The first annual Walk with Compassion in Tucson was held last Saturday at Brandi Fenton Park, and photographer Jodi McGinn created this slideshow to showcase the event.
There were 85 participants, and seven children were sponsored.
The first annual Walk with Compassion in Tucson was held last Saturday at Brandi Fenton Park, and photographer Jodi McGinn created this slideshow to showcase the event.
There were 85 participants, and seven children were sponsored.
As child sponsors, we long for letters from our children. We treasure any new bit of information we can learn about the children we love so fiercely from afar.
Even better is a letter with a photo tucked inside. It gives us a peek into our child’s world, as we scour the photo’s background for details that a quick glance would miss. It shows us a new expression on our child’s face, or maybe even a smile that wasn’t there in the standard sponsorship photo. It’s an added bonus if a family member is in the photo, too.
If a simple letter and photo can bring so much happiness, can you imagine the joy and excitement of actually meeting that child in person? It’s something I imagined for four years before it became a reality for me when I visited my children in Nicaragua with Compassion International in 2014. Then in 2015, I was blessed to be able to visit my children in Guatemala as well.
I fully expected those visits to be life-changing for me, and they were. But what I didn’t expect was the incredible and deep connections with my sponsor children and their family members that were created in those visits. I knew we had all been deeply impacted based on the smiles and emotions in those first hugs, and the full hearts and tears in our goodbyes.
(Click here to see a video of those first hugs in Guatemala.)
Once I was home again and processing all that I had done and seen, I looked forward to my children’s next letters, to learn their thoughts on our days together.
Their letters confirmed to me the value of my visits.
Jose, 11, of Nicaragua, wrote: “I will never forget the meeting we had when you came to Nicaragua. It was an unforgettable day.” That letter was written shortly after our visit.
A few months later, Jose had more to say about that day, when he wrote: “I am happy for the day that you came to visit me in Nicaragua to know me. We share that day together, and it was beautiful. I will never forget it. I am thankful to God to have a sponsor like you. At the school, I told all my classmates about your visit here to Nicaragua. We had a great time together, and it was a fun day.”
A little more to the point, Esteban, 9, of Nicaragua, wrote: “I thank you very much for your visit. It was a special day.”
And as only a 3-year-old could sum it up, Jefry’s letter said: “Jefry says it was fun to drive the race car with you.”
I’m still receiving letters from my children in Guatemala about that visit.
A letter I received from Hania, 9, of Guatemala, said: “Hania wants to tell you that she is very happy for your visit in July. She thanks you for meeting her personally, also for the dolls, dresses, ball, backpack and for all that you gave her. She will never forget you, and that day she had a good time, and she was very happy.”
My son Logan, who traveled with me to Guatemala, met his own sponsor child there.
His child, Osmar, 13, wrote: “Thank you for the pictures you sent me and for coming to see me, which was an unforgettable day for me. I loved to make competitions with you in the inflatable games, to play ping pong and hide-and-seek and many other things. That day I was so nervous, but I was happy to see you at the door.”
Unforgettable, happy, special, nervous, fun, beautiful, thankful – their words match my own in describing our meetings.
If you can make it happen, visit your child! The experience will be priceless. And if you don’t sponsor a child, yet, you can do so by clicking here.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and with so many things in my life for which to be thankful, I’ve decided to focus in this post only on those which are Compassion-related.
This has been a very busy year for me as a Compassion sponsor and advocate. It’s been filled with many blessings, opportunities to serve, new friendships and new experiences. I’ll try to sum it up in the following list of gratitude:
Guatemala Sponsor Tour: In July, I had the incredible opportunity to travel with my son Logan to Guatemala for a sponsor tour. This was my second Compassion tour, and it was every bit as amazing and special as the first. There are so many aspects of this tour that stand out, but here are the parts for which I am most thankful: meeting my sponsor children in person; meeting other sponsors, including many who are Compassion staff here in the United States; meeting the Compassion staff in Guatemala; experiencing the sights and sounds of this beautiful country; and most of all, doing all of this with my son.
There are no words to fully describe meeting your sponsor children in person. It is an experience filled with emotion, and the opportunity to see their facial expressions and movements, to interact with them and to meet their parents and project workers, really adds so much to the relationship. It is definitely the highlight of a sponsor tour.
A close second, though, is meeting the other sponsors on the tour. They are, in a word, amazing. While they share a love for children in poverty with you, they come from all over the country, with all kinds of unique experiences to share. And long bus rides and many meals offer lots of time for sharing. Sometimes you are lucky enough to meet members of Compassion’s U.S. staff on these tours, and they can give special insight into the ministry, and always confirm to me what a great organization Compassion is. These new friendships are invaluable.
Meeting the in-country staff is really fun as well. These very special people are dedicated and hard-working, and they are a wonderful source of information about Compassion and their country. They love their country and its children, and they love us sponsors. On our last night in Guatemala, one translator said to me, “Thank you for loving our children.” To be thanked after being blessed so greatly all week by her was quite humbling.
Making this trip with my son, who is 14 years old, is something neither of us will ever forget. To share so many wonderful experiences was priceless. I deeply enjoyed watching Logan make new friends, interact with the children at each project, and take in all of the new things going on around him. Since returning home, I have seen the ways the trip has changed him many times. He seems to have a deeper appreciation for the many blessings in his life.
Logan Becomes an Advocate: After returning from Guatemala, Logan was on fire for Compassion and its ministry. Within a week, he decided to become an advocate. He sponsors his own child in Guatemala, and he corresponds with another child in Kenya. He is passionate about helping children who are living in poverty, and I am proud of him.
Sponsoring Gladys: We did not sponsor a new child while on the sponsor tour in Guatemala, but we did sponsor a new child two months later from one of the centers we visited. I had requested child packets from centers we visited on the sponsor tour in hopes of connecting sponsors to children from the areas I had seen in person and photographed. One of the five packets I received was for a little girl who looked very familiar. After looking through my trip photos, I found a photo of her with Logan, so we welcomed Gladys into our sponsor family!
Continued Close Relationships with my Children in Nicaragua: After meeting my four boys in Nicaragua on a sponsor tour in 2014, we have continued our relationships with great letters filled with love. They are truly members of my family, and I know they feel the same. I can’t wait to visit them again.
Letters: Letters are our connection with our sponsor children, and this year, I continued to write monthly to each of my children, and to receive many letters in return. It can be a slow process, but it is worth it to build these relationships. Our letters are a blessing to our sponsor children, but their letters equally bless us.
Compassion Experience: In May, Logan and I volunteered at Compassion Experience. I had been waiting for Compassion Experience to come to my city, and was so excited to have this opportunity. I was thrilled to see how accurately Compassion has recreated sponsor children’s homes and projects to tell their stories effectively. For more information about Compassion Experience, click here.
Concerts: Another great opportunity to be involved with Compassion is in volunteering at concerts. Compassion partners with musicians who sponsor children and promote the ministry by encouraging others to sponsor as well. We volunteered at concerts by For King and Country and Matthew West this year, and more than 100 children were sponsored at each event! It is a lot of fun to see new sponsors connected to waiting children.
Sponsorship Anniversary: Finally, this fall marked five years since I first became a sponsor. When I chose my first child, I never would have imagined that in just five years, our sponsor family would continue to grow, and I would leave the country not once, but twice, to visit my sponsor children. This has been a wonderful journey with Compassion, and I look forward to seeing where it leads in the future.
If you are interested in beginning your own Compassion journey, please click here to see the many children who are waiting for sponsors. Contact me if you have any questions.
Happy Thanksgiving and God’s Peace!
I find it hard to express in words the emotions in meeting my sponsor children, so I’ll let this short video show the beauty of the moment.
This video shows me meeting my two children, Winston and Hania, in Guatemala on child visit day, and my son Logan meeting his sponsor child, Osmar.
Child visit day is special in so many ways.
There is nothing like those first hugs with the sponsor children to whom you have been writing. Having the opportunity to observe them in person, to talk and play with them, and to see their facial expressions gives great insight into their personalities.
You learn things that you just couldn’t learn through letters.
And as wonderful as all of those things were for me to experience as a sponsor, there was an added beauty in the day in being able to see my sponsor children’s parents joining in the fun.
These are parents who struggle to provide for their children daily in ways it is impossible for me to imagine. Yet in spite of the difficult circumstances they face, they each took a day off work and traveled several hours by bus to meet me, a stranger from another country who sends letters to their children.
It was humbling to meet them and to receive their thanks throughout the day.
It was heart-warming to be accepted instantly into their families, as their sister in Christ; to be loved as one of their own.
And it was beautiful to see the joy on their faces as they played with their children.
After Winston beat his father, Guillermo, in an obstacle course race, his dad requested a second race. He wanted another chance to win against his son, and he did. And the smiles and laughter between father and son were priceless.
Hania’s mom, Onifacia, seemed quiet and shy at first, maybe overwhelmed by the day’s events. But with an air hockey paddle in her hand, she was a fierce competitor! After I played several games with her daughter, I invited Onifacia to give it a try. She was tentative at first, getting a feel for the game, but in no time, she was slamming that air hockey disc hard and fast across the table, smiling the whole time.
And Osmar’s mother, Delores, had an easygoing, fun-loving manner that was impossible to resist. We were teammates in a serious boys vs. girls soccer match, where I saw her steal the ball from her son more than once, and tease him about it afterwards.
Quick moments in a day filled with emotion and activity, but priceless and unforgettable memories that I’ve tucked away, as I’m sure those parents and children have as well, to be treasured forever.
After a 3-hour drive north from Antigua through lush mountains with beautiful valley views, we were greeted by firecrackers upon arrival at Compassion project GU-479.
Compassion International has been partnered with Metodista Paxot II, a church in the community of Cantón Paxot II, Guatemala, since 2012. The area is home to about 1,500 residents, and the most commonly spoken language is the Mayan language Kiche.
Children lined up outside of our buses to shake hands and greet us before leading us down a rural road to their project, where they performed many traditional dances for us, including a dance to honor St. Thomas, the dance of the monkeys, the stealing of the bride dance, and the dance of the bull. It was an honor to be among the first group of sponsors to visit this project.
The staff and parents were warm and welcoming in this remote community, where we learned the most common health issues are intestinal diseases and respiratory illness. The community has water and telephone service, but needs employment opportunities, public transportation and vocational training. Most adults are unemployed, but some work as day laborers, earning the equivalent of $75/month.
Please consider sponsoring one of these beautiful children from this project:
Jaymerson, 8, lives with his parents and six siblings. He is responsible for gathering firewood and running errands, and his father works as a farmer.
He enjoys soccer, basketball and playing with cars, and he attends church activities and Bible class regularly.
Jennifer, 10, lives with her parents and one sibling. She helps care for animals and makes beds at home, and her father works as a farmer.
She enjoys playing house and playing with dolls, and her performance is average in school. She attends church activities and Vacation Bible School.
Fernando, 7, lives with his parents and two siblings. His duties at home are carrying water, gathering firewood and making beds, and his father is a farmer.
He enjoys playing soccer, swimming and playing with cars, and he attends Bible class regularly.
William, 11, lives with his parents. His father works sometimes as a farmer, and there are two children in the family.
He enjoys playing soccer, ball games and bicycling, and his school performance is average. William also attends Bible class regularly.
If you are interested in sponsoring one of these children, please contact me.
Sponsorship costs $38/month, and the benefits to both the child and the sponsor are priceless.
Compassion has worked in Guatemala since 1976, and there are more than 130 child development centers in the country, serving more than 32,400 children.
Compassion works in 27 countries world wide. If you would like to sponsor a child in another country, please click here to see children available for sponsorship.
After quick hugs and photos, the boys were off and running, making good use of every minute of their short day together.
Logan and Osmar have shared letters through Compassion International for about two and a half years, and they finally met in person last week in Guatemala City.
It was no surprise that the two were instant best friends. They have many things in common, including a love of sports and big smiles. Both love to help their mothers cook meals. They even share the same position in their families: third child, with two older brothers.
Within minutes of meeting, they each wore the same blue Dodgers baseball hat and jersey as well.
They filled the day playing soccer, air hockey, basketball and ping pong, racing through an obstacle course several times, and pausing only briefly for lunch. They hugged often and always were smiling, having fun even when a translator wasn’t around to bridge the language barrier.
After lunch, the boys exchanged gifts before they were running again.
Logan sponsored Osmar in February 2013, and this was the day that brought that sponsorship to life. He had traveled to Guatemala with me and spent the week visiting Compassion projects around the country, learning how the program works and playing with children at each stop, but today was the day that mattered most to him.
And when the time came for goodbyes, it was clear the day had impacted both boys greatly.
Tears and hugs followed, and after our initial farewells, Osmar managed to find Logan in the crowd again, running back for one last hug.
Logan already is making plans to visit his Guatemalan brother again in the future.
After an emotional meeting and goodbye with my newest sponsored child, Marlon, our group gathered outside to go on a home visit.
This would be our second home visit that week, and it’s a unique experience, giving us sponsors the opportunity to see the home of a child attending the project we had just toured. It gives a better understanding of the child’s home environment and of the family’s needs. And once again, we were able to give the family a huge bag of groceries provided by Compassion.
As I waited to board the bus for the short drive to the home, a light-eyed boy in a purple shirt came up and hugged me. I told him my name, and used my shaky Spanish to find out his… Michael. I said, “Miguel?” thinking he was giving me the English version. And he said, “No, es Michael.” Venturing a little more in Spanish, I was able to find out it was his home we would be visiting that day, and that his sister also attends the project.
We arrived at the home to find that it was a cluster of small buildings on one lot, surrounded by a fence pieced together like a puzzle of sheets of metal and wood. There were 16 family members living there, including Michael’s parents and four siblings, his grandmother, and some aunts, uncles and cousins, and it looked like there were three separate small homes. Chickens pecked at the dirt near us.
Michael’s grandmother and aunt sat in rocking chairs outside, and we gathered around to visit with them and the rest of the family. The grandmother told us she had recently come home from the hospital, where she had been admitted for heart problems.
In the mish-mash of tin roofs and patched-together homes, two things stood out to me.
First, there was a definite love of God in this family. There were phrases spray-painted on the doors and walls inside the compound attesting to this, including one that said simply, “Dios” or “God” in English. An uncle sat outside throughout the visit, and seemed interested in discussing his faith. He wanted to know if any of us were pastors, and at the end of our visit, he led a beautiful prayer for us.
Michael’s grandmother talked about their church, and told us that Michael’s father had recently begun attending with the family. She seemed pleased with this new development, and we were all happy to hear it. He seemed a little embarrassed by the attention. She shared with us that Michael’s sister has been baptized, and they are hoping Michael will be baptized soon. Then she asked each of us to tell her the names of our churches.
The other thing that stood out was a definite love of family. This group clearly cared for and respected each other. The teens were quick to bring out the chairs to seat their grandmother and aunt at the start of our visit, and they hovered around both ladies while we were there. Michael held his baby sister for quite a while as we all talked.
After prayers and hugs, we gave Michael’s family the bag of groceries and climbed on the bus to drive back to the project.
I had a good feeling that with faith, love and Compassion’s help, this family is richer than many.
What does it mean to be a child of God?
When considering this question, I read through recent letters from some of my sponsor children, and a few words came to mind repeatedly: faith, hope, honesty, enthusiasm and love. As I found examples of these wonderful qualities in my children’s letters, I began to copy their words.
Who better to answer this question than God’s own children from all over the world?
“Regarding the project, I can tell you that I feel very happy because I learn more about Jesus.” – Santiago, 11, Colombia
“I always pray for you and your family. Please pray for me and my family.” – Wagner, 17, Guatemala
“I am thankful to God for helping me to import knowledge to other people by being a leader in the Awana ministry.” – Anjelo, 19, Philippines
“I like praying, singing and listening to the word of God.” – Tuyumvire, 13, Rwanda
“I am working hard in my studies because I want to be a lawyer to work and help my mother. Another dream is becoming a musician to praise God with all my love.” – Eliasar, 12, El Salvador
“I hope we shall one day meet and you will teach me how to swim.” – Seline, 15, Kenya
“When I grow up, I want to learn how to give classes to all children so that they can learn to read. I would like to help the sick so that they will be saved from sickness.” – Winston, 12, Guatemala
“For today I do not have much to say.” – Swalehe, 15, Tanzania
“The boy says that what he likes most about the project are lunches and snacks.” – Miguel, 7, Colombia
“She would change the dumps and put them far away from her community.” – Hania, 7, Guatemala (written by her teacher)
“I am so grateful and happy to write to you again.” – Matthew, 11, Uganda
“I want you to know that I got the awesome letters you sent me.” – Santiago, 11, Colombia
“You have a beautiful and smart daughter.” – Solanyi, 7, Colombia
“When will you come to Tanzania.” – Winnie, 13, Tanzania
“I close with kisses, hugs, love and care for you.” – Paula, 9, Colombia
“Thank you very much for your love, your prayers and your pictures… Kerri, I also love you very much.” – Samuel, 9, Colombia
“We are also happy and thankful to God because we have you, and we consider you as part of our family.” – Melody, 6, Bolivia (written by her mother)
“Thank you very much for your visit. It was a special day. Love you. Kisses for you.” – Esteban, 9, Nicaragua
These children of God show us all what we must strive to be: faithful, hopeful, honest, enthusiastic and full of love.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” – Mark 10:14-15
Please share in the comments section something your sponsor child has taught you about being a child of God.
Today is Esteban’s 9th birthday!
This month also marks four years that I’ve been sponsoring Esteban, and getting to know him through letters.
This year, I had the privilege of sharing birthday cake with Esteban in an early birthday celebration during our child visit day last month in Managua. Toward the end of the day, we all gathered together to sing “Happy Birthday” to the children with birthdays in October and November.
It was very special for the children, and Esteban even teared up a bit with emotion during the song.
Afterwards, I got to hug him, wish him a Happy Birthday in person for the first time, and share some cake with him.
It was a special moment for us, and has been on my mind today as I imagine him celebrating his birthday at home with his family.
Happy 9th Birthday, Esteban!
In less than three months, my son Aidan and I will travel to Nicaragua. It is a trip I have been dreaming of making since I first became a Compassion sponsor in 2010.
While there, we will have the opportunity to spend a day with Esteban, who is among some of the very first children I sponsored in 2010. For almost four years, Esteban and I have been exchanging letters, and very slowly building a relationship.
Through photos, I have watched Esteban grow from a chubby little 5-year-old, who looked just past being a toddler, to a taller, thinner 8-year-old boy.
I remember the day I chose to sponsor Esteban. While looking through the many faces of children available on the Compassion web site, his sweet little face stood out. When I clicked on the link to read his profile, I found out his favorite sport was baseball. I was sold. How could a life-long baseball fan pass up this boy?
In his first letter, he wrote that he wants to become a doctor when he grows up. So not only a baseball fan, but a boy who can dream!
He lives with three brothers, very close in age to him, and it seems he sometimes lives with his mother, and sometimes with his grandparents. We’re collecting some small items to bring for him to share with his brothers! They live in a rural area, about 6 miles east of the country’s capital, Managua, which is where our visit will take place.
As I re-read his letters in preparation for our upcoming meeting, my heart melts again each time I come across one of his requests for me to visit him. I am so thankful that it will happen soon!