We love to hear stories about God changing the hearts of children and sponsors alike. Katie Kortepeter is a writer, sponsor and correspondent to more than 60 children who live in poverty. Until about two years ago, this young professional had no children in her life. Hear from Katie as she shares how becoming a sponsor gave her a heart for children.
When I felt the Holy Spirit’s promptings to sponsor a child through Compassion almost two years ago, something held me back. It wasn’t timing, finances or a need to do more research. It was a fear that I wouldn’t know how to interact well with a child, let alone a child halfway across the world. Although I was eager to exchange words of love and encouragement with someone living in poverty, I’d never closely related with children before.
Most Compassion sponsors I’ve met have a particular love for children. They work with children or have children of their own. But as an unmarried young professional without nieces, nephews or even babysitting experience, I’ve never had consistent, in-person interaction with kids.
So as I clicked the button to sponsor my first two children through Compassion — Claudia and Hilary — I wondered: “How will I relate to them? What kinds of stories and letters would interest them? What do they need to hear?” And I prayed that God would give me the answers and a heart for “my girls.”
All of a sudden, I had children in my life.
Throughout the past year and a half, God has answered my prayers beyond my expectations. I now sponsor additional children and write to many more through Compassion’s correspondent program. And I’ve realized that you don’t have to have children of your own, work in child care, or even know any children in person to love and bless children. Although I’m still far from an expert, through the letters I’ve exchanged with the kids I support through Compassion, I’ve finally come to understand on a personal level why children are so special. They not only show me unconditional love, but they’ve repeatedly taught me to look at things in a new way.
Here are a few takeaways from my experience writing to children in poverty:
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Families in poverty have no safety net in times of crisis. Help provide food, medical care and support during this pandemic.
Children are delighted by the little things.
Little Samuelito in El Salvador wrote me a letter about how he celebrates Christmas, and he mentioned his favorite Christmas dish — pan con pollo (bread with chicken) — in almost every single line. It was clear that he was so excited by the opportunity to have a special meal with his family. Children are enthralled by life’s small gifts — a holiday spent with family, a flower they’ve never seen before, a cherished Bible verse or a new stuffed animal. The children who write to me often express wonder about things that I take for granted. It makes me want to savor each meal, stop to smell the flowers, meditate more deeply on single lines of Scripture, and thank God for the littlest blessings.
Children are incredibly straightforward.
Hilary’s first letter to me included a heartfelt prayer request for a deeply painful situation in her family. While I would have waited to share something so personal with someone I’d never met, she was open in a way that made me feel instantly close to her.
Children are often easy to connect with because they don’t hold anything back. They tell us what they need, share their hopes and dreams, and give us their frank opinions. While some of the children I correspond with have taken longer to open up or they write more formally because of cultural differences, most are willing to share their lives with me right away. They’ve challenged me to be more straightforward in my own interactions — to ask for prayer more quickly, to confide without fear, and to express myself with greater clarity and honesty.
Children understand more than we think they do.
Recent letters from kids during the pandemic have shown me that children see and feel the stress and suffering in our world. At the same time, they understand that God is in control. Several children have told me they’re sad that they aren’t in school, and one child expressed his deep disappointment that he couldn’t graduate from elementary school. But all of them asked for prayer for the eradication of COVID-19, showing their understanding that God has ultimate authority and holds the world in his hands.
Children, especially those in poverty, feel keenly that life is full of suffering and disappointment. But their confidence in God’s power and sovereignty inspires me trust him more deeply.
Before two years ago, I didn’t know the first thing about bonding with children. But as it turns out, I didn’t have to know how — the closeness happened naturally, through shared stories, eager questions and responses, and through prayer. I love each of my Compassion kids and thank God daily for what he’s taught me through them. They are the only kids in my life, and their lives have given me a heart for children around the world.