February 7, 2014

Andrea's Story (part 2)

In June of 2013, I traveled to El Salvador to meet my sponsored child, Andrea. This is the story of how we met.
When we arrived at Andrea's project location, I scanned the crowds of children, looking for her. All I had to recognize her by was a picture taken a year earlier that was printed on my child sponsorship card. 

We spent the morning visiting with Sara and her family, and that afternoon, we returned to the church for a presentation put on by the children.  

They invited all of the visiting sponsors to come up to the front of the room, and the children presented each adult with a shirt featuring the hand prints of the children from the center.  There was the sweetest group of little girls standing right in front of me, so I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture. Everyone else was looking away, but one little girl stared straight at me.
Everyone was dismissed to participate in the day's planned activities (music, Bible story, recreation). I was told that if I waited outside, they would find someone to locate Andrea so that we could finally meet.

Imagine my surprise, when the same little girl in the purple striped shirt turned out to be my Andrea. She had never seen a picture of me, and I had only ever seen one picture of her. I was so excited that I inadvertently tossed my cell phone down a storm drain . . . miraculously it survived and was retrieved thanks to some helpful friends. 

She told me that she had really wanted to give me her hand print shirt, and was sad when another child handed one to me first. Neither of us knew that I was her sponsor at the time. It was one of those God-sized coincidences.

Usually, when a sponsor comes to visit their child, they have the opportunity to visit the child in their home, to help get a glimpse of where the child is coming from. Unfortunately, due to the gang violence in El Salvador, it wasn't safe for us to travel to her neighborhood. It breaks my heart that my sponsored child lives in the midst of such dangerous circumstances. I pray for her safety regularly.

 My Spanish was a little bit rusty, but it was so neat to have some time to talk with one another. A Compassion translator helped fill in the language gaps. Her favorite subjects in school are English and Computers. Andrea told me that when she grows up she hopes to become a doctor. After witnessing how detailed and meticulous she was coloring a picture, I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see her realize her dreams. Dreams are rare for those in poverty. It's hard to imagine a hopeful future when your family struggles on a daily basis.

She was only seven, but she'd already had her share of heartache. Her grandmother shared with me that when Andrea's mother was pregnant, her father left to go to America, with the promise to send for them once he had gotten settled. He never returned. They found out later, that he had met another woman, and started a family with her, leaving Andrea and her mother on their own.

At the time I visited Andrea, she was living with her grandmother. Her mother was pregnant and living with a boyfriend who was a gang member. Andrea's grandmother said that she didn't trust the boyfriend, and wanted to make sure that Andrea was safe. You could tell how very special Andrea was to her Abuela. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me for sponsoring Andrea. She called me an angel.

I'm nothing special. I'm just an ordinary mom with a mortgage. But God can use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Not because there's anything special about me, but because there's something incredibly special about the love of God. 
 There's not a doubt in my mind that God loves this poor, fatherless girl immensely. So much so, that he'd send a complete stranger to another part of the world just to give her a hug and tell her how very special she is. That's the kind of God we serve. A God who loves the poor and the fatherless. A God who says "I see you," "I know you," "You have value and worth because I made you."

My family is blessed by the opportunity to sponsor Andrea. I love that it gives my children a glimpse into her world. We pray for her, write to her, and let her know how very special she is. What a blessing to have the opportunity to speak life into this little girl's world.

Only God knows what Andrea's future holds, but I can tell you my dream for her. My prayer is that she'll continue to grow and develop into a woman who loves God and her community. I pray that she'll work hard and accomplish her dreams - that one day, she'll serve her neighbors and friends as an incredible doctor. I pray that she will break the chains of poverty in Jesus' name, and that she'll always know that God loves her, and we do too.

You can make a difference in a child's life and in the life of her family. It's a monthly payment with eternal dividends. You have to power to change a child's world.

Read all about my journey to El Salvador

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