A friend arrived to stay with us for a few days. She was on holidays. Within about 30 seconds(!) of her arrival, she had dug two Compassion sponsorship photos out of her suitcase and expectantly presented them to us. She had recently become a Compassion advocate. She was very passionate about it.
We could tell.
We had vaguely heard about Compassion International, but didn’t know that much about it. We hesitantly took the photos she was holding out to us and glanced down. Looking back at us were two small children.
And one girl.
Both lived in extreme poverty.
Estefany immediately jumped into our hearts with her pretty yellow dress, white lace edging, yellow flowers on the bodice… hair up in two pigtails… shiny black shoes… white socks… her brown eyes looking a little uncertainly at the camera. She was adorable.
How could we resist?!
Kefa had such sad eyes. We learnt his father had recently died. His mother was now a widow and left to look after six children. Then, we caught a glimpse of those big shoes. Maybe he had borrowed them for the photo. Either that, or he had enormous feet to grow into. We didn’t know.
Those big ‘shoeses’ and sad eyes just kept looking at us… and looking at us.
We had a gazillion questions.
Exactly who is Compassion International? How do they work? What do they do? What developing countries do they work in? Does it really make a difference? Are the children actually released from poverty? How do we know the sponsorship money will reach the child?
Was it a scam?
In a word, no. However we may talk about some of those issues in later posts. We loved the fact that Compassion seemed to be Christ-centred. Child-focused. And organised through the local church. Their whole community would benefit.
It was all about relationship.
Our friend had already visited some of the actual projects. She told us about the incredible difference between the children who were inside the fence. And the children who were outside the fence.
Desperately waiting for sponsors.
And their turn to get in.
It was heartbreaking for her. She said she wanted to throw open the gate and sneak them all in. :)
No wonder she was so passionate.
As we chatted, Kefa’s photo was sitting on the bench… screaming at us. Over and over again, our eyes were drawn to his beautiful eyes filled with pain. Widow… orphan… six children. Extreme poverty. We kept looking at it… and looking at it… and thinking ‘those big shoes-es’…
Such sad eyes.
NO CHILD SHOULD HAVE SUCH SAD EYES!
Kefa had firmly snuck into our hearts, too.
By now, we were hooked and eager to help, but some questions still remained. What if we were unable to keep up a long term financial commitment? Two children desperately needed our help. How could we possibly choose between them?
It was only $10 per week. Each. What’s that? A couple of cups of coffee?
It was a dilemma.
Oh, the pressure.
Finally, our friend made a rather unconventional suggestion. Could we aim for a minimum of 12 months sponsorship to start with? It would be a huge blessing to people who struggle to find enough to eat, she assured us.
(Beware of advocates who suggest this. They know the power of a child to attach themselves to the strings of your heart).
We looked at each other with raised eyebrows, thought about it for a bit, shrugged and nodded our okay. ‘Yep, we could probably do that.’
We signed up.
That was 2004.
We didn’t realise it then, but it was to be a life changing experience. In so many ways. And along the way, I would also discover a love of designing that I didn’t know I had.
Estefany is our little ray of sunshine. She sends us bright, happy drawings in beautiful colours… of flowers, hearts, balloons, butterflies, gardens and sunshine. As soon as we open the envelope, we smile and think ‘Estefany!’ just by looking at her pictures. She is an absolute delight!
And we have watched in wonder and given thanks to God as Kefa has slowly gained in confidence. His drawings have now graduated from the very small, dark and intense looking objects which broke our hearts. It is so wonderful to see colours back in his life. He loves soccer.
And in his photos now, he smiles really big! :)
Kefa and Estefany have given us so much joy. Both of them are firmly bonded and entwined around our hearts.
They are family.
You too can release a child from poverty and welcome them into your family.
And when you do, don’t forget…
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