In 2006 my wife and I went on a sponsor trip to the Dominican Republic. Before our trip, we thought we knew what Compassion did, but our understanding of the ministry fell far short of what we saw.
When I came home from that trip, I signed up to be a volunteer. I made coffee mugs with photos of my sponsored children on them, and I spoke of the kids often.
“Hey Patterson, you know those kids that you’re so fond of? ”
“I think we should sponsor one of those kids as a shift.”
I explained to Norm that a typical child sponsorship is under $40, but then I told him about the Leadership Development Program. I suggested that if we were able to get 12 firefighters together, we could sponsor a Leadership Development Program student and it would cost only $25 per person each month.
Norm made a commitment immediately and started recruiting others. I contacted Compassion the following day, and later that afternoon we had a student to sponsor — Juan David Dominquez Galvez.
At age 5, Juan David had lost his father in a construction accident. His mother was left alone to care for four children. In her desperation, she enrolled Juan David in the Compassion-assisted child development center in their community outside the capital city of Santo Domingo.
Shortly after enrollment, Juan David was sponsored. His new sponsors, the Hopper family in Australia, wrote letters of encouragement often and continued to do so for 13 years.
Thanks to the support of his sponsors, Juan not only graduated high school, but he also earned his school’s Most Excellent Student Award. Then Juan applied for the Leadership Development Program and, after months of academic tests and intensive interviews, was accepted into the program.
Just a couple weeks after Juan David became eligible for the program, I returned to the Dominican Republic with my wife and daughters on another sponsor trip. We knew that on this trip we would not only be able to visit the girls we sponsor, but we would also have the opportunity to meet Juan David and tell him about a group of firefighters who would be his sponsors for the next six years.
On Wednesday evening of the trip, the Compassion staff had prepared a meal for the visiting sponsors. Four Leadership Development Program students were asked to give their testimonies. One of them was Juan David.
It was on this evening that Juan David learned that he had been sponsored, and that his dream of becoming a pediatrician is possible. When he heard the news, he wept. So did 40 Compassion sponsors.
Being part of this amazing student’s life has had great impact on many people. Juan David continues to communicate with the Hopper family in Australia. My family and the Hopper family communicate with each other regularly by e-mail. Juan’s letters to his sponsors and to my family are regular reminders of God’s grace. To my children, he is a living example of faith.
Today, Juan David and his fellow Leadership Development Program students in the Dominican Republic express their gratitude for the opportunity they have been given by sponsoring a little girl in Haiti, named Lovina.
I look forward to the day when I sit beside a group of firefighters from Seattle at Juan David’s graduation ceremony.
Who can you sponsor a student with?