I sat in a crowded, dank space and listened to the rain water dripping.
I squinted in the dark and leaned in to hear the quiet voice of Vincent, a sponsored child, living in the heart of Kenya, in the middle of Hell, known as Mathare Valley. He was an orphan, a child thrust into adulthood too soon, leading his family of siblings, alone.
He answered our questions with a kindness in his eyes, eyes that lit up when we asked about his sponsor. He said his sponsor’s name in a revered tone and told us words he’d memorized from his last letter. Someone in our group asked if he had a copy of a letter.
He sat on the edge of his couch/bed and reached behind the thin, tattered sheet that divided a small sleeping place and pulled out a much loved, worn letter from under his blanket. Vincent held the paper and grinned as he held up a picture of his sponsor, lightly touching the edges, pride evident on his face.
In that moment I realized the significance of sponsoring a child through Compassion International. Child sponsorship is a small part of our busy lives, but in many ways and circumstances, it is a child’s life. Without sponsorship and the concern and involvement of Compassion, Vincent, in his words, would probably be dead.
In my busy American life, child sponsorship was a dedicated $38 that I didn’t even miss. It was an occasional letter and maybe $10 for a birthday gift. Maybe. Sponsorship was something I did without thinking about every week or even every month. It was another thing, albeit good, that was on my long list. But I couldn’t help think how insignificant it had been to me: a few letters a year, little prayers whenever I remembered …
In many ways, child sponsorship was like an ending for me, something that made me feel good about myself, my contribution, a check off my list. But it is a beginning for a child, a new chance.
Seeing child sponsorship from both perspectives changed mine as I watched Vincent cherish his letter. It came alive to me in that tiny shack. In his soft voice he spoke sincere words I’ll never forget. They echo in my heart: “I pray for my sponsor. I pray for him every day.”
Vincent’s sponsor is a blessed man.
It was something we heard every time we asked a sponsored child about his or her sponsor. They would run and get their letters and say, “I pray for my sponsor.”
If sponsorship rescues a child from poverty, that makes a sponsor a hero.
It’s time I started acting like one.