Why Is It So Hard to Say Goodbye?

so-hard-to-say-goodbye I grieve today for the child I’ve lost. The relationship has ended. He’s left the Compassion program. There’s nothing I can do. And he’s not even really mine; I’m the correspondent.

I’ve had children leave before. Maregu graduated from the program. Sandra moved outside of our ministry area.

Ruan’s sponsor got married and his wife decided to write to him instead of having me as his correspondent. Ravi somehow is different.

Ravi dropped out of the program.

I don’t know why he left; it may have been family issues or peer pressure or feeling that working in a low-income job was better than completing his education.

As a 14-year-old boy, it could have been any number of reasons.

I simply know that our staff in India would have done all they could to reach out to him and encourage him to stay connected to the program and all it offers.

I suspect that his departure also hurt those wonderful men and women who mentored and cared for him right there in his part of India.

About three years ago I was speaking with one of our staff members who sends field memos to country offices on behalf of Australian sponsors.

On the same day they had received two emails from two sponsors of 10-year-old boys from Bangladesh in response to “why did my child leave the program” questions.

One child left because, like Ravi, he dropped out due to lack of interest and peer pressure. The other left because the support he had received from our ministry and the church had lifted him far enough out of poverty that the family was now considered “too rich” to be supported by us.

Two 10-year-old boys left; two very different reasons. You could say one was a success story and one was a failure.

Yet I say that every child who is presented with the Good News of Jesus Christ is a success story. Every child who receives more vaccinations and more education than he would have otherwise had is a success story. Every child who interacts with God’s Church and is influenced by His servants is a success story.

They are both success stories.

Like me, many sponsors may not know why their child has left the program, they just know he or she has. Sadness can overwhelm as you lose this special member of the family. Grief increases knowing that you can’t physically see or speak to him or swallow them in the hug you long to give.

When it feels like there is nothing you can do to help this child anymore, there is just one thing you can keep on doing as before, and that’s the most important of all.


I may not ever see Ravi, or hear from or about him again. He may never think of me again. But his photo is on my wall and his name is written on my heart.

I will continue to pray for him because this is the most powerful thing I can do for him. My God sees Ravi and loves him, wherever he is, whatever he’s doing, whether he loves God or not. So I keep praying for my boy Ravi.

And today I start giving a little bit of my heart to a new child, Ita, as our friendship begins and my lifetime of prayers for her starts.

28 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Gail January 15, 2012

    You’re so right Ruth – prayer is their protection. It is the best, and sometimes the only, thing we can do for our Compassion kids. With personal understanding of the impact of girls disappearing in Uganda you will be able to pray more passionately about this issue.

  2. Ruth January 12, 2012

    In 31 years of my sponsoring children through Compassion and other organizations, having a child leave is always painful to me. I console myself that I will continue to pray for the child and their family and I can also make a huge difference in the life of the replacement child!

    In December I lost 2 kids in other organizations. One was a Christian girl in Nigeria, only 13 or 14 years, because she was to be married! I hope her husband is a good Christian man. The second teen girl from Uganda was about 14 and she ‘disappeared’. The field office looked for her for months and gave up! Apparently there is a problem with girls ‘disappearing’ in Uganda!! God help them! This was so heart-wrenching. She said in one of her last letters to me that she was going to be baptized into the Christian faith.. She came from a Moslem background. I don’t know what happened but I pray every day for the safety of all my sponsor children, especially the young girls. It’s an evil world out there. Prayer is their protection.

  3. Kim December 14, 2011

    Gail, your heartfelt article has me in tears and though I’ve never experienced the heartbreak you describe, I confess that it has been a fear of mine on occasion when I haven’t heard from my sponsored children for many months. I’m bookmarking this so that I may read your words again, should the time ever come that I lose one of “my” children. Of course you’re absolutely right about what to do if the day ever comes. I’m finally going to visit my girls in Africa for the first, and perhaps the ONLY time I’ll be able to in April. That, too, has been a fear of mine, that if I get to actually hug them that it will be all the more devastating if they ever leave the program. Let’s face it, they ALL leave eventually and I knew when I signed up that the longest they’d ever be part of my life, or I’d be part of their lives, would be until they turned 22. BLESS YOU for addressing the issue of our children “leaving us” for any reason and how to help ease that pain – by sponsoring a new child, of course! I’ll be praying for you and Ravi, Gail.

    1. Gail December 21, 2011

      When I heard Ravi had left it effected me more than my other kids and on discovering this blog didn’t have a post sharing this side of sponsorship I knew I had to share my story to help other go through this process. I hope it will help many others.

      I met my Sarah in Indonesia this January and she’s my only child I’ve met. I can understand why on this side of a visit it may feel like the separation would be hard once you’ve met but I truly feel that the day I say good-bye to Sarah will be a better day BECAUSE I have met her. I feel closer to her and know her better. I also firmly believe we’ll meet one day in heaven and I am sooo looking forward to getting hugs from ALL the kids I will connect with through Compassion in my life time. I hope there will be many, many of them. This makes the end of sponsorship an au revoir not a good-bye :)

  4. Audrey December 9, 2011

    Sad story. Sorry that you are going through this & I hope I never have to go through this. Hope you receive God’s perfect peace.

    1. Gail December 21, 2011

      Thanks Audrey. The support from readers has been a comfort to me.

  5. Amy November 14, 2011

    It is so hard to say good bye to these precious children who become part of our lives. I have had many children leave the program through the years, primarily because they have completed the program or their family circumstance has improved. In each of those cases I was given advance notice and was allowed to send a final letter. But my hardest lost was Samantha, whose parents pulled her from the program abruptly and with no explanation given. She and I had bonded almost immediately and losing her was like having part of my heart ripped out. Within a week or two Compassion sent me information on another girl to sponsor and I almost rejected her because I was still grieving for Samantha and she couldn’t be replaced so easily. I am grateful that I felt guilty enough to sponsor little Jacqueline, because she has been an absolute joy and her letters always make me smile and laugh. I still think of Samantha and pray for her, but I count Jacqueline among my many blessings from God.

    1. Gail November 14, 2011

      Some sponsor have to allow themselves a break between sponsor children to allow for grieving. I totally understand that. Yet God is already working to connect us up with the next child, who like Jacqueline, will be just right for us.

      I’m excited to get to know Ita as I know that God is in that relationship too and Ravi’s leaving was not a surprise to Him.

      Thanks for sharing your story. It is very special.

  6. abby November 10, 2011

    Could you please explain the “correspondence kids” thing to me? I’m working on convincing my husband that it is within our budget to sponsor, but I’d love to write letters to kids who aren’t receiving them too. I’ve been reading about how much the letters mean to the kids. Can you tell me more details of this program?

    1. Jacquie Parella November 10, 2011

      Sure! There are children who are, for example sponsored by a corporation, so they don’t have a someone to write to them. If you become a correspondent sponsor then we’d match you with one of these children. Someone else pays for their sponsorship and you write to the child, encourage them, build a relationship with them, etc. If you are interested in doing this give us a call at (800) 336-7676 and we can get you on the correspondent sponsor list.

  7. Bonny from FL November 10, 2011

    Hello Gail, and everyone, Thank you for this article. My sponsored girl, age 14 from Colombia, also left the program after several years. The people who ran the program there encouraged her Mother to let her continue, but for some reason she did not wish to do so. I am thinking since her mom was single, with 6 children, she needed her at home. I was able to send a final letter to her, letting her know I would continue to pray for her. I was told that she did accept Jesus as her Savior before leaving the program, so that is the most important thing!

    1. Gail November 13, 2011

      Hello Bonny. What joy to know that your girl accepted Jesus as her Savior while in the program! You have amazing hope to meet her in heaven one day and knowledge that she is doing life with a Savior who walks with her every step of the way!

  8. Mary November 10, 2011

    We had our 14 year old boy, Paul, from Uganda leave Compassion. He felt he had enough skills to make it on his own. I grieved, even though I knew this is what we had meant for him…14 seemed so young. But then, I took a deep breath, decided I would continue to pray for him always, and asked God to please keep Paul in His hands. God answered me “Mary, Paul was always in My hands; I just let you share him for awhile.”

  9. Kathryn November 9, 2011

    Thank you, Gail for sharing your story with us. We had a precious boy leave Compassion in Colombia and I still pray for him. We still have his picture and my heart is still connected. I seriously doubt that I will ever forget his sweet face.. I hope and pray one day we will see our Harold in Heaven! .

    1. Gail November 9, 2011

      We have a God who answers prayer and promises that the prayers of the righteous avails much, that gives me confidence that you will see Harold one day in heaven :)

      It amazes me to realize that there are a bunch of Compassion children and families around the globe that pray for me. I am sure that some of these are kids I’ve had to say good-bye to. Just as we pray for them for life, I reckon many would also pray for us all their life long too.

  10. Gail November 9, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your story Sandy. When the letter connection between us and our children ends we learn to value it more. We need to be reminded to take the opportunities we do have to fill our letters with love, encouragement and wisdom for our kids as long after our letters stop coming, the ones they do have are still being read.

    Thanks for this reminder to write.

  11. Sandy Bennetch November 9, 2011

    I had two children that left the Compassion program. One girl from India was very new to the program and her parents were wary of “outside influences” and so chose to withdraw the child. The other girl from Nicaragua had been in the program for quite some time, and I was heartsick at not being able to say goodbye. I did reflect on the many cheerful messages that we exchanged over the years. On the day I received the news of her withdrawal from the program, I took the opportunity to immediately write to my other sponsored children–to remind them that a day may come when we can no longer correspond–to remind them that I wish to give them a big hug and that I love them–and to remind them that God’s love will be with them always.

  12. Debbie November 9, 2011

    I have lost a number of my kids (including correspondence kids), and it just doesn’t get any easier. That includes two last week. I think the hard part is when you don’t get to say goodbye. I have had two where I sponsored a child, only to find out when they go to tell them that the child isn’t there, and the country office didn’t notify Colorado before the child was listed again. So twice I have fallen in love with a child that wasn’t even there. Then there is being a correspondence sponsor, and knowing the kids aren’t ‘really’ yours. Sometimes you lose them because you can’t afford to take up the sponsorship when the financial sponsor quits, or the hardest yet was when a financial sponsor wanted to start writing, and just like that the relationship was over, and the child never knew why I wasn’t writing any more. The phone operators always try to make you see the positive side of it when you lose a child, but it still always hurts.

    1. Gail November 9, 2011

      It does hurt and I know that the Compassion staff feel our pain too when they have to let us know our child has left or there has been a mix up. In Australia we have one amazing woman who makes all the difficult calls to tell sponsors when their child has died. She grieves right along side the sponsors and spends much time praying for them.

  13. Hannah Hinojosa November 9, 2011

    Thanks for your post. I recently had two teenage girls drop out of the program….one from Nicaragua and one from Colombia. This now makes a total of 8 of my sponsored girls who have left the program prior to graduation. Each one makes me so sad…sometimes I know why, sometimes I don’t. I always spend some time crying… But, like you pointed out, each one heard the Gospel, each one was cared for for the time they were in the program. For my two girls who just recently left, both had accepted Jesus as their Savior while they were in the program. So although I’m sad that they left, I see this as an opportunity to reach two new girls! And like you said, I can pray for them for the rest of my life!

    1. Gail November 9, 2011

      It is hard to say good-bye, or to honestly tell your child that you can’t afford to come and visit them, but one of the joys of Christ is that we know we will meet them one day in heaven. I am looking forward to a lot of hellos and hugs in heaven from my sponsor kids, their families and their staff.

      1. Paula November 11, 2011

        Gail, is there a blog post or a FAQ on how to politely address an invitation from your child to visit? I feel that I remember reading a post or info somewhere about it, but have since forgot. And in my most recent letter, my dear child invited me to Tanzania, and there’s simply no way I can afford that trip. Anyway, if you have a link to something for me to read on that, I’d greatly appreciate it. Sorry for “hijacking” the comments. :)

        1. Debbie November 11, 2011

          I’m not Gail, but you are on http://www.ourcompassion.org you can ask the question in a journal. It has been asked several times, and plenty of people to give you good advice on that, and everything else concerning Compassion.

  14. Laura November 9, 2011

    Thank you for that very touching article. My child, Joselyn, whom I supported since she was 7 is about to age out of the program. She is my second child to age out and I am happy for her, but sad for me. I will miss her. She is part of our family, as was Sionne, my former child. I pray that the children that have to leave for whatever reason, will know that Jesus loves them and that he is their Lord and Savior. Thanks for all you do to bring the hope and compassion of Jesus to those that are helpless.

    1. Gail November 9, 2011

      I know that children who have the same sponsor to love them for many years never forget them. If you ever watch a video on a formerly sponsored child or LDP student they will always name their sponsors. So be encouraged that Joselyn and Sionne probably miss you too and most likely also pray for you too. The impact we sponsors and children have on each other is one for a life time and eternity.

  15. Ruwanthi November 8, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. Truly heart breaking.

    I just got back from one of our projects here in Sri Lanka. I heard so many heartbreaking stories. Many mothers having dropped out of one of our project. But the difference here is i know the reasons and they are to do with external factors such as family pressure or husbands threats.

    As you say here, Prayer is what we can do. Prayer is how we can tell God what we actually feel inside and it is how we can ask our Heavnly Father to take care of Ravi. In God’s Hands Ravi is in the best place that he can be.

    I will add Ravi to my daily prayer list from today. And my prayer is also that, God willing you will be able to see Ravi someday.
    God bless you and here is a hug from me, a stranger.

    1. Gail November 9, 2011

      Thanks Ruwanthi. It was a sad day for me when I got the news. Even sadder when 2 days later I was told a sponsor had cancelled and I was loosing 3 more of my correspondant kids. But with friends praying God has helped me to trust Him for these kids and to work through my grief.

      Through the process I remembered that many sponsors go through this and wanted to share my story to encourage others.

      Thanks for your prayers for Ravi. That means a lot to me.

      1. Lizzie November 10, 2011

        I am so sorry for your loss. I will be praying for you and your kids.
        I was think though, could you perhaps take on sponsoring some of your correspondence chidren that you lost? Maybe you could get your church to finacially sponsor them, but you could still write to them. Let me know if there is any way I can help :)

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