September 7, 2013

Does Child Sponsorship Make a Difference?

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

Does child sponsorship make a difference? Does it even matter? 

While in El Salvador with Compassion International, I had the opportunity to see firsthand the impact that being a sponsored child made in the life of men and women who have been through the child sponsorship program. I sat around a dinner table as they each shared their stories. Stories about strangers who had stepped into their lives like angels and had changed the course of their lives forever. 

A photo of Alejandro, myself, and Carolina at dinner for LDP (Leadership Development Program). 
Carolina had the same sponsors for her whole time in the program. A couple from Minnesota married later in life and were not able to have children of their own . . . so they decided to sponsor a child. The wrote her regularly, and Carolina kept each letter in a small pink, plastic box. She showed us a picture album full of postcard and photographs from the family's farm. She described the couple as her angels. They invested in her life, not only through monetary contributions that helped meet her physical needs, but through words of encouragement. They wrote her several times a month and shared news and prayer requests.

She is now studying Psychology at the university level with the hopes of returning to her community. She said she lives in a dangerous area with a high level of gang activity where murders occur on a weekly basis. She says that the children of these gang members have witnessed a lot of traumatic things and they also have experienced a great deal of emotional turmoil. Her prayer and plan is to be able to provide emotional support and encouragement to these children to help them work through their issues. She says that if it weren't for the program there's not a doubt in her mind that she would have ended up just like the other women her age, pregnant as a teenager with a couple of children. Now, at age 22, she has one year left at University. 

She's a group leader of 8 other people in the LDP (Leadership Development Program) at her university. She credits Compassion with changing her life and her sponsors for encouraging her along the way to pursue her dreams. When she was 15 her sponsors travelled to El Salvador to meet her in person. She proudly showed us pictures of her sponsors standing with her family. With tears she told us what a difference their words and support made in her life. 


A group of Compassion college students, sponsors, and Compassion staff.
Moira is in the red shirt and black skirt on the left hand side of the photo.
When Moira was a child she found out that her father had wanted her mother to abort her. As a child, this was devastating news. She said she used to hate him. She refused to celebrate his birthday or have anything to do with him. She spoke with tears in her eyes of how her sponsors told her that she needed to forgive her father for his past mistakes - that the hate and anger would hurt her in the long run. She said that the first time in her life she made the choice to celebrate her father's birthday. She wiped tears from her face as she described the cake she made for him. She said that although their relationship is not perfect, it's getting better.  

Now she is in school studying English translation hoping to one day have a job as a flight attendant. She chose to tell us her story in English and she did an amazing job. I don't have a doubt that she'll be able to accomplish her dreams. When her sponsor had a chance to come visit she was able to spend the day with Moira and with her other sponsored child, a little boy from another center. The little boy's dream was to one day be an airline pilot, Moira's dream, to become a flight attendant. Wouldn't you know it . . .the sponsor works at NASA, an organization that knows just a "little" bit about flight.

Ruth is 21 years old. At the age of five she became a part of the sponsorship program. During the entire time she was in the program she only received 2 letters. One when she was around 5 and another when she was around 12 years old. She treasures the letters and the photo of her sponsor. I could sense that she regretted that she didn't hear more from her sponsors. Letters are so special to these children. be able to read the words of a family on the other side of the globe, telling them that they are special, that they have value, that they can accomplish amazing things. 
Some children at the Child Development Center where Ruth works.
She alone is responsible for overseeing the 41 women who participate in the CSP (Child Survival Program). She spends two hours each day travelling to visit each woman in her home. Each meetings lasts for about 2 hours. She goes over basic things like helping children develop fine motor skills and developing positive self-image in the moms. She prays for them and shares with them encouragement from God's word. She does this from 8 am to 5 pm, walking up unpaved roads and trails, winding her way through tin houses and fields. She does the work of two women by herself, but she doesn't complain. She says that when the time is right God will bring another person.

She went to school to study Health, but had no plans to become a doctor. She wanted to find a way to serve her community. Now the people in her community know that if they are sick, they can come to Ruth and she can help them. I was struck by her composure and her humility. She acknowledged that moat of the people her age (21) are more concerned about having fun, but she wants to do something that will make a difference and bring God glory. 

Where would she have been if not for Compassion? Where would she have ended up without the mentors and leaders at her center, the people who poured into her life telling her that she could make a difference in her community. This is a story you hear often if you speak with Compassion kids. They want to make a difference. They know what a difference someone made in their own life and they want to pass it on and make their communities and countries a better place to live. So many of these young adults I spoke with said they have plans to sponsor children. They look forward to pouring into the next 
generation of Compassion children. 

Andrea and I meeting for the first time
This is MY sponsored child, Andrea. Her story is still being written and I'm honored to be a part of it. I have not a doubt in my mind that this whole sponsorship thing has nothing to do with me. I have a feeling that God has big things for Andrea, that he loves her very much and wants to use me to communicate that message to her. I don't know what her future holds, but I pray that she'll always remember how much God loves her and that He has a plan and a purpose for her life.

Does child sponsorship make a difference?
Yes. For these three women, it has made all the difference in the world. As a sponsor, myself, I can say that child sponsorship is changing me. It helps my family look beyond our own four walls and reach out to love and encourage a little girl on the other side of the world. Andrea has a special place in my heart. I keep her picture on my fridge door right along with the smudged hand prints and "artwork" of my two little boys. We pray for her daily and look forward to seeing how God changes her life through the work of Compassion in her home country, El Salvador.

Don't want to take my word for it? Check out a recent article in Christianity Today about research that was done on the effectiveness of the Compassion child sponsorship program. 

Read more about my trip to El Salvador:

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