Hold on Tightly Loosely

My first Sponsor Trip took me to the Dominican Republic in 2005, where I first met Denisse. She was about 5 years old and wrapped her oh-so-expressive self around my heart.

Our day together was enhanced by Lorena, who served as our translator. About mid-afternoon, the two of them took off down the beach to collect shells. I could have gone, of course, but chose to wait for them by the pool. I had a plan in mind for the time I would spend with Denisse when they returned.

They were gone longer than anticipated, and when they did appear, they walked right by to go wash the sand off of their feet and change clothes. No problem. But when they came out of the hotel they did not come back to rejoin me.

In fact, I did not see them again until after the official photo shoot of all sponsors and children. So there I stood in the crowd, no sponsored child with me. I was seriously disappointed and upset, and I told Lorena what I had had in mind for my time with Denisse.

I cooled off as we rode the bus back to Compassion’s office, but my real turning point came the next morning as I dressed for the day. I thought about how my plans had gone awry and how disappointed I had been — and God broke into my thoughts.

Hold on Loosely: It's Not About You

12-year-old Petrolince in Indonesia shows off a picture of her sponsors.

Loosening My Grip

He helped me to see that Lorena and I had spent the whole day loving on this little girl and giving her a big boost, and that was the all-important point of the visit.

That was my first lesson under the heading, “It’s not about me.”

Yes, I had used my money and taken my time to go to meet her, but her need to know that I was real and that my love for her was real took precedence over my needs or wants.

On my next two visits to see Denisse, we were joined by Maria, another child I sponsor, who was also accompanied by her mom and a staff member from the child development center.

On both occasions, at times when the two girls were enjoying the pools, Maria’s mom talked to me about their situation at home. She was the one who cried on my shoulder the last time we said goodbye.

I felt more strongly than ever that I was sponsoring a family, and not only a child, and that sense strengthened my belief that I should know the details of their lives, as a family.

Hold on Loosely: It's Not About You

Opening My Hands

This year I got my second lesson on, “It’s not about me.” I learned from a center director that one of the girls I sponsor and her family were dealing with a crisis. I wanted full information … and I wanted it now!

I ranted, I raved, I begged and pleaded with Compassion to get me information and to get it quickly. This was a crisis.

And then I received a letter from the child. It was not an emotional letter; she wasn’t begging to come live with me or for me to come see her.

She wasn’t telling me how terrible things were. In fact, she told me that “our fight is not against flesh and blood!” Whether from her or from God, I heard “Back off!”

I wrote a letter thanking her for hers and apologizing for my emotional intrusions into her family’s private matters.

The question of whether it’s about us or about the children we sponsor has generated a lot of discussion, and some pretty strong disagreement. But let me tell you how my belief that sponsoring is not about me has been reinforced in an entirely different context.

Hold on Loosely: It's Not About You

Ready to Let Go

My husband and I recently helped my sister and niece move my mother into an Alzheimer’s facility. My mother was in an independent-living home for several years, in a one-bedroom apartment with a lovely view from her windows.

She had a refrigerator and a microwave and made breakfast for herself in the mornings. She had her TV, her computer and her privacy.

Except for some privacy, she has none of those things now, and she will eventually have a roommate. She is still incredibly angry, as we expected, exacerbated by the losses.

The night before we came home, she kept talking about all the things that she missed. I am not suggesting that her grieving the losses was unreasonable. But in her complaints, I heard a wake-up call: I need to hold the people, places and things that I love in an open palm, ready to let go whenever I need to do that.

I want to walk into heaven with empty hands and a joyful heart, missing nothing that I’ve left behind.

This lesson extends to the children I sponsor. Any of them might leave the program at any time; those who stay will eventually graduate. I might be able to stay in touch with one or two, but I must be prepared to let them get on with their lives.

I must be content to have been a part of their lives for a season, however long that season may last.

If you’re a part of a child’s life through sponsorship, take a moment to deepen that relationship by writing a letter to him or her today or consider taking a trip with us to meet him or her.

16 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Jill Foley October 21, 2010

    What a timely post, Vicki. I read this yesterday morning and about 6 hours later got a call from Compassion. When you get a call and the person identifies themself as part of Compassion, odds are good you are going to get “bad” news about your child. I sponsor several and immediately began wondering….”which one?” It turns out that the girl we sponsored for 7 years in Indonesia moved away – too far to continue being involved in the Compassion project. I was thankful for your timely post, and was able to reflect on our time with Nowanda and not the fact we were losing her.

  2. Vicki Small October 20, 2010

    [quote comment=”20135″]I know the end of helping one child is the start of helping another one and a new opportunity to change a life![/quote]

    Ruth, that’s perfect! Thank you, and when we’re back home, I’m going to print that out, large, and put it on my wall!

  3. Ruth October 20, 2010

    I’ve been sponsoring for 29 years and I’ve been the sponsor of a lot of kids over that time. I was thinking recently that my original kids are very probably grand-parents now – and I’m not even a grand-parent yet. It’s always tough when I ‘lose’ a sponsor child because they leave the program or graduate. It does hurt, even when there’s a chance to say good-bye in a letter. I continue to pray for my former children as I do my current ones and I know God watches over all of them. At the same time, I know the end of helping one child is the start of helping another one and a new opportunity to change a life!

  4. Mike Stephens October 20, 2010

    I must say I glad to hear that if something happens like a center closing or one of my kids moving that is not completely abnormal. That hasn’t happened to me yet, but at least I will feel a little more prepared if it does happen. I think that is another reason sponsorship is so special and vital, is b/c it is “terminal” in a way. It will end at some point, but salvation in Jesus is eternal!

  5. Chuck Guth October 20, 2010

    Very good post Vicki!

  6. Nicolette Choi October 20, 2010

    Thank you so much for this blog! When I found out that I could no longer sponsor my child due to a center closing I was DEVASTATED! I can not even explain it. i loved my child so much that I just could not move past it. I cried for him and tried to press into God to numb the pain of the loss, but the pain felt so real! I knew God was telling me that I needed to entrust my heart and my former sponsored child to Him; but it was hard! But after reading this I think God is telling me that my “mourning process” is over and I need to move on. I will always love my child and still pray for their entire family! But you are right, I need to release them to God. They are His after all and He loves them and cares about them even more than I do!!

  7. Raymond October 20, 2010

    A timely letter from Vicki, as I have only just yesterday received notice that the child I have sponsored since 2001 is no longer in the program. The letter only stated that she had stopped attending the Compassion center and was no longer in the program. I’m inclined to want to find out what happened, and have they gone to the family to see what is wrong. I don’t know if I will get answers to this, but I am really concerned.

    1. Vicki Small October 29, 2010

      Hi, Raymond,
      I’m wondering whether you called the 800# to request more information. I hope you did, but I hope you’re more patient than I was in waiting! 😉

      If the family pulled the child from the program without giving a reason, then you’re unlikely to learn anything more; but it does not hurt to ask.

      I wish you well, and I hope you’ve accepted another child to love!

  8. Sara F. October 20, 2010

    I have been reading a book called “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. One of the challenges in the book has been to look at everything not being about me or others but about God. All thing should point back to Him and be for His glory.

    As a result, when I think about the question as to whether sponsorship is about the child or sponsor, I would have to say it about neither. It is about God who calls us to love Him and one another. Sponsorship allows us to love someone else but ultimately it is not even our love that matters, only that it points back to God.

    All that being said, I still suffer from making things about me, and I sure do like those letters. I only hope that when our sponsored children no longer need us that I can remember that even if I can’t hold onto them, God is.

    1. Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies October 20, 2010

      If you like letters but don’t have the means to sponsor another child, you could always sign up to be a correspondent Sponsor for children whose sponsors do not want to write. We have two financially sponsored children and 5 Correspondents. We write at least once a month but usually more like twice a month. We generally get from 1-4 letters per week and iI do a happy dance at the mailbox every time.

      1. Noel October 22, 2010

        Hi Michelle,

        I have never heard of a correspondent Sponsor. It sounds wonderful! How do I go about finding more information about this? I love to get mail and I love to write. Hope to hear from you soon and thanks for sharing this. 🙂

        1. Kit October 22, 2010

          Just call or email Compassion and tell them you’d like to get on the list to be a correspondent!

          1. Noel October 23, 2010

            Thanks for the quick answer! Will do!! 🙂

  9. Lisa Miles October 20, 2010

    Such a good message — so important. I’m printing this off and putting up next to my computer.

  10. Hayley Thompson October 20, 2010

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am in constant need of the reminding that “it’s not about me”. I have just started sponsoring a 3-year old child named Stephen. I told my friends that I wanted to meet him some day. But, like you say, he may move on with his life without ever meeting me, and that has to be okay. I am excited to hear that you did get to meet your sponsored children. What a gift for all of you! Thank you and God bless.

  11. Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies October 20, 2010

    What a great blog! Ultimately, we should go into sponsorship with a heart to serve and to give. After all, the motto is “Releasing Children from Poverty, in Jesus’ Name” not “Making Sponsors Feel Good in Jesus’ Name”.
    When it comes down to it, though, I never envisioned just how blessed WE would be by our involvement with Compassion. This morning, we found our newest Correspondence Child on our account, bringing the number of children in our Compassion family to 7. This girl is from Rwanda, which I have heard doesn’t write to sponsors very often. I still love her. I still commit to writing at least once a month. I am blessed by sharing love, even to the children who don’t write back as often and I would like.
    It is good to keep the perspective that we are doing this for the kids and any benefits WE may receive are just frosting on the cake.

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