I grew up in a family filled with boys and needless to say there was rowdy chaos throughout our home. You know, typical boy stuff…where the living room mysteriously becomes a massive fort, every rock becomes a grenade, every stick a sword, and a pillow stuffed under your shirt gave you the sense of heroic invincibility. Our home was not a place to drink coffee and reflect on the meaning of life. It was a cross between “Looney Toons” and “Star Wars”. Filled with super powers, ambushes, betrayal, and of course “The Force”…
It was a danger zone.
Here are the culprits in action:
However, in the midst of the chaos, one core value I remember being distinctly embedded into our character as boys was the need to finish.
Finish my homework.
Finish my chores.
Finish chewing my food.
My parents had a desire to simply teach us to complete what we had started, regardless of our feelings and the obstacles we would face. This mentality established a mindset of being fully engaged and determined to accomplish a goal. It taught us that even though hard times were surely to come; resilience and focus were necessary companions to reach any God-given destiny and finish.
It is a lesson I am thankful I learned.
It is a lesson I was taught as a child.
It is a lesson that shapes a destiny.
Sponsors have significant influence in teaching this powerful lesson and helping shape the destiny of the child they have chosen to invest in, just as my parents did for me. Finishing is an essential lesson for a child to learn in overcoming poverty. And I would contend that it is most powerfully established when sponsors journey alongside a child until the finish line.
I spoke to a sponsor last week who wanted to cancel their sponsorship because the teenager they sponsored (Akama) had turned 18 years old. They believed he should be independent now – contributing to society and having a “real” job.
As the sponsor continued to express their perspective, I couldn’t help but think about what it must have been like when Akama was first told he had a sponsor. I imagined the joy he must have felt to an answered prayer. I could picture him reading over and over the encouraging letters he received. I also couldn’t help but think about the empty feeling of being left behind when he was so close to finishing the program.
When you sponsor a child through Compassion, you have the beautiful opportunity to help shape a destiny. Along with his or her local church, you get to help a child be known, loved and protected. He or she gets to hear from an advocate from the other side of the world that says:
I SEE you. I am WITH you. I CHOOSE you. We are in this TOGETHER. You CAN do it. God has a PLAN for you. Don’t give up!
Children immediately begin to hope. Lost and faded dreams begin to find their way back into the heart of a child. Forgotten smiles instantly burst through the dark clouds of depression and hopelessness.
They establish goals. They overcome obstacles. They believe they can finish the long journey ahead.
Some of that belief is undoubtedly shaken when a child is told they no longer have a sponsor. All of the sudden, their helper and advocate, the very answer to their prayer, is no longer present. They know that letters of encouragement are not coming. It can be a disheartening experience.
As they continue on in the program with the assistance of our Unsponsored Children’s Fund, we are committed to finding them another sponsor. But depending on how close they are to finishing, they might not get another.
Now, I understand there are circumstances when sponsors need to cancel. Loved ones pass away. Jobs are lost. Health deteriorates. Family is in need. Finances are struggling. Life happens. And these conversations must always be seasoned with grace and understanding. However; my thoughts today are specifically for those not facing these situations. And in this particular conversation, it was a matter of perspective.
Moved by emotion, and understanding the significance of Finishing for Akama, I explained to the sponsor that the final four years of a sponsorship are the most critical to our mission becoming a reality. I let her know that Akama would specifically learn vocational skills, be mentored by Christian leaders and prepared to step into adulthood. These were the defining years that would change the trajectory of Akama’s life.
However, my response was not persuasive and Akama lost his sponsor that day. When I got off the phone, I was a bit discouraged. After reflecting for a few minutes, I truly believe my approach was misdirected.
You see, my approach was focused on explaining a program; and although that is important, it painfully misses the whole value of the sponsor. It fails to capture the value of two hearts staying connected.
If Akama would have heard that phone call, I don’t believe he would have approached the situation by explaining why the final years of the program were so critical. I believe, he would have said the exact things we’ve heard from countless youth and young adults in our program:
“Words cannot grasp the joy I have already received from you”
“I still have all your letters”
“My family believes you are a gift from God”
“I love you, no matter what”
“I want to complete this program and make you proud”
“Will you Finish with me?”
This approach captures the value of every sponsor. This is what you, as a sponsor, mean to the child you have chosen.
The full power of God’s mission for Compassion will never be found in $43 a month. It will never be fully found in an exceptionally developed program at a local church, either.
The full power of Compassion is found when two souls, both in need, shape each other’s destiny and help each other grow. The power of Compassion is relationship and empowerment. The power of Compassion is finishing together.
As an advocate for children in poverty, I encourage you to Finish the journey with the child, teen or young adult you sponsor. Finish the good work you started. Finish the race. (2 Timothy 4:7).