Finally, it was the moment I had traveled thousands of miles for. There she was, a cute little girl with curly hair, standing outside a crowded church. Someone said, “This is Genesis, your sponsored child!”
I had brought a gift for our first meeting, a puzzle I had picked out weeks ago. When I saw the character on the puzzle, I knew God had been planning even the smallest details of my trip. The puzzle had Minnie Mouse on it — and so did Genesis’ shirt! It turned out to be her favorite character. I lost count of how many times we put the puzzle together that afternoon. By the end of the day, I couldn’t believe we had just met. Genesis was not just a picture to me anymore.
How did I end up putting together puzzles with a 5-year-old in Guatemala?
An Exciting Chance
When I first heard about a Compassion sponsor visit to Guatemala, I didn’t know much about Compassion. I knew they partnered with churches to facilitate sponsorships around the world, but I didn’t know what that looked like. I decided to join a sponsor tour to Guatemala to find out — and to start sponsoring a girl in Guatemala so I could take this opportunity to meet her. Several months later, in June 2018, my group finally flew into Guatemala City.
I could hardly wait to meet Genesis. We arrived at her church and Compassion center in time for a church service, which our awesome Compassion guides translated for us. When I finally got to meet her after the service, I also met her tutor and her mom, Imelda. Throughout the afternoon of puzzle building, I learned more about Genesis and her experiences at the center. Eventually, I would meet her younger sister Raquel too.
Though I didn’t get to see Genesis’ home during the sponsor tour, I did visit the homes of several other sponsored children. This experience would stick with me for a long time. I had never seen this type of poverty in person. One home I toured was two small rooms connected with a canopy. One room was a small living area and bedroom for the four children and their parents. The other was a “kitchen,” which was a raised fire pit with a pan on top and a small table in the corner — no sink, no stovetop, no oven and no cupboards.
The canopied area contained the family’s only sink, where they washed their clothes and their dishes by hand. So, the area was their laundry room, yard and now dining room, since my group had brought a meal to share. When I sat down at a table under the canopy, my chair was a foot away from the sink. Flies were everywhere, but the kids seemed to be used to them and often didn’t wave them away when they landed on their faces and arms. Through it all, the kids and their parents worked, played and grew, just like my family. Yet they were in completely different circumstances.
A Growing Relationship
Throughout the trip, I could see what this relationship meant to Genesis and her family. I got to spend time with them over the course of four days.* I saw how excited Genesis was to see me again each day. I visited her center, where we put on a small vacation Bible school for the Compassion kids. I even got to take her on her first trip to the zoo on the last day. Her enthusiasm for each new experience was often intense but always fun!
During lunch at the zoo, I gave Genesis a backpack full of small gifts, which she absolutely loved. Growing up, I had more toys and clothes in one drawer than I could ever fit in that small backpack. Yet she acted like I had given her the biggest gift in the world. The backpack didn’t come off for the rest of the day!
Right before I left, I also gave her mom a suitcase full of items I had been told someone in her situation might need. I had included tablecloths, plastic containers, rope, clothespins, clothes for Genesis and other small, practical gifts. The gifts were not expensive, yet her mom was deeply moved by them. She asked to pray over me before I left, so my translator came to stand next to me.
I was totally unprepared for what happened next. She put her hands on my head and began to sob as she prayed, her words coming too quickly to translate. Though I couldn’t understand what she said, I found myself crying with her. I could see that my gifts meant the world to her, and I felt completely humbled by her gratitude.
Though I hadn’t been part of their lives for very long, I felt deeply connected to Genesis and her family, and I could see they felt that way too. They treated me like a special guest for my entire visit when all I did was show up. I also witnessed the care Genesis received at the center from her tutor and how her life was different because of Compassion. Her home life was unstable, according to her tutors. The center provided support and safety, with more people to check after Genesis and her family.
God taught me that he is doing amazing things all over the world. Through Compassion, Genesis and the rest of the kids I met on the trip are so blessed. I was humbled to recognize my physical blessings and status in life compared to so much of the world. I was thankful that Compassion enables me to share with Genesis some of the resources I have been given.
The Continuing Story
When I had to say goodbye to Genesis, I knew that I would always have a relationship with her. Though I may not see her again, our few days together were a highlight in my life. I hope they were in hers as well.
In the years since I met my sponsored child, I know Genesis has remained in good hands. Her tutors and her mom have continued to love and support her. For my part, I have kept praying and writing letters, now with a real little girl in mind. I can picture her receiving my letters and writing her responses to me. When she sends me a hug at the end of each letter, I know what it feels like. I spent time with Genesis for just a few days, but the relationship we formed remains strong. It blesses us to this day with each new letter and prayer.
While all trips are currently paused due to COVID-19, we hope you’ll still continue to dream about and plan for a time when you can travel the world with Compassion.
*The number of days that children and sponsors spend together on sponsor trips varies.