Changed by Compassion

Today’s post is a guest blog from Lisa Bartelt, a writer, mother, blogger, follower of Jesus from Myerstown, Pennsylvania. Be sure to follow Lisa’s Living Echoes blog.

“Dear Sponsor Lisa …”

I was just out of college and a newish Christian when I had the opportunity to sponsor a child through Compassion International. His name was Gian and he was 5 years old and lived in Peru. I don’t remember what compelled me except that I had a job and could afford the $30 a month and it felt like something a Christian would do.

Lisa holding Gian's photo

Fast forward 12 ½ years. I’m a wife and a mom, and my “son” is 17 and about to graduate. He recently wrote these words to me:

“I tell you that I go to church and I am learning the Word of God with all my family. My dad leads the services at church. … To answer your question: I will study business management.”

I shared the news with my husband.

“You did that,” he said.

Over the years I’ve faithfully paid the monthly support even as it increased to almost $40 a month. (But really, what is $40 a month in the grand scheme? I know it sounds cliché but I’ve never missed the money. Never.) I’ve sent birthday money and Christmas money and have been humbled by the thankfulness of a child who used his gift money to buy shirts and socks, especially when I see my own kids with their piles of toys for birthdays and Christmases.

I’ve sent pictures of me, then me and my husband, then our family. I’ve received pictures of Gian and his family, coloring book pictures, drawings and once a heart meant for a necklace, I think, that had my name on one side and “Peru” on the other.

Gian even sent me a bread recipe. I needed it translated, so I asked a Puerto Rican co-worker for help. I started my request by saying, “You’re going to think I’m weird, but …” He replied with “I already think you’re weird.” Back then, sending money to an organization to sponsor a child who wasn’t mine, who I might never meet, seemed weird but I did it anyway.

Today, I can’t imagine not sponsoring a child, and we hope to continue relationships like this now that we have kids. We want to involve them in choosing a child to sponsor and in the correspondence.

Whenever the mail contained a letter from my sponsored child, it was the best part of my day. And even the months when I haven’t kept up my end of the correspondence as well as I’d like, I know that my monthly financial commitment, and my prayers, have made a difference in a place my body  might never set foot.

For more about Compassion, you can visit their website at www.compassion.com. A word of caution: You’ll fall in love with the pictures of kids waiting for sponsors. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the need and wish I could wave a wand and sponsor them all. But I can’t. And neither can you. Don’t let it stop you from taking action. Your involvement in the life of one child WILL make a difference.

If you don’t think you’re ready for child sponsorship, consider joining Compassion’s One Meal, One Day initiative. On March 27, you can skip a meal and donate the money you would have spent on food to help eliminate hunger in Ethiopia. Maybe you have some friends who’d want to join in. Again, it’s a small step, but it all helps.

I still hope to make it to Peru to meet my sponsored child someday. I may not have known what I was signing up for when I started supporting a child through Compassion, but it’s been a decision I don’t regret. And Compassion’s model of one sponsor per child makes the decision more than charity—it’s personal.

I signed up with Compassion to help a child out of poverty. I didn’t know I’d be changed, too.

 

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