When Letter Writing Isn’t Fulfilling

how to encourage someone I sponsor a boy in India. Scratch that. I just got his latest picture, and he has a full-on mustache. I sponsor a young man in India.

Several years ago I got to meet him, and as he’s gotten older, we’ve developed a warm friendship. He calls my husband and me “auntie and uncle,” and sends us hugs and kisses.

Last year when we sent him a picture of our new daughter, he was absolutely exuberant to have a “little sister” and begged for more photos of her.

There’s no better way to a mother’s heart than to ask to see pictures of her baby.

On the other hand, we also sponsor a girl.

Her letters to us are brief. They don’t contain much information that tells us about her life. Her photos often look stern.

Comparing the two relationships, I can sometimes get frustrated. I can wonder,

“Why do I write her these letters when she doesn’t seem to appreciate them?”

In short, I am not getting the emotional pay-out that some hidden part of me seems to want from my sponsorship. (It pains me to admit this.)

Right now for work, I’m editing letters from partnership facilitators around the world. I’m currently on the batch from the country where my sponsored girl lives. As I read letter after letter about the challenges that children in her community face, my selfishness becomes more and more apparent.

Many girls are denied education. Many are married off and get pregnant as young as 13. Many are AIDS orphans. Many have parents who are alcoholics or just absent.

This reminds me of some good advice I’ve heard — you never know what someone else is going through. When someone at the grocery store is rude to you or your friend is a bit short, it’s always good to remember that you have no idea the struggles and challenges that they are facing at that exact moment — so extend grace to them!

How much more ought that to be true of our sponsored children? In my frustration that my relationship with this girl isn’t as sunny as I’d like it to be, I am focused on myself and what I’m “getting out” of sponsorship, rather than focusing on offering unconditional love to a young woman living in a hard situation.

I don’t know what her relationship is like with her parents. I don’t know what pressures she’s facing on her way home from school each day. I don’t know what else might be keeping that stern look on her face.

All I do know is that there is a God who cares for her welfare and I have an amazing opportunity to remind her of that.

I don’t write this because I thoroughly enjoy sharing my weaknesses with thousands of people online. I have Facebook for that.

I share because perhaps this will be a reminder to someone out there that when our sponsor experience doesn’t go exactly how we want it to, that we have an opportunity to be those beautiful feet that bring good news on the mountains, reminding the children — even when it doesn’t seem reciprocal — that God loves them and there is someone who is praying for them.

That little encouragement just might make the difference in their life.

28 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Celeste January 27, 2013

    Thank you. A good reminder

  2. Nicky September 7, 2012

    Thankyou.I have 5 children in different parts of Africa and with some im finding similar things.
    Thankyou for the reminder

  3. RaD August 12, 2012

    We have a similar situation with our sponsored children. The young girl we sponsor writes her letters with an enthusiam for life and the things around her. She is blessed and thriving at the center she attends.

    The young boy we sponsor is older than the girl, but his letters are still written by one of the teachers, so we get very general generic information from him. It discourages my son a little because he and I both write to him and we don’t hear much that we haven’t already heard, where my daughter and I write to the girl and we are always learning new things about her.

    I have to remind him it’s probably the circumstances he lives in that are the difference, not necessarily the fact that he is not interested in writing to us or doesn’t appreciate our letters.

  4. Denise White August 12, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this Amber. I am a new sponsor. I sponsor a precious little boy in the Phillipines. The experience thus far is hard to explain. I don’t take what I am doing lightly but I sometimes wonder if I made the right decision. I feel I might fail him and that’s the last thing I want to do. I want him to experience God’s love through me. I am on a busy schedule and so I wonder if I would be giving him the time I should. I really appreciate your honesty. It made me look again at the reason for my being a sponsor and don’t want it to be about me. Again thanks for sharing and pray for me to be what God has called me to be in this endeavor.

  5. Mike Stephens August 9, 2012

    I would have this problem worse than you amber, I believe, but the solution for myself is always to go visit, and that is worth 1,000 heart felt deep letters to me 😉 The visits are sometimes better than I imagined, actually I think they have always been better than I imagined in some way or another. You know this as well, but I can see how it does get frustrating sometimes b/c you cannot visit all that often. Definitely a test of patience for me as well!

    I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

  6. Brynn August 9, 2012

    WOW! Thanks a lot for the reminder. That is a great story!

  7. Brynn August 9, 2012

    WOW! I have too remember that . Thanks a lot for the reminder. That is an incredible story !:)

  8. craig downs August 8, 2012

    I sponsor 5 girls and one of them is just as you describe. I get those same feelings sometimes but only for a second until I get rid of them. I remind myself that everyone is different and some people are a little private. I tell myself that God gave me her to take care of and that’s my job. I love her exactly the same as my other ones. I’m sure that if I go and visit her that she would be different than the girls that writes to me.

  9. Kim S August 8, 2012

    Thank you for reminding us of that. The only thing that I get bummed about is that I’ve sent paper dolls and stickers many times and haven’t heard if they have gotten them. I’m worried they are not getting them. Do you know if things like that make
    it to the kids?

  10. Miranda — Compassion Calling August 8, 2012

    Thank you Amber for this great post! When we first began sponsoring with Compassion in 2004, our first sponsored child’s letters were almost carbon copies and she never answered our questions. When she left Compassion’s program just 2 years after we began sponsoring her, we learned of some ways we could make our letter writing relationship with our Compassion children more meaningful. Some of our children are great letter writers. Some write often and answer our questions, others don’t write a lot, but still answer our questions, and some don’t write a lot and sometimes answer our questions. For the ones that don’t write a lot and answer only some of our questions, and whose letters are sometimes shorter than we’d “like”, we try to remember that they may be busy that day. Maybe they’re thinking of the pressure of their studies, work at home, ETC. We also read the letter a few times over the next few days and find joy in the small things like simple words of love and affection, precious questions they ask us, prayer requests they have, ETC. Thank you for this great reminder that we’re not alone in our feelings, and it’s all for the children.

  11. Yvonne August 7, 2012

    Thank you Amber! This post is a great reminder that we are sponsoring these kids to help them become fulfilled, responsible Christian adults. We can each do this by pouring encouragement into these kids in the letters we send to them. This sponsorship relationship is more about the kids then it is about us and what we are getting out of it.

  12. Vicki August 7, 2012

    Wonderful post, as always, Amber. I don’t like baring my weaknesses to thousands of readers, either; not even to however many people read my posts on FB. But it keeps me honest. And, now and then, someone says, “You, too?? I thought it was just me!” or some other encouraging comment.

    We were sponsoring a boy, in India, and then added a young man. We recently received a photo update of the boy, showing his full mustache. We now sponsor two young men in India! 🙂

    I have been guilty of emotionally “writing off” one or another of my sponsored girls, over the years. I didn’t stop writing to them, but my heart wasn’t in it, as much as in writing to others, for the very reason you stated: I wasn’t getting the emotional pay-off that I hoped for. I’m really grateful to you for this reminder that I don’t know–I do. Not. Know.–what any of them faces, on a daily basis. I do know that they are counting on me to be supportive and encouraging, and I can do better.

    Oh, my gosh. I hope no one but you is reading this!

  13. Patty August 7, 2012

    Thank you so much for this. It is exactly what I struggle with with the young lady I sponsor right down to the stern expressions. She doesn’t answer questions and the letters have been pretty much the same for nearly 4 years now. You’ve given me something to think and pray about for her and I definitely appreciate it!

  14. Brenda Davila August 7, 2012

    Thanks for all the information and advice. I am sponsoring a boy in Bolivia and I am very excited, though I wished he could write more and sooner!

  15. Karen August 7, 2012

    Thanks Amber, what a blessing to hear this and an encouragement to us.

  16. Angela August 7, 2012

    It is not easy to share your feelings and need for fulfillment as a letter writer. I just want to say thank you because your experience is enriching to all of us, even if we do not sponsor a child, but just to know how much you care. I wish you a full replenishing of all the love you give in letter writing each time you do it. You can be sure a stern look will some day change in the long run.

    I was very blessed as a teenager to receive frequent letters from someone who cared about my life even before I knew what an important person he was or could make any appraisal of that.

  17. Cheryl Jones August 7, 2012

    I have a boy I have sponsored in Thailand for several years. After the first 1 1/2 years of not hearing from him much, I did not feel as connected to him as my other kids. I thought that even though I didn’t want to lose any of my Compassion kids, if I had to, he would be on the top of the list. Within a month after that thought, I got a letter from him. It said, “I am so excited to get to write to you myself. I have wanted to for a long time but didn’t know how.” All that time that I was writing him but not hearing back, he was feeling that great connection between us. You can imagine that after that letter, he is on the top of my list to keep!! He has begged me to come visit him for a long time. I am planning to see him as soon as I can. Please realize that these kids cherish the letters they get from their sponsors.

    1. Ken M. August 9, 2012

      I had a similar experience with my World Vision child. I was supposed to receive a first letter from him within 4 months. After 4 months there was no letter. After 5 months no letter. I called WV and still no letter at 6 months. Even though I read positive reviews of WV only a negative one stuck in my mind. I started believing that the child didn’t exist and my money is being taken for no reason. I told others that I was going to stop sponsoring this child but something within me said don’t drop him. Between months 6 & 7 I received 3 letters at the same time. This was in 2010. Since then he is my child who wrotes the most letters to me; at least 1 every 2 months. And he is a very sensitive writer for someone 12 years old. I thank God that I didn’t stop sponsoring him. He has asked me twice to visit him in Brazil. He knows that I visited my other children in Brazil in 2009. He stated that it would be nice if I visited him, too.

  18. Chuck Guth August 7, 2012

    Thanks for the reminder! Sometimes it seems that we want a “pen-pal” or something more from the sponsorship. We need to remember that it is about the relationship. Having recently attended a retreat where Ben M. spoke about never getting a letter from his sponsor and feeling unloved it is important to look at the role (we as sponsors) are playing.

  19. Nancy August 7, 2012

    “…I have Facebook for that.” Hahaha
    Thanks for that chuckle as well as for the more serious reminder of the real reason we sponsor a child.

  20. Jill Foley ~ Compassion Family August 7, 2012

    We’ve sponsored a boy in India for 10 years – he is now 19. A couple years ago he stopped wriiting to us. We kept getting letters from him, but they were actually written by his social worker and were written in 3rd person. In one letter, the social worker slipped in an important message about Bulu’s behavior and attitude and pleaded with us to pray for him. A couple months later Bulu started writing the letters again. JUST this week, we received the most wonderful letter ever – he tells us that he has accepted Christ as his Savior and was baptized. I’m so thankful I continued writing in my normal, usual way.

    If you want to read the letter, it’s on my blog (just click on my name). It’s a couple posts down.

    1. Teri August 8, 2012

      We also seem to only get letters from the social worker of one of our girls in East India. I called Compassion and found out some background of this girl and that helped me offer more grace,,,having former sponsors who never wrote even when she tried to build the relationship through her letters perhaps caused her be skeptical of us. She may be testing us to see if we, too, will give up on her. After that call, my love has deepened for her and I want her to know that we do not intend to give up on her, so I continue to write twice a month as before. Your comment about Bulu’s behavior makes me wonder if there are similar issues with Sita, and if that’s why her social worker always writes…thanks for that perspective.

    2. Steve August 7, 2012

      Jill – Praise God! I am SO thankful today to come across this blog post and your comment. Our sponsored child, Sandyah, is from India and we don’t hear from her very much. She is quite young (6 years old) and we get letters written by her “teacher” at the Compassion center in her village. I pray that one day we will receive a similar letter from her.

      1. Melissa August 9, 2012

        You should get more letters when she is old enough to write them herself. When they are that young, they rely on the Compassion workers to write for them. I think it is mandated they right at least once a year – but that isn’t much. I can imagine though with so many young kids to write letter for, it must be a chore. When she is old enough and can do it whenever she feels like it, you will get more letters. I sponsored a boy in India who wrote to me once a month, he was so special. I really miss him. He was taken out of the program because his father got a better job, which is good, but we lost contact 🙁

      2. Jill Foley ~ Compassion Family August 7, 2012

        I’m praying that for you, too, Steve. Right now.

  21. Garry August 7, 2012

    Thanks for this post Amber. I have had, for the most part, kids that were and are very interested in getting to know me and wanted me to know about them. I sponsored a girl in Colombia for 13 years, who never knew her father and had an alcoholic step-father. From very early, I was papa to her. I have another girl in Colombia who is my princess, and closes her letters that way. But, I did have a girl who never seemed to connect. When I visited, we had a good time, but her letters never seemed to show a lot of interest. Maybe it is just a matter of some people can write well, and others struggle at it. She was an above average student, but her letters didn’t seem “above average”, if you know what I mean.

  22. Pearl August 7, 2012

    I am just this moment writing to one of those young people I just cannot seem to connect with. I feel inadequate. She had a sponsor for 11 years and I am not sure why that ceased. I just keep plugging along, but it is encouraging to know others struggle at times as well. Thanks for sharing

  23. Nina August 7, 2012

    Excellent reminder! Thank you.

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