I was thinking about what’s surprised me on this trip. A lot hasn’t surprised me: seeing poverty; witnessing the joy among those who are very poor; seeing God very present among people who have very little. All of this is humbling and overwhelming, but not really surprising. I expected that.
What’s surprised me most is the role that sponsors pay with these children. Initially I thought that the main role they played is money: providing $35 a month that allows a child to be part of a project. Turns out that’s not it at all. The money is important, but from the perspective of the kids it is far from the most important thing about having a sponsor. It’s knowing that somebody far away cares about them, writes to them, prays for them, and encourages them. They take this really seriously.
A couple of nights ago, the graduates of the sponsorship program spoke about their relationships with their sponsors. Almost all of them wished their sponsor had written more. It was tough when other kids got letters and they didn’t. Ouch. But when the sponsors wrote or sent stickers, it was a huge deal.
One young man spoke of the barriers he faced in finishing high school, and how the encouragement from his sponsor played a huge role. They also talked about really hoping that their sponsor would come to visit them some day.
The boy we sponsor, Saúl, was dropped by his sponsor a few months ago. That happens sometimes. But it’s clear that it’s really hard for a child over here when that happens. They wonder if they did something wrong. The kids here know if they have a sponsor or not, and they really want a relationship with their sponsor if they do.
All of this makes sense, but I think I’ve been surprised by how strongly the kids here feel about it, and how they have latched on to some of the sponsors who are here on this trip. The money is important, but just like all of us when we were kids, having an adult who really takes an interest in us and encourages us – that is what matters. And all of us can do this with one child.