Her arms were fastened tight around my neck, her forehead snuggled in my hair. What an embrace Maia gave me when she was told that I was her Compassion Sponsor! At only four years old, she knew what it meant to have a sponsor, and she was overwhelmed.
Little did she know this big moment in her life was a moment that I, too, will carry in my heart for years to come.
She is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. We called her Princesa Maia for the rest of the day as she shyly smiled at us in her soft pink dress.
Together we twirled and played. Her favorite place was the tire swing, where she laid her head back, closed her eyes and sang. Her spirit was radiant.
After lunch, I had the opportunity to visit Maia’s home and meet her family. It was almost surreal to walk the route she takes to and from Amaury Hernandez de Jesus de Leon, her local church, and sit next to her in her own home.
Her father, Raphael, built every inch of their cinder block house with his own two hands. He is very present in her life which isn’t always the case for families living in Maia’s neighborhood.
Raphael spoke of his wife who lives in Santo Domingo to maintain her job and help pay for their basic needs. She comes to see Maia, Maia’s sister and their father for a few days every two months.
Through it all, I could tell that Raphael leads his family by trusting God to provide. We could all feel the nearness of God in their home.
We soon discovered that Maia loves to sing.
“Will you sing for us?” we asked.
She nodded her head as her father reached for his guitar. Raphael picked the tune while Maia sweetly sang the melody. Raphael’s face was glowing as he watched his daughter sing.
My heart was in awe as I stepped back and observed God’s story unfold in this moment. I never wanted it to end. It was a glimpse of heaven: a daughter singing and her father delighting in her.
Before we left, Maia hugged me and I held her tight in my arms once more.
Raphael asked that we would pray that on the mountaintop or in the valley they would trust that God is good.
The next day we toured the Compassion Child Development Center in Maia’s neighborhood. The leaders of the Child Development Sponsorship Program (CDSP) explained how the curriculum and the tutors help the children, how letters make a huge impact in their lives, and how these children are provided with food, school supplies and most importantly, lessons about Jesus Christ.
This was one of the highlights of our intern trip – we saw firsthand that holistic child development really works.
Maia is in poverty, but that isn’t the full story.
As I left that day, I was overwhelmed but not with sadness. I was overwhelmed with joy because I was leaving Maia with complete trust.
I’ve seen the tireless, sacrificial dedication of the Compassion staff in the DR.
I’ve seen how helpful it is for the church to provide Maia with food, medical assistance and school supplies.
I’ve seen Compassion in action, and I can leave with nothing but trust. I trust completely that she is in good hands because her church is empowered to come alongside her as she grows.
I trust our Father with Maia’s life.
I can’t fix the situations of children living in poverty on my own. But I can help bring hope to this one precious child.
God is transforming lives and I challenge you to participate.
I pushed Maia on the swing one more time before we left the center and we sang back and forth this sweet song:
“Gloria a Dios, aleluya!” (Glory to God, hallelujah!)
Julie Willian is the Field Media Intern – one of the 23 summer Internships at Compassion International. A Kentucky native, Julie is a senior at Morehead State University where she studies Graphic Design and Photography.
As part of their summer experience, the interns had the opportunity to go on a trip to the Dominican Republic and visit a number of Child Development Centers in the country. Some, like Julie, even got to sponsor a child at these centers.