This past weekend our youth group took part in a World Vision 30 Hour Famine event. During this event, youth commit to fast for 30 hours in order to experience first hand the desperation of extreme hunger. They played games, watched World Vision awareness videos and participated in deep discussions about the needs of the suffering people in the world.
Teenagers find friends and family who will sponsor them for the event. The money raised goes directly to World Vision. We raised over $1,400 dollars through the event which is enough to feed 4 children for an entire year. At the Sunday evening service our friend and worship leader Sean Currier made a plea to our congregation to become child sponsors. 12 Children were matched with their sponsor that night! That's 16 lives that have been drastically changed by the sacrifice of our youth group. I am so proud of them. Proud of them, and proud of our entire church for rallying around them with fury.
During the Sunday evening service Josh asked me on the spur of the moment to share about our experience as a child sponsor. Of course, I agreed. But, I am not the most eloquent speaker. I get very nervous and tongue tied. I have a hard time organizing my thoughts and relaying them to the audience in a way that can be easily understood. I can quite relate to Moses when he tells God that he's got the wrong person for the job (Moses couldn't speak well either). Perhaps that's why I enjoy writing on my blog so much. I have a chance to think things through in the less intimidating environment I call home.
Not to mention, when I was sharing this at church. My 3 year old came on stage with me because she was being extremely clingy and whiny. I set her down next to me on stage and she ran behind me to play with the microphone on the keyboard (We won't even talk about the microphone that she, earlier that same day, submersed in the fish pond fountain thing that adorns the Narthex in our church)
When my very dear friend, LeAnne, came up to help me with the "little angel," Leah screamed, "I want my mommy" all the way out of the sanctuary. If I didn't stutter before this incident.... well let's just say it really threw off my chain of thought.
So here is our experience as I shared it. Hopefully it will be less confusing and chaotic here.
A little over a year ago, I felt like God was calling us to sponsor a child through World Vision or another organization like it. Though, I wanted to enter into the commitment prayerfully. I didn't want to pick just any child. I wanted to be sure that we would be matched with the specific child that God would want to place in our path. I sometimes think that God has specific things to teach me through specific people so I prayed for just the right child. I asked God to give us a child that shared a birth date with one of our own children. I did not actively seek out children through different organizations' websites. I just waited for God to show me the one.
One Sunday, David Konstantopoulos, a very talented flute player came to our church to do a concert. He also happened to be a World Vision Independent artist. As I walked over to the table to thank David for his wonderful music, I glanced down and saw the card for a pretty young Cambodian girl of about 10 years with troubled eyes. Her name was Maisen and she shared a birthday with my son Jackson. I knew in an instant that this was the child that God wanted us to bless.
So, I completed the card and we began our journey as a child sponsor. I was no doubt blessed by knowing that we were making a difference in a child's life. Occasionally, I would pray for her and encourage my children to do the same. But, that was about as far as it went. The monthly drafts from our checking account were automatic and the heart behind our initial decision to sponsor became distant.
Fast forward almost a year.
Recently, I have been drawn in by several groups of bloggers who have become "Compassion bloggers". Compassion International is an organization very similar to World Vision. They also work to find sponsors for less fortunate children. These bloggers travel in groups to Compassion project sites in order to witness firsthand the devastation and poverty that exists in that particular area of the world. They also experience the difference that Compassion is making in the lives of children there. They write of what they see for the sole purpose of recruiting more child sponsors. They are to the blog world what World Vision artists like Sean and David are to the music and worship world.
In some of my reading on these blogs I learned that on Saturdays children in a project site will gather as mail is passed out from their sponsors. Letters and packages are handed out like presents at Christmastime. These children treasure the letters, gifts and photos they receive from their sponsors.
At that moment it hit me hard...
We had never written to our sponsor child.
No letter, no packages, NOTHING.
Of course, we had sent in our monthly financial gift, but our hearts had become disconnected from this precious child of God. I pictured her sitting there every Saturday for a year. Hoping that this might be the Saturday that she would receive something special from her sponsor. I could picture those same troubled eyes filled with sadness as she was forgotten Saturday after Saturday. It broke my heart and I wept.
The next day, Emma and I made a trip to Walmart. We picked out a pretty pink cotton dress, some flip flops, jewelry and various art supplies. We came home and wrote a long letter telling Maisen of our family and how we have prayed for her. We completed it with a family picture, the one taken in the hospital just after Noah was born. We stuffed it all into a large bubble mailer and headed off to the post office.
I'll have to say that I had not considered what it would cost to ship a package to Cambodia. I suffered from a bit of sticker shock at the post office window. Nevertheless, I cannot explain to you the joy that it gave me to send that package.
I have not heard from Maisen since I sent the package but I expect that I will. I anticipate our regular correspondences from this moment on. I hope that the people at the World Vision project there will help take and send an updated picture of herself. Maybe those eyes won't seem quite so troubled. Maybe, just maybe, there will be a glimmer of hope and joy.
(This is not our actual sponsor child)
If you would like to sponsor a World Vision Child click here, or a child from Compassion click here.