollow eyes and empty hearts.
I always make a point to ask Compassion children I meet anywhere if they receive letters from their sponsors. I think this question is important for many reasons. To hear their feedback helps me to know what I need to do to get the word out to others that they must write more. And, it is good to hear out of their precious mouths why it’s so special.
So, I asked my question to this family as well. The response hit me like a knife going through my heart … literally.
I guess that’s just one of the reasons I burst into tears and felt so completely foolish. What right did I have to cry when they were the ones living like this?
The oldest little guy still at home, was — I’m guessing — maybe 8 or 9 years old. He responded.
“Yes, I have sponsors.”
He showed me only one letter. I asked him,
“Only one letter?”
“This one is newer. I did have more but not now.”
Now? Why not now I’m wondering?
“They did send me letters, but my dad was an alcoholic. He died. After that, my mom had no money, no food. So we had to burn my letters to stay warm.”
I felt this rush of pain traveling from my brain down every nerve ending to my heart. It was so profound. At first, I just couldn’t stop the emotions as I hugged him and he was crying. We cried together.
But then, my own selfish fears kicked into gear silently like a train hitting me at full speed. What did he just REALLY say? Wait … what about my letters to all my children. What if?…
I have thought and thought about what I saw and heard, not sure if I should share. Thinking it could be so irresponsible of me as an advocate to tell sponsors this, knowing how wrapped up into letters everyone gets, including me.
After awhile, we begin to crave those beautiful cream envelopes. Think of them so often, almost wanting to tackle the mail people before they even fill our mailboxes! We are sincere in our love, truly giving to our children that which brings us closer together when distance separates us.
The question I kept asking myself was, how can I relay this in a way that others can see the much, much more important message in this, rather than focusing on how the letters were burned and what if that happened to mine or yours.
Just as in our own families we treasure photos and letters of our time together, ultimately it is the memories of those events that no one can ever take away from us. When we receive a letter from a loved one, sponsored child, friend, we don’t forget … ever.
We hold the memories inside us like a time capsule and nothing can change that, not even a fire to stay warm.
What the sponsor family of that sweet little boy doesn’t know won’t hurt them. You know why? Because not only have they been supporting their little boy each month, but they also provide something they never could have guessed. They sent survival for a family, literally.
God protects and God provides, always. We really have no idea how much we are doing each and every time we send small gifts in our envelopes, letters and photos.
I never, ever, ever want what I have shared to deter anyone from writing more. Instead, I pray that it will in fact do just the opposite. When you send a letter, realize that you are doing so much more than simply writing because you are sharing your life with your child.
We cannot control what God plans and shouldn’t even try to. What we can do though is understand and allow God to use what we give of ourselves to help our children in ways we could never imagine.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Julie Berger sponsors seven children and is a correspondent sponsor to three additional children. She lives with her family in Pennsylvania where she works as a medical missions coordinator.
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