Valentines. Hearts. Chocolates. Cards. Sweethearts.
All this commercialism pales when you read this last weeks' entries from Shannon of Rocks in My Dryer, and Sophie of BooMama.
I just discovered Rocks in My Dryer within the last month, and had read she was going to Africa, but didn't know why. Yesterday I stopped by her blog--and could hardly pry myself away for an hour or so. You see, she and several others went to Africa to tour some of the Compassion International Projects, and they have told stories and shown photos that will uplift you even as the tears trickle down your cheeks.
Several years ago, while living in New Mexico, I received a brochure in the mail from Compassion, explaining their program, and seeking sponsors for children throughout the world. Now, I have seen lots of commercials on TV for first one organization and then another, and was a bit skeptical about how much of my money would actually go to the children--and how much went to pay the photographers, celebrities, etc. who do these pleas for money. Okay, let's say cynical.
But I researched this organization, a Christian organization, because I had wanted for years to be in a position to sponsor a child from another country, to provide some of the things my child and I took for granted. I was totally blown away by what I read. I won't go into details here, because they do a much better job than I. Suffice it to say I was convinced and I began to surf their site for a child. I could have searched by age, by country, by birthdate, or let them choose a child for me, but I wanted to see the photos and read about the children.
One little girl from El Salvador grabbed my heart. I emailed right away and asked for her specifically, if she had not already been sponsored--and she hadn't! Dalia was 7 years old, standing in a little pink top and blue checked shorts, with a smile on her face that didn't quite reach her eyes. That was in December 2000--and an earthquake hit El Salvador in January of 2001. I was on pins and needles, knowing that one of the Compassion children in the area was killed, and praying it wasn't Dalia. God preserved my little girl, who wrote me later about the earthquake and how they all "held hands with each other and their teachers and prayed for mercy".
Dalia just turned 15 this month, and she is growing tall and beautiful. She is no longer in school, though I am not certain why, but still goes to the Project when she can, and still goes to church. There were plans to have her learn to sew and do hair, but the waiting list is long and she is not able to attend that school yet. I do not know what her future holds, but God does, and I will continue to support Dalia and her family as long as I am allowed.
That said, I am a sorry letter-writer, and don't send her letters as often as I could. Because of the danger of items being confiscated by customs, we can only send paper products and the envelope cannot be more than 1/8 inch thick, or it is at risk to be stolen. In the past I have sent her postcards of different places, a couple of photos of me (though I HATE to have my picture taken), pages from coloring and activity books, stickers, bookmarks, etc. Ah, but she is older now, and I must think a little harder.
But what has struck me more than anything from the postings by Sophie and Shannon and the others others is just how much difference a measly $32.00/month makes in the life of these children, these families. And even more than that, is the way their faces light up when they talk about their sponsors! It is very humbling to think that my letters could mean that much to Dalia--and shames me to think how many more letters I could have been sending these last 7 years.
Please go read these blogs and then check out Compassion's website. You can choose from any country, any age, either sex, and please consider those who have been waiting for a sponsor for more than 6 months. How devastating it must be to be approved for the program, and then think that no one in the Wealthy country of America could care about you.
I think I might go find another teenager to sponsor (like most folks, I went for a younger child for my first sponsorship) and give up a few fast food meals a month. There will be a trip to El Salvador in the fall, but I don't know if I can manage it this year. I would really love to go meet "my little girl", the one who prayed "for (my) knees be heal" and who was sorry my other dog died. She has blessed me far more than she will ever know. Pray that if I can't make it this year, that I am able to go before she turns 18.
For now, I'm going to go write my girl and give her a paper hug.
Edited 2/19 to add: Over at Shaun's blog, you can read many more stories of Compassion sponsors!