Posts Tagged ‘child sponsorship’

The Day I Met My Sponsored Child

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When I was 16, medications God really put the nation of Kenya on my heart. I did a huge project on Kenya, focusing on the kids who live in the slums of Nairobi. After completing my project, I felt like God was calling me to do something about everything I had learned. I decided to effect change in the nation of Kenya by making a difference in the life of one girl through child sponsorship. Compassion International is a world-wide non-profit organization that believes that we can transform nations by making a difference in the life of individual children, releasing them from poverty in the name of Jesus. Compassion is a highly respected organization that consistently gets high ratings for its financial responsibility, transparency, and effectiveness. Compassion is not just about donating monthly to help meet financial needs of a child living in poverty, but also about building a relationship with your Compassion child, writing letters to encourage them and let them know that there’s someone who believes in them and their dreams.

For the past 5 years I have sponsored Fresiah, a girl my age who lives in Kenya. I am ridiculously proud of her and thankful for our relationship. In Kenya, most girls don’t finish school, especially those who are living in poverty. Fresiah is 20 years old and has graduated from school and is making plans for college. It has been amazing to be a small part of her life and see how child sponsorship really does make a difference. Fresiah is now equipped with an education and dreams and a desire to give back to her community by becoming a policewoman. Empowering children, especially girls, has the ability to absolutely change our world for the better. And showing children that they are valuable and loved by their sponsor and by God brings the Kingdom of God to earth.

One of the sad parts about sponsoring Fresiah is that I most likely will never meet her in person. But before coming to Ecuador, I realized that I could make the difference in another child’s life not only through another sponsorship, but through meeting them. God really laid it on my heart to sponsor a girl in Ecuador, and so that’s what I did.

I chose to sponsor Emily because of her proximity to Quito, where I am living, and because she had been waiting a long time (I want to say over 200 days) for a sponsor. I received her first letter a few weeks after choosing to sponsor her. She told me about herself. She asked me to pray for her family. She thanked me for choosing her. And she asked me if I love her like she loves me.

Living in a country with widespread poverty, where Compassion sponsored children live, can be incredibly heart-breaking. Quito is filled with street children who work shining shoes or selling gum, who ask for money so they can eat and go to school. It feels really overwhelming to constantly see these kids and know that I can’t help them all. I can give them a smile and a small amount of money, but I can’t change their lives. But I can help Emily. I can make a difference in her life.

I started planning my visit with Emily last semester and earlier this week it finally happened! Oh my goodness this girl is a sweetheart and so full of life! I spent the day with Emily, her mom, and her two younger brothers (who are 7 years old and 8 months). Compassion picked me up in a van at my apartment in Quito. I got in the car and saw Emily and her family. She immediately gave me a huge hug. It was the best. On the car ride she asked me about all my favorite things–color, shape, school subject, animal, game, candy, food, you name it! I learned that she wants to be a math teacher when she grows up–she really loves school and math is her favorite. We also both love chocolate candy and chocolate ice cream.

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We first went to the mall where we mostly just ran around and went up and down the escalators, a HUGE source of entertainment! Then we went to Emily’s town where there was a carnival going on. We played foosball and did the bumper cars and went on a small roller coaster. It was so awesome to see Emily and her brother just get to play and have fun. We had lunch and then went to Emily’s home. I realize as I’m writing this post that I didn’t take any pictures of Emily’s town or her neighborhood. I think part of it was that I was busy focusing on her, but the other aspect is that I’ve traveled around Ecuador a lot and have seen dozens of these towns that look the same and struggle with serious poverty, and so I didn’t even think to photograph it.

Both of Emily’s parents are unemployed right now and are living in a floor of a house owned by a family member. The house is located in a more dilapidated area but inside it is very clean and nice. I got to see Emily’s room and all her school work (she gets excellent grades) and toys.

Emily’s mom told us about how Emily had waited so long for a sponsor (or godmother, as they say in their Compassion project) and how when they had heard that Emily had been chosen they had been SO EXCITED! And then they couldn’t believe it when they heard that her godmother would be visiting. Emily opened the backpack of presents I had brought for her, including things like notebooks, The Jesus Storybook Bible in Spanish, a stuffed animal, markers, clothes, and candy. She was so sweet in that she opened a package of candy and immediately gave each of us a piece of chocolate. And then she went to try on a bunch of her clothes! She was so cute.

Saying goodbye was hard. And it was hard, too, to explain why I can’t visit every week, even though I live so close. Every child visit is organized through Compassion and takes a lot of planning and does require that you pay some fees, meaning I will probably only see Emily one more time before I leave Ecuador.

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Some Reflections on my Visit:

  • Your sponsored child absolutely loves you. I have only been sponsoring Emily for a few months but she already loves me with all her heart. Children tend to have such an openness and vulnerability about them. They give love so easily. Sponsorship is  a way you can show a child how much you love them and care about them, and visiting your sponsored child or writing them a lot of letters is a way you can teach them to continue to love exuberantly, instead of teaching them to grow cynical and distrustful.
  • One of the hard things about the trip is that Compassion couldn’t tell me how old Emily’s siblings were (or how many she had) and so I had no idea how to bring presents for her siblings. During my visit, I learned that there are not enough spots in the Compassion program for her younger brother to be sponsored. Both of Emily’s younger siblings spent the whole day with us and her younger brother got to do all the things Emily did, but it was clearly still very hard for him to not have a sponsor and not get the gifts that Emily got. If I see Emily again, I will know about her brothers and be able to get them gifts, but it was a hard thing to see her brother feel left out and not as special as his older sister.
  • While we were at the carnival in Emily’s town, a rural, poor city south of Quito, we saw a father come to the fair, find his daughter, grab her, call her a bitch, hit her in the face, and drag her to their car. From what I gathered, she hadn’t asked for permission to come to the carnival after school. I was stunned and horrified. Everyone saw a father abuse his daughter in public and no one did anything. I desperately wish I had known what to do, or that I had done something. If I were in the U.S., I would have stopped that man, called the police, gotten the license number of the car, gotten child services involved, etc. But I was in a different country, different culture, with a language barrier, and was with Emily and her family. In Ecuador, the majority of children are abused. 41% of Ecuadorian children report being hit at home. 21% of Ecuadorian children have experienced sexual abuse. 70% of Ecuadorian children have been victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or negligence. Many people view this abuse as normal. And a completely inadequate and inattentive police force does very little to protect children or women. I think the only mildly encouraging thing about witnessing this abuse is that Emily asked questions about it and did not act as though this was something normal for her life.
  • Emily and her family live about a 30 minute walk from school, crossing some major roads on the way. Therefore, Emily and her brother take the school bus. However, the school bus is not free. Her parents pay $30 a month for the school bus service. Can you imagine being a family living in poverty, most likely making less than $2/day (or nothing if you’re currently unemployed) and having to find the money to pay just for your kids to get to school? For as many problems as the U.S. school system has, we at least offer free education and transportation to and from school. That is just not the case for much of the world.
  • After I had said goodbyes, I rode with the translator from Compassion back to Quito. She said that she was surprised that Emily had a house, because most of the children don’t have a place to live, and that Emily was very lucky. It should break our hearts that for many children around the world, the very real reality is that if they have a roof over their heads, no matter how small, they are luckier than many of the children around them.

I am so thankful that I got to do this visit and meet and connect with Emily. This girl really is amazing, and we have quite a bit in common. We’re both driven, lively, and a little bossy with our younger siblings ;) My sponsorship of Emily will most likely continue for the next 10 years or so, and getting the chance to actually meet her was an amazing experience for both of us. I know it will make it easier for us to connect through letters and pray for each other as we continue our relationship.

But, as I’ve tried to convey in this post, there were parts of my visit that were really disturbing, unsettling, and sad. I think that’s probably how it should be. We shouldn’t be able to see poverty and not get unsettled by it. I am thankful that I still get heartbroken when I see street kids, that I didn’t come away from my Compassion visit with just happy feelings. Living in Ecuador I’ve seen middle and upper class Ecuadorians treat the poverty and abuse prevalent in their country as very normal. I think it sometimes takes an outside perspective to see the extent of the problem in another country, I know this is true for me when it comes to witnessing the prevalent issues in the U.S. We have to fight to not become complacent just because something is prevalent in our communities or because we don’t feel like we can do anything to help. We can’t help all the children of the world, but we can help one. And I’ve seen in the lives of two girls from across the world that it truly makes a difference.

I would love to answer any questions you may have about child sponsorship and very much encourage you to consider sponsoring a child through Compassion.

Dear Sponsored Child

Dear Sponsored Child- How do we respond to World Vision's announcements??

The past two days have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Yesterday, health care World Vision, purchase a very well-known and well respected Christian organization that is “dedicated to working with children, epilepsy families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice,” announced that they would no longer discriminate against married same-sex couples during their hiring process.

The president of World Vision, Richard Stearns, said, “We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us. This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church. This is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more.”

Many of you probably know that I am a big supporter of gay marriage and believe that there is a strong Biblical argument in support of gay relationships and marriages (I will be blogging in the near future about this issue, including reviews of the books Torn by Justin Lee and God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, which is coming out in April). So for me, this announcement was really exciting. I knew that this announcement would be really hard for many evangelical Christians to handle and that many would be disappointed and upset. What I did not expect was that these Christians would stop sponsoring their children as a result of this announcement. World Vision reportedly lost at least 2,000 sponsors in one day. That means that 2,000 children are now left without financial support, leaving them without adequate food, clean water, health care, and education, and also without the emotional and spiritual support that the children gain from the relationship with their sponsor.

Evangelicals, you sent the message loud and clear. Your hatred for gay people triumphs over the command of Christ to serve the least of these. You will stop at nothing to continue this culture war over an issue that Jesus did not say one word about. You will not hesitate to tell your gay brothers and sisters in Christ that the idea of working alongside them to bring God’s kingdom to earth is despicable. To you, the very existence of gay people is enough to stop providing for a sweet child of God.

Many Christian leaders, such as Justin Taylor of the Gospel Coalition and Denny Burk, professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made public statements against World Vision, announcing that they were ending their sponsorships. (Burk wrote a blog post talking about “The Collapse of Christianity at World Vision.” Seriously? The collapse?). The Assemblies of God denomination urged its members to drop financial support from World Vision.

And I sit here listening to Same Love by Macklemore.

“If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t annointed. That Holy water that you soak in has been poisoned.”

Today, World Vision decided to reverse their decision. 

There are many amazing people who decided to sponsor children yesterday in support of World Vision’s announcement and to cover the children who were being dropped. Many of these people are gay. Many aren’t even believers.

I am so touched and encouraged to see that many of the people who sponsored kids yesterday will continue to sponsor them because they know that these kids are real people. They matter. They have hopes and dreams. They have the potential to live full and vibrant lives, they just need a little support to help them get there. And don’t we all?

I don’t sponsor a child through World Vision (although I regularly donate to various causes they support) but I do sponsor a child through Compassion International. Her name is Fresiah. She is 19, just like me. She lives in a rural village in Kenya, a country where much of the population is infected by HIV/AIDS and few girls finish high school. She loves basketball, her favorite book of the Bible is Ruth, she writes her letters to me in almost perfect English, she prays for my family and tells me about her day-to-day life. I am waiting to hear the results of her final exams, but I’m confident she did great. She wants to be a policewoman after she finishes high school. She is so beautiful and smart. I am so blessed to be a small part of her life and the idea of her sponsorship ending when she graduates breaks my heart. She is my friend. And no theological disagreement could stop me from sponsoring her.

When did it become Christ-like to use children as pawns in political, social, and cultural wars?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. -John 13:34-35

I can’t really put into words the depth of my sadness around this whole situation.

I want to honor Matthew Vines and his reaction to World Vision’s reversal. He shows a profound understanding of the love of Christ and God’s grace.

So I sit here with tears in my eyes and my hand over my tattoo. And I remember God’s promise.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Write these words down for they are trustworthy and true. -Revelation 21:5

Amen. They are trustworthy and true. God is making everything new. He will make everything new.

I pray for the release of His Kingdom on Earth.

I pray for the Holy Spirit to enter into the hearts of all followers of Christ.

I pray that the Church would be marked by love.

I repent of the anger and judgement in my heart and I pray, Holy Spirit, that you would help me love my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I pray for all the children around the world who are struggling to survive. I pray protection over them in the name of Jesus. I pray for provision for them, both emotionally and physically. Lord Jesus I pray they would known your unending love for them.

And Jesus, I pray that every single gay person who has been hurt by the Church, who has been hurt in the past few days, would know that You affirm them and love them.

Amen.

Many bloggers have written beautiful posts in the past few days. I encourage you to read them:

When Evangelicals Turn Against Children to Spite Me by Benjamin Moberg

I’ve been sitting in a swell of sad for a couple hours, because this is what I’m hearing: No, you aren’t even worthy to serve hungry children. You are so deeply unwanted that I will let a child die if it keeps you away from me. From us. From the body of Christ. I will spare no life if it keeps you far away.

These Are Real Kids, You Know by Nish Weiseth

I understand you may not agree with their employment standards as a Christian organization, but you know what? There’s a lot that we’re not all going to agree onBut, I think we can agree on one thing: Children should not have to suffer under the weight of poverty. And we can agree that World Vision is helping release kids from poverty through sponsorships. We can agree that your sponsorship dollars are doing an incredible amount of good in the life of a real, honest-to-goodness child. Someone’s baby is getting fed, educated and cared for because you have been generous in your sponsorship of that child. 
Please, I’m begging you, don’t make someone’s baby a pawn in the ongoing culture wars of American evangelicalism. Keep sponsoring. Keep praying for that kid. Keep giving.
Please, I’m begging you.
Choose love.

World Vision by Rachel Held Evans

When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gay and lesbian people helping to provide that aid, something’s very, very wrong. It might not be hate, but it is a nefarious sort of stigmatizing, and it’s wrong.
Finally, all this overdramatic “farewelling” over non-essential issues is getting tiresome. It’s shutting the door of the Kingdom in people’s faces. It’s tying up heavy burdens and placing them on people’s backs. It’s straining gnats and swallowing camels. It’s playing the gatekeeper with smug, self-righteous pride when it is God who decides who comes to the table, God who makes the guest list, God who opens the doors the Kingdom.

World Vision Update by Rachel Held Evans

A comment on this post:
“I sponsored a child because of their original decision. His name is also Daniel and he lives in the Dem Rep of the Congo, which co-incidentally, I am planning on traveling to in November (though I have no plans to see him.)
As a gay man, I am once again disappointed by the actions of some evangelical Christians. I have learned not to expect much from conservative Christianity and tend to give conservative Christians a wide berth. I want to reconcile. I am a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and remain a committed, Episcopalian, Christian. But I often feel like Charlie Brown when he tries to kick Lucy’s football when engaging evangelical Christians and this is no exception.
However, none of this is the the fault of the child I sponsored. I’m not going to unsponsor because they reversed their decision. It’s ultimately about the child’s welfare.”