I've been a child sponsor since 1993 (you do the math). It's something that I will always do. In 1997 I visited two of the girls I sponsored at the time, Monica and Mavis. That's another post, but it was an amazing experience. Right now, the children I sponsor are with Compassion International, but over the years I've had experience with a good number of organizations both large and small. Christian Children's Fund is probably my next favorite.
I love, love, love Compassion though and I love that they have a blog. A seemingly very transparent blog at that. Today's post featured a guest writer from India, Pastor Sam, of Immanuel Child Development Center. I wanted to share some of the words he wrote that basically jumped off the screen and screamed to my face:
"You play a major role in the development of children. You are instruments in the hands of God to demonstrate His care to children who don’t know what love is all about. When children receive no love at home, it’s common for them to seek from you the love they miss from their parents."
This is certainly NOT a new concept for me - not in the least. Between my travels, my experience with HAI, and the world as a whole, it is simply old news. What is different is that I can actually put a NAME and a FACE with what he said. It's not just "children." It's quite possibly MY CHILD. I use the term "my" loosely, but it's the way I think of the children I sponsor. I love them. I have learned what they like, what they are afraid of, what they pray for - intimate thoughts they choose to share with me about their daily life.
"When children receive no love at home..." WOW. I can't even imagine what that would feel like. I grew up in such a loving home... to have none, no love at all. What emptiness that would leave.
"...it's common for them to seek from you the love they miss from their parents." As a long-time sponsor, I sometimes take for granted what this whole business of 'child sponsorship' is really about. I send my monthly donation, I pray, I write letters - but I often forget what life is really like for my children. I forget that life is really hard and that is why I even know who they are. I forget that it is because of me that they are able to live better. Because of Compassion, my children are fed, cared for, loved. I don't know what their home life is like. I know what they tell me and what Compassion tells me in their updates, but I am not living it. I would like to think that my children are all deeply loved, but I am not there. Princy, my child in India, lives part of the year at a hostel so she can attend school. Her brother does the same. What is life like for her at home? Clara's mother used to write letters to me - I know she loves her daughter so much. Hilda always writes her letters from the student center. I don't know much about her mother or father other than that they live with her and her brothers.
"You are instruments in the hands of God to demonstrate His care to children who don’t know what love is all about." That's a big role. Sure, I know that I should be a role model for my sponsored children; I should always present myself as godly and as a good person, but to know that I am an instrument in God's hands. Um, did I sign up for that?! It's a pretty big role. And not a role to be taken lightly. These children -my children- are counting on me to not only help them continue to receive assistance from the student center, but to guide them spiritually - to teach them love. Exemplify love.
When Wess Stafford, president of Compassion, wrote Too Small To Ignore, I immediately bought and savored every bit of it. It basically says the same thing Pastor Sam said above, in many more words. For whatever reason though, I didn't get as much out of it as I did from Pastor Sam's blog today. I would encourage anyone who has children or works with children in the church to pick up a copy of Too Small To Ignore. It's a great book.
If you have any interest at all in sponsoring a child, but don't think you can afford the $38/month, I leave you with this from Pastor Sam:
"Even today, the Lord cries out with the same words that Isaiah heard, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” You are the ones who have responded to this call with the words “Here am I.” You are the ones who have responded to God’s commission."
Please read Pastor Sam's full blog post. It's pretty powerful. Maybe it will speak to you, maybe it won't, but sponsoring is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Until today, it never occurred to me that I might love my sponsored children more than their parents love them. I just cannot imagine. That sentence redefines child sponsorship for me.