The moment I was sponsored through Compassion at age 8, I became aware that I was bigger than poverty. Poverty was a situation, a condition, but I was a life. All I needed were positive messages of hope to grow out of it.
It is the relationships that sponsorship promotes through letter writing, not so much the money, that ends poverty. Think about it this way: A child runs to a parent for protection not because he has see the parent carrying weapons but because the parent has fostered a relationship that assures the child of protection.
In the same way, a starving child approaches the mother for food even when he can clearly see there is no food in the hands of the mother.
This is a relationship that grows confidence and bears fruits of optimism and the belief that nothing is impossible.
The moment I read my first letter from my sponsor I felt empowered. I heard him tell my 8-year-old heart, “There is nothing impossible with the God I am telling you about.”
I believed him like he was a messenger from God. Writing about it now reminds me of a story I heard many times growing up — that the angel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth, saying to the virgin Mary, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.”
I remember myself at that age wondering how God will release me from poverty, and my sponsor sending another letter saying that he is praying for me and encouraging me to work hard in school and trust in God.
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At times poverty threatened and lied to me that nothing is possible, but my sponsor would write to me, “Jimmy, it doesn’t matter what you are going through, ‘for nothing will be impossible with God’.”
A candle was lit inside of me and I started believing in the dreams of my childhood. The circumstances didn’t matter: I believed I was bigger than poverty. In time I began seeing myself as the savior of my community from the oppressor, this grinding poverty.
I became a joy to my mother. She loved listening to my positive messages. I became her favorite preacher. It satisfies me to remember the many times I made my mother forget her struggles, pain and suffering.
My sponsor restored my mother’s joy. Within a year of sponsorship, I could read the Bible that I had received from the program. I read to her all my favorite childhood memory verses in English.
Many nights she asked me to read her the Bible and then she would pray and we would go to bed a happy mother and a hopeful child.
Some of those nights we went to bed on an empty stomach. On such nights, unable to sleep from hunger, I would hear my mother crying to God to let me live another day. In my innocence I would ask her why she was crying. She would reply, “Because I can hear the rumbling in your stomach.”
I would assure her that I would make it to the morning. That was the strength my sponsor put in my heart — to be there for my mother.
At her deathbed, my mother called me to her and shared her joy for having been my mother. She encouraged me to live a life of loving people just as my sponsor loved me. Then she bid me goodbye saying, “My son, I see you succeeding in life but I do not see myself sharing the success with you. Trust in God.”
A few months later, I received the sad news that my mother had died. She had left my grandmother a gift for me: her Bible. From her Bible I quoted Jeremiah 29:11 to my sponsor when I wrote to break the sad news.
In his reply, my sponsor Mark wrote:
“I am sorry to hear about the death of your mother. I cried when I read your letter. It was great to read your scripture reference – Jeremiah 29:11 — because I also believe that God has good plans for you. I shall continue to pray for you.”
I celebrate my sponsorship with Compassion because through the relationship with my sponsor, I caught the fire of hope. Sponsorship puts hope in the hearts of children and in return these children serve the rest of the world with that hope.
My mother died in hope, satisfied that she bore a son of hope; a hope she believed will survive and be taken to the ends of the earth to the glory of God.