The Real Ministry of Child Sponsorship Lies in Letter Writing

It has been a while since I’ve written a blog post. I’ve had one thing on my heart that I’m not entirely comfortable writing about. But other people seem to think it’s worthwhile, so here goes.

Several months ago, I had sponsorship packets for three Priority children; each had been waiting more than a year for a sponsor, one of them nearly two years. Each child appeared so thin, so frail, that looking at their photos made both my husband’s and my own heart hurt.

Two of the children were boys, and as I was getting no responses to my Facebook pleas on their behalf, my husband finally said,

“We have to sponsor them.”

And so we did.

The other child, Sandra, looked even more thin and frail than the boys, and I wanted to wrap my arms around her, very carefully.

Young girl posing for a picture.


I would have sponsored her in a heartbeat, but for one thing (and this is the reason for my discomfort in sharing this): I don’t write as often to my sponsored girls as I did before, when I sponsored fewer of them.

And I added two more sponsored girls just last year.

One of my Advocate friends, Janet, lives in the Phoenix area.

Janet sponsors a couple of children of her own, but she also serves as a “correspondent sponsor” for a lot more; I believe she writes regularly to 12 or 13 children.

Janet is so creative and absolutely faithful in writing to each of her children every month, often enclosing small gifts.

But here was 11-year-old Sandra’s photo, staring at me daily, asking me to help her. After ensuring my husband’s agreement, I wrote to Janet to ask if she would add Sandra to her “family” of correspondent kids.

She replied with a very enthusiastic “YES!!”

Fast-forward to a few months later, when I received a packet for another Priority child named Happy.

After sharing her photo and photos of other children on Facebook for a couple of weeks, I again contacted Janet and she gladly received Happy into her heart and “family.”

Knowing the love and faithfulness Janet expresses in writing to her sponsored kids, I can’t help thinking that the two girls I sponsored last year also would have been more greatly blessed if I had made the same arrangement with Janet for them.

But to make that change now would send the message that I am abandoning them, and that I will not do.

Some of my kids have had more than one sponsor already, and I won’t shake up their world again.

So what is my fear about going public with this arrangement?

My fear arises out of my own guilt, which loudly denounces me:

“You’re an ADVOCATE, for heaven’s sake! You should write to all of your sponsored girls, every month, and not farm them out!”

And I agree. I do write to my kids, other than Sandra and Happy, about every other month. But I used to do better.

Young girl standing in front of plants.


As an Advocate in conversations with other sponsors and potential sponsors, I stress the importance of writing to our sponsored children. I know how important that is for our kids.

They need our help to combat the lie of poverty, the lie that says,

“You don’t matter; you’re just not important.”

I know that, for too many children, a letter from a sponsor is the only chance they may ever have, outside of their child development centers, to hear the truth that they do matter and that God has a plan for them.

Thankfully, I also hear another voice.

One saying essentially the same thing I would say to any other sponsor who could afford the financial support for a child but, for whatever reason, cannot or will not manage the correspondence — which is where the real ministry of child sponsorship lies.

That voice whispers to me:

In sponsoring Sandra and Happy for Janet to write to, you are blessing both of the girls and Janet every month. Sandra and Happy aren’t aware of you. Janet is a great correspondent sponsor. She and the girls give and receive a lot of love through their relationships.

On occasion, I have been frustrated when talking with potential sponsors who could afford the $38/month but would not carry on the correspondence. When I have mentioned the possibility of finding a correspondent sponsor, they have routinely shaken their head and said no, if they were going to do it, they would do it all.

And then there’s the sponsor I met two or three years ago, one who routinely worked the table at her church for Compassion Sunday but, by her own admission, never writes to her child.

I suggested that she let Compassion find a correspondent, but no, he was her kid and she didn’t want to share him. But she never wrote to tell him that she loved him.

So consider this a plea: If you can afford to sponsor a child but, for any of several reasons, know that you will not correspond faithfully, please do the part that you can do and ask Compassion to find someone to do the other part.

If you cannot afford the financial obligation but have lots of love in your heart to share with a child, call (800) 336-7676 and tell a representative that you would like to correspond with a child.

Compassion will assign you a precious child (or two!) who may be sponsored financially but does not receive correspondence. You can be an incredible blessing to that child by writing letters that express God’s love and affirm the child’s God-given potential.

35 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Sara Loggins February 7, 2015

    I would think that sometimes a company or large organization sponsors a child or many children and the letter writing does not seem as important as the money to them. I was just thinking tonight about if someone won the lottery and decided to sponsor a bunch of children with the winnings, but then they couldn’t possibly write to all of those children. Thank God we have people who take those children through the correspondent program! I am equally as excited about the correspondence as I am about financially supporting the children. I sponsor 5 and I am seriously thinking about adding at least 5 more correspondence children. God is so good to me!

  2. Diane Nichols September 23, 2011

    Yes I too love being a correspondent to several children. Two of mine have recently graduated out of the program and while I will miss writing to them they are so happy and tell me they would have given up if it hadn’t been for my encouragement. Sometimes I run out of things to write, but what I do is get the child’s last letter (we sponsor 9 correspond with several) and go through it and even if it only says I love you and I am praying for you,and doing well in school I can usually find something like I am glad they are praying for me, I love them too and ask what they are learning in school and their favorite subject and then sometimes I ask them to write about their days like from when they get up to when they go to bed and even how they get to and from school. With the older ones sometimes I give a small geography lesson about our state or one we are going to vist or have visited recently.

  3. Debra G September 10, 2011

    Thank you so much for this post. I became a sponsor last year at Christmas time for the first time. I had expressed an interest and my hubby signed me up as a surprise. Well, I haven’t really written and didn’t realize how important it is. I sent out the intro card with our picture. I came on here today to send money for his birthday and came across this post. I feel so convicted. I guess I never really knew what to write. I have gotten some good ideas from the comments. Thanks for opening my eyes.

  4. Hannah Hinojosa September 9, 2011

    Vicki, thanks for your post! I’m a sponsor and correspondent….I love letter writing!! Every month I wish I could add a new kid, but am currently at my max with sponsoring 7 kids. So I love being a correspondent for 6 kids (4 officially and then my parents’ 2 sponsored kids)!! It’s such a huge blessing to me that someone would give me the privilege of writing to their child. So, please continue to encourage people to give and to ask Compassion to find a correspondent….maybe you can explain that they can not only bless the child, but also the correspondent who wishes they could sponsor more and is so thankful for the opportunity to write to more kids.

  5. Vicki Small September 8, 2011

    Thanks so much to all of you who have encouraged me in the situation I have created by having Janet write to two of my girls. And thanks to all who have expressed appreciation for this post. It really was not an easy one for me to write, but I’m glad I did.

    Kathy Olson, I hope you’re right, and that I’ve planted the idea for others. That would be cool!

  6. Misty September 8, 2011

    I went on a sponsor tour to Indonesia. At some point, a fellow traveller asked a Compassion employee why children leave the program. One of the answers broke everyone’s heart. She told us she had known some children to leave because they never got a letter. The world tells them they don’t matter and there is no hope. When you watch the other kids at the project get letters and you don’t, that lack of communication reinforces the idea that he/she doesn’t matter, don’t hope.

    On my trips, several parents have asked if I knew their child’s sponsor and why they didn’t write. Their child would cry about not getting letters. I try to reassure the family that the sponsor loves the child, despite the lack of letters.

    I have explained the importance of writing to potential sponsors and have suggested that if they were not inclined to write, perhaps the CSP would be a better fit.

    God bless!

    1. Donna Price September 8, 2011

      Thank you for telling that story. I’m literally in tears over kids leaving due to not getting letters.

  7. Ken M. September 8, 2011

    The letters are important to the child and sometimes the whole family. Two years ago I went on a sponsor tour to Brazil. The mother of one of my children had a huge smile on her face and opened a binder which included every letter I had sent to her son.

  8. Kathy Olson September 8, 2011

    Awesome post, Vicki! You are not the only one in your situation and by having the courage to write it, I bet you’ve planted the idea for someone else. Don’t feel guilty. You are doing a lot of good. 🙂

  9. Carol Schafer September 7, 2011

    i’m a sponsor, advocate, and correspondent for quite a few kids and I have to say I love all these roles. I’ve visited projects in Guatemala, Honduras, the DR, and Ecuador. Without fail, project workers have practically begged me to go back and tell people to write to their sponsored children. Just a few weeks ago in Quito a project worker told me that some kids become very bitter because they are required to write to a sponsor but they never receive a letter back. Even though the children benefit materially and otherwise from sponsorship, the absence of a relationship with their sponsor causes some kids to question whether their sponsor even exists. We simply must continue to stress that these children need to be able to connect with someone–whether sponsor or correspondent. On the up side, I now understand one of my sponsored kids’ comment that “you must really love me because you always write.”

  10. Sherron September 7, 2011

    Vicki, I’m so glad you wrote this post! I don’t think I’ve ever read a letter from a sponsored child that so broke my heart as when my then-17 yr old, Maria, wrote that I was her third sponsor but the first one who ever wrote her a letter. I just sat down on my sofa and cried a river!

    Letter-writing really is key to this ministry, and there are people like me who love to write letters and are so very happy to be able to partner with people who are the financial sponsors. I really wish I could write to my two kids’ financial sponsors and let them know how honored I am to be their partner in this sponsorship. I would not be able to financially sponsor my two correspondence kids, but I was able to be their correspondence sponsor. It really makes me happy to be able to do my part in this way.

  11. Teri September 7, 2011

    I have to quote from an earlier blog I read: : ” It’s not so much what the letter said that made it special, it’s the fact that the letter was written”.

    Simple letters mean just as much as the long ones. The children just need to know they are loved…and if they are told that over and over for months and years…they probably REALLY like that A LOT!!! 🙂

    We have the blessing of corresponding with 4 children, along with the two that we sponsor financially. It is an absolute joy to me. I agree with Vicki, though, if you can support financially, but not relationally, let someone else fill that role. Those children NEED the encouragement and love that they get from those letters. When you visit a child and the first thing she does is hand you all the letters you have written, you realize how much they have meant to her!

    I am grateful for the financial sponsors who have allowed me to be a part of Milton’s, Miurell’s, Bravo’s and Reymart’s lives. I love those children deeply! I think the Correspondent Program is a great alternative.

  12. Bill Kerr September 7, 2011

    Vicki, Thank you for your courage!

  13. Kees Boer September 7, 2011

    Vicki, this is so important. I’m so glad you wrote this post. The children treasure the letters and most also treasure that they can write to their sponsors. And they put a lot of time into those letters. I’ve seen many children sit across the table from me, writing their letters to the sponsors, drawing those pretty little pictures and they work on it for many hours. Just today, I told some people about sponsorship, that if they aren’t going to write, please, do not take one of those sponsorship packages and sponsor the child. That child can be so sad and it’s so difficult to explain to them. The child sees the sponsorship as a relationship, they don’t see it as a financial responsibility first and foremost. To them it’s all about the relationship they can have with that sponsor.

    1. Donna Price September 7, 2011

      Kees, what you wrote about telling someone if they weren’t going to write then don’t sponsor jumped out at me. I have imagined that I would suggest if they werent interested in writing then to contribute to one of CI’s other funds, which can be done on a monthly basis. On the other hand, and I am talking about myself here, recently I’ve felt convicted about being a wee bit judgmental toward those who don’t think writing is important. CI’s obviously prefers sponsors to write, the first line on the “sponsor a child today” page starts off “As you exchange letters…”, yet CI doesn’t insist on it as a condition. I would not say they promote sponsorship to sponsors as first and foremost a relationship. If, as you say, the children see sponsorship as primarily as a relationship, somewhere communication to the 2 sides of this dyad is off.
      It does break my heart to hear about disappointed children. Approximately 18 years ago I was a sponsor to a little one and when that sponsorship ended I was sorry to see her leave. At the time my own daughter was about the same age, so I identified with her that way. The letters I got from the center were brief, few, and prepared by the staff, maybe that’s why I would not call it a close relationship and as young as she was I would be surprised if I was very important in her eyes. She was important to me and I still wonder about her. Sorry, I’m rambling here. Thanks for letting me vent….I guess since CI is willing to have sponsors that don’t write I should pray that those that don’t get letters don’t feel as bad.
      BTW, what do you tell children when they ask you why sponsors dont’ write?

    2. Bill Kerr September 7, 2011

      Guilty! And I agree! It seems illogical to say, “If you’re not going to write, then please don’t send money.” Talk to Jesus. 1 Cor 13:3 says: If I give all I possess to the poor…but have not love, I gain nothing. God is interested in our heart. Remember the two great commandments! All of his law is summed up in these!

      Last October, I took a sponsor tour. I had written my child about once/year for 6 years and knew I should write more. On the way there, I prepared to apologize in Spanish (I only spoke a few words). She forgave me. Even before that, God was asking me, “What is the quality of your relationship with your child?” The day before I met her, I had visited Compassion headquarters in the country and they had several formerly sponsored children who talked of the importance of the letters. One man had 2 pictures on his computer screen–his wife and his sponsor FROM 27 YEARS BEFORE! I was balling through most of the tour. One woman asked me if I was ok. I said, “I’m great!” The gentle, heavy conviction of God is a blessing!

      God wants us to love above all else! If we don’t love, WE miss out! Let’s ask Jesus to help us love like him! As was said above, it doesn’t have to be big. Just touch them so they know they are valued!

  14. Nathan Cary September 7, 2011

    I forgot to add this point to the earlier comment.
    We recently ordered our satellite tv service terminated. The cost of this service is about the cost of sponsoring another child.
    Without the tv going, there is much more time to do better things, like writing letters to our children.
    Until now, I have found the television to be a large distraction and time waster. The house is much quieter now too.

  15. Nathan Cary September 7, 2011

    Vicki, your point is well-made. The sad part is that such a condition exists.
    Between my wife and me, we sponsor 9 children, and make it a point to write monthly.
    I agree with Vicki, that as the number of sponsored children increases, it becomes more difficult, or less interesting, to write to all, and still keep it interesting.

    Some things that come to mind are, none of the sponsored children knows that you have already said the same thing to all the other sponsored children before coming to this one. For this child, he/she is the only child. What may be redundant to you is fresh to your child.
    This may be an idea to try: write out your letter on a notepad or TextEdit screen. Copy and paste it to Compassion’s web based letter writing page, and then customize it to this person.

    Second idea is that you don’t have to write a long letter. Just be sure to include the basics of love, reassurance of prayer support, include a Bible verse or a bit of inspiration, and ask some questions.
    Letters from the kids aren’t long, but you know how thrilled you are to see a letter in your mailbox. So are they.

    One more thought for when you are using snail-mail. We buy picture postcards, all the same picture, and put them into the child’s folder. When it’s letter time, the postcard is already there to include before closing the envelope. If you are sending a picture of your self, print up as many as you have children, and have it ready to add to your letter.

    We find Compassion’s web based letter writing to be much easier, but at this point, Compassion doesn’t accept electronic pictures, so we go snail-mail on occasion.

    1. Vicki Small September 7, 2011

      Nathan, I saw something on Facebook just yesterday, I think, from someone saying that as many as 3 digital photos can now be added to a letter written on the website for a sponsored child. Maybe Chris can verify that for us–?

      1. Gail September 12, 2011

        It’s available on the Australian website already and maybe on others too, just check your local Compassion site.

      2. Jacquie Parella September 7, 2011

        Adding photos to letters written on the website will be available very soon. Be on the lookout for an announcement on the blog sometime in the next few weeks!

        1. Vicki Small September 10, 2011

          Jackie, thanks for the clarification. I, too, look forward to being able to post photos to letters!

        2. Leah Phillippi September 7, 2011

          Really?? I’m so excited about this!!!

  16. Judy September 7, 2011

    I’ve had times where I’ve had trouble thinking of something to write to my kids. I’ve written letters as simple as “We’ve been thinking about you. We’re praying for you and we love you.” And I’ve gotten letters that simple back from some of our kids. Sometimes just sitting down to write something that simple leads to a longer letter, sometimes not. But I can only imagine the joy that my kids get from something that simple from me has to be equal to or greater than the joy I feel when I get something that simple from them. But they got something at their mail call, instead of not having their name called. And that’s a joy to these kids in and of itself. Remember, these letters don’t have to be profound. They just need to tell the child that they are loved. God will take care of the rest.

    1. Vicki Small September 7, 2011

      Judy, those two sentences that you have written to your kids are so important–and far more than many children ever receive from their sponsors.

      I, too, get letters almost that simple from one of my girls. She’s one of the first two that I ever sponsored, and the only child still with me that I have met. But her letters still leave much to be desired, and she is coming up on 13 years of age. Some people just aren’t comfortable expressing themselves in writing–and I know that as a former college instructor in freshman composition!

      You made such a good point: The simplest expression of love in a note means their name is called at mail call. They aren’t left, wondering, until the last piece of mail has been given out. They were remembered. That’s huge!! Thanks for saying it!

  17. Kim Edge September 7, 2011

    Vicki, I think that writing every other month is great. Sure, our letters are important but I don’t think that they can compare with in person teaching that our kids get about God’s love at their child development centers. Also they get bibles which tell them that God cares for them, as does the Holy Spirit. A hot meal, a doctor’s care, new clothes, school supplies, and all these things we provide through our donations speak to our children as well. God bless you!

    1. Misty September 7, 2011

      While all the benefits of the project are amazing and important to the child, I believe the letter writing can be, at times, even more beneficial to the child’s self esteem. I have visited several of my children. While in Indonesia, a local compassion employee told our group that they have had children leave the program because they weren’t getting letters! Imagine a world that tells you, you don’t matter, you aren’t important. And then imagine a classroom full of kids on letter day. And the teacher calls out each kids name and gives them a letter. And one child doesn’t get a letter. That reinforces the belief that they don’t matter, no once cares, they aren’t even worth the 15-20 minutes it takes to write a letter. I don’t think Compassion delivers the letters that way, I’m sure they are more sensitive than that. But, the child that doesn’t get a letter will see the other kids reading letters and know he/she is invisible. The kids don’t understand that the money that supports the project comes from some person in another country that is praying for them and loves them. They need to read it.

      And believe me, I’m not minimizing the incredible work the local staff does. I am very impressed with all the project staff I have met. I could not do what they do! And I am thankful they are there.

      God bless

  18. Ginger W September 7, 2011

    It seems that the ministry of child sponsorship involves teamwork. I am an enthusiastic letter writer, but the idea of becoming an advocate does not appeal. I do not have the gifts that would help me seek out and encourage others to become sponsors. It might seem like the obvious next step, but for me it’s not. I thrive in the task of writing, mentoring one on one.

    It’s important to recognize and nurture our gifts for the kingdom, realistically! And to remember that none of us acts alone.

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Vicki Small September 7, 2011

      Ginger, I learned a long time ago that moving from sponsor to sponsor-and-advocate is not an “obvious next step,” unless God calls you to it. I fully agree with your statement about recognizing and nurturing our gifts for the kingdom. God does not call us all to the same tasks or the same ministries.

  19. Stephanie Green September 7, 2011

    Thanks, Vicki. I, too, know wonderful people who “pray and pay” for their sponsored children but don’t write. As a sponsor, correspondent and advocate my dream is not only that we could find loving sponsors for the children but that they would ALL be receiving love and encouragement through letters.I’m glad you appealed to others to do “the part you can do”. May many children be blessed as a result!!

  20. Paula September 7, 2011

    I think for some (including myself), words don’t come easy. I am always amazed at how beautifully written these blog post are. I do write to my sponsored children and do enjoy correspondence. But I’m not good with words. I find myself asking my sponsored children the same questions over again or just simply wait to receive a letter from them so I have something to respond to. Potential sponsors who don’t have the gift of writing may find letter-writing intimidating.

    1. Gail September 12, 2011

      There’s TONS of ideas on this blog and on Our Compassion that will help sponsors write letters.

      The kids don’t need amazing letters, they need to be told they’re loved and they like to know about our every day lives.

    2. Kees Boer September 7, 2011

      Paula, you’re doing pretty well there!!! No, but just a small letter or a photo or a postcard will go a long way. Maybe just sent them a postcard and tell them on the back that you love them, that you pray for them and love their letters. That would be such a wonderful gift to that child.

      1. Vicki Small September 7, 2011

        I fully agree, Kees! It takes so little–just a few words of love, of encouragement, and they’re good to go! One more word from the sponsor to treasure always.

  21. Carolyn F September 7, 2011

    Great post Vicki! I have seven kids, four of them correspondent. I picked up one of my three paid ones this year after her sponsor dropped her (she was my first correspondent child) for reasons like you mention — I didn’t want Birri to feel abandoned. Funny enough, she is the child I have the hardest time writing too, as I get very little back from her. I know God gave her to me for a reason, so I keep writing, and presume I’m just not meant to know with her if it makes a difference.

    I had a stretch where I found issues writing, but I’m back in my groove again. Sometimes I pray right now about when I can take on more correspondent kids.

    Again, thanks for writing.

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