Our translator nudged him.
“Edmon, look up.”
He’s shy. And his eyes wander all over the known ground. His glances travel everywhere but to my eyes.
“Is he shocked that I am a woman?”
I go ahead and unpack the elephant that I carried in my heart from Colorado to Uganda. Edmon is expecting to see his sponsor. The thing is, I am his sponsor.
I think I might have the most awkward “meeting my sponsored child story” recorded. And that’s the way I like it.
When Jeremy, my husband, sponsored Edmon 6 years ago, he had not yet met me. So Jeremy is Edmon’s sponsor. When we got married, we wrote several letters to Edmon introducing me to him, including photos.
But boys will be boys and a boy’s best friend stays with him forever.
Edmon has made this claim several times in his letter,
“Hello. You are my best friend.”
I thought it was something cute that maybe Edmon learned to write at our program. I mean, was Jeremy really his best friend?
When news came that I would travel to Uganda with the Compassion Bloggers and that I had an opportunity to meet Edmon, I stressed in emails and phone calls that, of course, I would meet Edmon, but please communicate that I am Bri. Jeremy’s wife. He knows of me. But please just be sure to communicate that to him.
My nerves rose as high as the plane that took me to Uganda. I wondered if Edmon would remember that I am Jeremy’s wife. Would he be confused?
So he walks in. Light pink dress-up shirt. Tall and lanky. Handsome. I look at him and he looks over and around me. As the translator walks toward me to introduce us, all my nervous thoughts just leave. And I cry.
I mean, I ugly cry:
That’s good. I was really hoping to make this potentially awkward situation even more awkward.
As I try to compose myself, Edmon’s stare takes up residence on the ground. And it stays there. The translator is quick to respond. Because I am sure everyone sees the awkward existence between us.
“He knows you are Bri. But he was hoping that Jeremy might be here.”
How can a boy not hope to meet his best friend? So I scramble to tell all about Jeremy. About how Jeremy prays for him and talks about him. About how excited he gets when Edmon writes.
As the translator communicates this to Edmon, he looks up and smiles big. Like, really big. Heartfelt, heart-warming, heart-charged big.
A smile that walks right into my heart and settles in, and will never leave.
I hand him gifts. Play some of the games we got him. In which I clumsily throw a ball (because I always clumsily throw a ball) to him and it grazes the side of his head. Yes, I know. It is a soft ball.
And we all laugh. But let’s call it what it is: I hit my sponsored child with a SOFT ball in the head.
And I just decide right then and there to make awkward ours. Our story. Carrying this time forward, I show him pictures. He rarely looks right at me.
I turn the page on the picture album and there is Jeremy’s picture. And then that territory-marking smile appears.
Jeremy’s name. That’s the sweet spot. And I finally understand, Jeremy is Edmon’s best friend.
I ask him questions. Questions. Questions. I get quiet one-word answers. Eyes averted. He keeps himself pulled in. But I’m beaming and filled and flowing. My husband created a bond with Edmon, and his name brings this little boy such joy.
Edmon has a best friend. A friendship that could have only been forged through Compassion and the local church.
When Jeremy sponsored Edmon, he knew he would receive all the benefits from this mnistry, the emotional, spiritual, socio-economical and cognitive care. But he also knew he was Edmon’s sponsor, and his sponsor alone. He knew Edmon would receive his letters. And Edmon would write him letters.
I ask Edmon if there is anything he would like me to tell Jeremy when I get home. And I receive it, that beautiful, purpose-stained smile.
He looks at me. He looks me right in the eyes. He sits up, speaks up and his heart lifts up. And he says,
“Greet him for me. Tell him I pray for him and I pray for his health. I am so happy to receive his gifts and I pray that God keeps him well.”
But let’s get right down to it. This post is titled, “This One’s for the Men.” Because I know Jeremy will read this post. I know I will tell Jeremy this story when I get home. And I know Jeremy will have had no idea what he meant to Edmon.
Sponsorship isn’t just for women. You know, the maternal type. The ones who seem to be the most likely to remember to write. The ones who might shout for joy with each letter received.
A bond between a boy and a man is quite purely, important. So this is a call to all the men to Sponsor a Child.
Or a call to all the women who know a man (a friend, a husband, a boyfriend, a son) to encourage that man to Sponsor a Child.
There is a boy out there who might find such joy at just the sound of your name. A boy who, in the midst of poverty, might find his best friend.
It’s time to say good-bye. I walk toward him with purpose, hoping to savor an unforgettable hug. As I bend down and lean in, he does something quite awkward. He juts his arm out, extending his hand. For a handshake.
I burst into a laugh. Seems like we’re both pretty good at awkward. And I wouldn’t have wanted to end our time any other way.
26 Comments |Add a comment
Thanks Bri for sharing
When I first met my sponsor back in 2002, I didn’t want to leave her. It was such a wonderful moment. She is so proud of what I am today and there are no exact words I can use to describe her. Thanks a lot Aunt Dorothy
I just sponsored a boy named Edmond a few months back. i pray that we will have that kind of connection
I know that Edmon was touched that you came to visit. You brought your heart and soul to touch a little boy’s life and instead, it sounds like he touched yours. I have two sponsored kids and I would love to meet them one day. Maybe Jeremy will be able to travel the next trip!
Wow Bri. Moved me deeply. Tears as well. Thanks for writing this. Well done and this pics add so well to the story. I look forward to sharing this with other guys.
So touching! Thank you.
Bri!! So good to see you, and I love seeing how God is using you in Africa. What a treat for you to meet Jeremy’s sponsor child Edmon–and you gave him the CO hat!! I’m going to put meeting my sponsor children on my bucket list. Much love, BP
Ben!!! It is so wonderful to see you here on the Compassion Blog. We miss you so much. And how encouraging, that meeting your sponsored child is now in your heart. Thank you, friend.
Love it, Bri! I love that you got to make the connection. I love that he thinks of your husband as his best friend. So precious, and so sweet. I love these stories!
Hi Kelli 🙂 Love seeing you here over at the Compassion Blog! Thank you for your words and for following us!
Isn’t it the best thing in the world when you finally see that joy filled smile? Something I know I will never forget from our recent trip 🙂
Hi Yvonne! I am so grateful you too have had the gift of meeting your sponsored child. Thank you for following our trip!
I honestly LOVED this! My husband and I are headed to Africa in 10 days to meet 2 of the children we sponsor. We hope it won’t be awkward, but I am sure it will be.
Your story gives me courage and we will just embrace the moment, whatever it looks like!
That was a beautiful story and you told it so well. You’re a good writer and sound like a compassionate, lovely person.
Your writing make my heart soar. Thanks.
Michael, that was such a beautiful encouragement. Thank you!
Love you guys and thank you for wonderfully portraying what it means to be sponsored and sponsoring.
Oh my. Tears. GREAT post. I have been the representative sponsor on a visit so many times and it is painful and beautiful at the same time. I love how you told this amazing story. Great job lady.
Steve, thank you. It means so much that you follow these trips and cheer us on from afar. Such joy. Grateful!
This was beautiful. I feel this is exactly what would happen if I ever got to visit my sponsor children. Sometimes things are awkward, and that is okay too!
I LOVE this post, Bri. I remember struggling with disappointment with the story of my meeting my sponsored child for the first time – it was just … not what I was envisioning. Not like all the other stories of sponsor meetings I’d heard about.
So I LOVE that you’ve embraced your story – the awkwardness in all it’s awkward glory. The realness – THAT makes it a truly amazing story.
Also, the call to men is a very powerful one. I just love everything about this post. 🙂
Thank you! Thank you, friend! Grateful for you 🙂
Thanks for this post, Bri! So often it is us the maternal, letter writing types who do the sponsoring, but the value of men sponsors is not to be overlooked. Many of these kids don’t have father figures and how valuable for them would it be to have a best friend who is a guy, or a sponsor who can give them man to man support and advice that they may be missing from their dads.
Would compassion helpers give us women sponsors some cultural advice for interacting with our male children who are from male dominated cultures? Is it shameful to be sponsored by a woman when they veiw women as property in their country? I sponsor an Ethopian boy and I receive letters from his pastor. I suspect that the pastor must be a go between to filter out cultural ooops?
You made me smile and laugh a few times, Bri.
I imagine what meeting one of our Compassion blessings would be like and somehow I forget how socially awkward I am and how potentially awkward the meeting could be.
But, I know you had an impact as Jeremy’s ambassador! Thanks for sharing this glimpse!
What a beautiful story, Bri, and what a great reminder that this is for the men, too. I’m praying for you and thinking of you all throughout the day. You are so dear and we are all blessed by your ministry.
Grace, peace, and all my love,
Edie! It is such a gift to see you around these parts! Thank you for your words. They mean so much, knowing that we’ve walked this journey together before.