It’s (Not) So Sad to Say Goodbye

In three years as a Compassion sponsor, I’ve had to say goodbye to several sponsor children. Children leave the program for many reasons, including graduating, moving away from the area with their families and even simply tiring of the program.

Three times, though, I’ve had children leave for an incredible reason, which is surely a testament to Compassion’s success. They left because their family situations had improved so much that they no longer needed Compassion’s help.

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Anderson, from Guatemala, was my first sponsor child, and also my first to leave Compassion due to his family’s circumstances improving.

Can you imagine that? These families who once qualified for Compassion’s services had improved their circumstances so greatly that they were able to stand on their own.

Initially children are selected for Compassion sponsorship by the leadership of the local project, which is often a pastor or a committee of church leaders. These children are selected after being identified as the most needy in the community. 

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Greyvin, of Nicaragua, was my second sponsor child whose circumstances improved so much that his family left Compassion.

While in the program, children receive help with spiritual, economic, social and physical needs. Meanwhile, their parents also can receive training covering topics such as family care, adult literacy education, seminars on domestic violence, and nutritional food preparation.

At the point when a family feels it no longer needs Compassion’s services, the family can make this known to the project leaders, who make a home visit to confirm it.

A Compassion representative told me that many families make the decision to leave the program when their circumstances improve because they know there are children on the waiting list who desperately need the benefits offered by Compassion.

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Jordy, of the Dominican Republic, is my most recent child to leave Compassion when his family’s circumstances improved.

So a family in desperate need receives help and training, its circumstances improves, and the family makes the decision to step aside so another family in the community can receive help. I can’t think of a better system than this.

Please click here, browse the children waiting for sponsors, and see if there is a child you would like to release from poverty. Compassion works in 26 countries around the world, and has more than 3,500 chldren available today on the United States web site alone.

When you partner with Compassion, you could help a child and its family to reach the point where Compassion’s help no longer is needed, and isn’t that the whole point of sponsorship?

Don’t Fix Poverty, Just Help a Child

Do you feel like poverty is an issue that’s too big to fix? Are you overwhelmed by the number of people living in poverty in this world?

More than 1.2 billion people in the developing world live below the poverty line, according to The World Bank. That means they live on less than US $1.25/day.

Feeling helpless in the face of such a large number is understandable, but don’t let that prevent you from sponsoring a child.

For only $38/month, you can change the life of a child. Your sponsorship money will provide that child with nutritious snacks and meals, educational opportunities, health and hygiene training, medical checkups, the support of a local church staffed by caring adults, and the message of God’s love through Jesus Christ.

By becoming a sponsor, you also have the unique opportunity to mentor a child through letters, filling him with love, hope and encouragement.

Johnny Carr, author of “Orphan Justice,” says, “Poverty is not necessarily an issue to solve; it is an opportunity to serve. As we go through each day, our heart’s cry should be, Lord, where would you have me give, serve and invest myself to bring hope to the poor?”

Are you investing yourself or are you giving up in defeat?

In Matthew 26:11, Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”

It’s true the poor will always be here, and it’s true that you can’t “fix” poverty, but you can make a difference in a child’s life.

You can make a difference in Cristian’s life by clicking here. Cristian is 6 and lives with his parents and one sibling in Colombia. He has been waiting 241 days for a sponsor.

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Cristian, 6, of Colombia

You can make a difference in Maria’s life by clicking here. Maria is 9 years old and lives with her parents and five siblings in the Dominican Republic. She has been waiting 213 days for a sponsor.

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Maria, 9, of the Dominican Republic

There are 3,249 children on Compassion’s web site today who are waiting for sponsors. You can view them by clicking here. Please consider helping one of these children.

When One Door Closes

Last week, I received the phone call that no sponsor wants to receive. It was Compassion calling to tell me that my sweet Roxana from Guatemala has left the program.

This is the same child about whom I posted earlier on this blog after receiving a particularly sweet letter from her. She wrote that she dreams about playing ball with me, and she hopes to see me someday. She also let me know that she keeps the photos I’ve sent to her in a frame next to her bed.

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Roxana, 9, Guatemala

I’ve sponsored her since April 2011, when she had just turned 7.

The Compassion representative who called me said Roxana’s parents pulled her out of the program.

There could be any number of reasons for a parent to take their child out of Compassion. Moving to another area or some other change in the family’s situation could be the reason, though it’s best not to speculate because then my imagination will go wild and only cause me to worry. Instead, I must respect the parents’ choice and trust in God’s plan.

Of course, that’s not exactly easy to do.

Fortunately, my 8-year-old daughter Ryan was able to push things along. She, too, was sad to lose Roxana, but she was ready to start scouring the Compassion web site that same day to sponsor a new little girl.

I set Ryan up at the computer, and searched for girls in Guatemala around the same age as Roxana, and my daughter quickly narrowed it down to one little girl. I told her I wanted to think about it, but the next day, she was back to campaigning for her chosen girl.

She was fairly relentless. Ryan enjoys writing, drawing pictures and making cards for the girls we sponsor, and she wasn’t going to let me mope about Roxana much longer. And she did pick a very cute little girl, so I sponsored my daughter’s choice, Hania, 7, of Guatemala.

I emailed Compassion later that day to request an emailed digital copy of Hania’s photo on file, and found out I am her first sponsor. I also found out this little cutie had been waiting for a sponsor since she registered with Compassion back in September of 2012.

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Hania, 7, Guatemala

How can it be that almost a year has passed that no one decided to sponsor this little girl?

I immediately sent her an email with photos using Compassion’s online letter-writing tool, and my daughter got to work making cards and drawings for her new friend.

Later that night, Ryan came downstairs at bedtime to show me the photo of Roxana she keeps on her dresser. She leaned in my ear and whispered, “I prayed for Roxana.”

The door may have closed on that special relationship with Roxana, but I am comforted knowing that I’m not alone in continuing to pray for her.

And now we open the door to our newest sponsorship. Welcome to our family, Hania.

It’s all in the Timing

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Samuel, 6, Colombia

Sometimes I’m just going along, living my life, and suddenly God’s Timing jumps up and surprises me!

I don’t know why it’s always a surprise when it happens to me. Maybe it’s because as I get bogged down in the details of the day-to-day, it becomes easy to forget that God is working in my life. His timing is always perfect, and that doesn’t necessarily relate to our imperfect lives and world.

Regardless, it’s always a pleasant surprise when it happens.

One time, it went like this:

It was a typically relentlessly hot August afternoon. I was at home, hanging out with my kids, hiding from the afternoon sun on our couch and watching movies, waiting until the worst heat of the day had passed so we could spend the evening swimming. I heard the mailman drive past outside, and being a Compassion sponsor, I can pick out the sound of the mail truck like a mom who zeroes in on her child’s cries on a crowded playground.

Naturally, I slid on my flip flops and headed outside to check the mailbox in hopes of hearing from one of my sponsored children. The possibility of finding a cream-colored Compassion envelope in the mailbox was definitely a small price to pay for braving the desert heat.

And this time, I was rewarded for my effort! I rushed back into the house, plopped back down on the couch, enjoying the cool AC, and tore into the newest letter.

This one was from Samuel from Colombia. He was 6 years old, so his tutor at his Compassion project or his mother always helped him to write his letters. As I unfolded the letter, I was surprised to find several pages stapled together. Samuel’s letters up to this point rarely filled half a page, so I wondered what was going on.

As I began to read, I realized this was no ordinary letter. It was two full pages written by Samuel’s tutor in July, and she had some bad news to relay.

Samuel’s mother had suffered a stroke and was currently hospitalized. She suffered paralysis on her left side. And Samuel, who was living with his aunt temporarily, at the time wasn’t allowed into the hospital to see his mother for fear of upsetting him too much.

Samuel’s tutor let me know that she was picking up Samuel each day, bringing him to the Compassion project, feeding him lunch and taking him to school and back home. She also let me know that Compassion had been notified and was offering all the support and help possible.

As I took in this bad news and tried to comprehend what this all would mean to Samuel, I continued to read. I ‘d barely gotten through the explanations of his mother’s medical issues, when the letter’s tone turned thankful.

It turned out, within days of Samuel’s mother going to the hospital, the family gift I had sent to them back in May had arrived. It was only $100, but it came at a time when this woman, who already struggled to support her child, was facing a scary health problem, an unknown amount of time in the hospital and likely mounting medical bills.

Samuel’s tutor described how she and the Compassion project director visited Samuel’s mom in the hospital, and that she was able to recognize them. She said they told her about the gift, and that Samuel’s mother “expressed a faint smile of gratitude.”

And I sat there in my living room astonished that such an easy act for me, logging into my account and sending that gift to Samuel two months before, had arrived at just the right time for this family. It was clearly God’s Timing at work.

I couldn’t know in May what this single mom in Colombia would be facing in July, but God knew, and he used that simple act by one of his children in the United States to bless one of his children in Colombia at just the right time.

I’m thankful for that special glimpse of God’s Timing, and humbled that he would bless me by involving me in some small way. It occurs to me that the gift I sent in May not only helped Samuel, but it also helped me.

Receiving news like that, I definitely would have wanted to help out in any way, but what could I really do for Samuel with so many miles separating us? I could have sent a gift right away, but financial gifts generally take two months to arrive. I could send Samuel letters, cards and stickers, wishing him well and letting him know I’m praying for his mother, but again, those would take a couple of months to arrive, so would have no immediate effect.

With God’s Timing, I could rest assured that I had done all I could do, and all that was left was to pray for Samuel and his mother and leave the situation in God’s hands.

How I Decided to Sponsor

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Sometimes the most exciting and fulfilling journeys are those that simply appear in front of you, when you aren’t looking, and that is how my journey with Compassion began.

I had seen the late-night commercials showing children with bulging tummies swatting flies from their faces with the voice-over pleading for just a dollar a day to help these children. I always thought the images were sad, but never gave the pleas much consideration because it seemed like a scam – like some kind of cheesy made-for-TV, telethon and infomercial wrapped into one.

Imagine my surprise when I was reading a newly found favorite blog a few years ago, and suddenly the posts were about a trip to Guatemala. The writer was going to visit her sponsored child there, and she detailed her preparations for the visit. She described standing in a department store and picking out just the right clothing to take to her girl, even having her son of the same age try on the dress to be sure she was choosing the right size. She carefully selected other items to take to the girl’s family. The care and thoughtfulness that the writer and her family put into preparing for this visit sparked my interest.

She was traveling with a group of sponsors who also were bloggers. Veteran sponsors know this event as a Compassion Blogger Trip, and wait for the announcement of each year’s trip destinations with great anticipation. Compassion picks very talented writers to go on these trips, where they write each night, describing the day’s experiences and offering an intimate look into the lives of sponsored children and their families, and into the amazing work Compassion is doing in these areas.

But I was not a sponsor yet, so I read these “pre-trip” posts with curiosity, and planned to follow along reading posts throughout the trip. It turns out, I had no idea how my life was about to change.

Each day, as I read these stories of extreme poverty and viewed photos for which there are no adequate words, I was drawn in. Here I was, sitting in my comfortable home, maybe eating a warm breakfast, and reading about lives and situations that couldn’t be more different from my own.

I began to research Compassion and to read everything I could find about the organization. And I began to pray. I couldn’t get these stories out of my mind.

Just three days into the trip, I sponsored Anderson. One week after that, I sponsored Winston. Both boys were from Guatemala. They were 10 and 8 years old – close in age to two of my own sons.

As many sponsors have experienced, I was surprised by the immediate love I felt for these children. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I wrote them letters, gathered items to send to them in packages and continued to gather any information I could find about Compassion and Guatemala.

Just that simple act of choosing to sponsor these two boys began to change my way of thinking. It began to put things into perspective, and the change seeped into many areas of my life.

I began to equate things like dinner at a restaurant or taking my kids to a movie with the funds to sponsor a child. I didn’t stop doing these things entirely, but realized that by cutting out one or two of these outings each month, I could add another child or two to our sponsor family.

Not only did this cause me to put more thought into how I spent money, it also gave me an even greater appreciation for what my husband and I were able to provide our own children.

I felt lucky; blessed to be born into this time in this country, when I could just as easily have been born a neighbor to Anderson or Winston.

As God worked on my heart, my Compassion family grew. I have sponsored several children now for more than two years, and they have helped me every bit as much as I have helped them.

And it is ironic that as I set out to bless these children, they also have blessed me.

Winston’s letter to me last month brought tears to my eyes when he wrote, “I am very happy because you always remember about me because you have supported me during two years, and I hope you don’t stop writing to me because I am very happy with you being my sponsor.”

My heart is full, and I am blessed.

What is Compassion?

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Compassion is a feeling of sympathy or empathy for the suffering of others. 

Often it is what leads to a person becoming a child sponsor.

So it seems appropriate that when I decided to become a sponsor, I teamed up with Compassion International, a company dedicated to easing the suffering of others by lifting children out of poverty.

Compassion is a child sponsorship program operating in 26 different countries and serving more than 1.2 million children. Compassion works through local churches with the goal of releasing children from four kinds of poverty: economic, physical, social and spiritual.

The unique way that Compassion works toward this goal is by providing one-to-one child sponsorship. In other words, when you sponsor a child for $38/month, you are the only sponsor connected to that child. You are able to write to that child, pray for that child and send monetary gifts for that child.

A sponsored child receives many benefits in addition to a personal relationship with a sponsor. Compassion provides educational opportunities, Christian training, hygiene training, and often meals. When Compassion partners with a local church, it becomes a safe environment for children to learn and grow.

In addition, Compassion is a non-profit organization committed to financial integrity. For 11 consecutive years, Compassion has earned Charity Navigator’s highest ranking of four stars. More than 80 percent of every dollar is spent on the organization’s child development programs, and expenses are detailed on Compassion’s web site, http://www.compassion.com.

That covers the basics of Compassion, but Compassion is so much more than goals and numbers. I urge readers to go to Compassion’s web site and see what it’s all about, and check back here often for more Compassion-related stories.