It is my honor to introduce you to Bethchaida, the sweet girl our family recently began sponsoring through Compassion International. Although I have never met this precious child and only know her by one photograph and a few paragraphs in the child sponsorship packet we received just days ago, I can say with confidence that God led me down a straight and narrow, but very long path to Bethchaida.
Child sponsorship has been stirring in my heart since I was a little girl. Flipping through channels on television, stopping at Christian Children’s Fund commercials, listening to the bearded man tell about children who needed sponsors, seeing the need in a little girl’s brown eyes, boys in piles of trash. Told I could spend 70 cents a day on a pack of gum or 70 cents a day on food for a child, spokesperson Sally Struther’s call to action and the face of these children etched forever in my mind.
I was a child. No credit cards. No ability to make a monthly payment. Didn’t even think to engage my parents about this tug on my heart.
Through the years, time and time again, I stopped at sight of the commercials. Continually called, continually moved by the faces. At times, others even slightly annoyed that I wanted to watch the child sponsorship commercials in their entirety, asking me to turn the channel so they could find what it was they wanted to watch. I knew they didn’t understand what I saw in the faces of these children, the faces that touched the deepest parts of my soul. I changed the channel to appease them, but my heart remained with the children.
That dream, that calling, never went away.
Fast forward to adulthood. I had just joined Twitter in August 2010, and almost immediately discovered the gift of Ann Voskamp and her blog, A Holy Experience. In September 2010, Ann was in Guatemala with Compassion International blogging about sponsorship and had met her sponsored child Xiomara. I read Ann’s post How to Make Your Life An Endless Celebration, tears streaming, and my heart for child sponsorship stirred anew. The little girl inside of me, now all grown up into a mother, was still desperately longing to impact the lives of children I had never met. Powerful words from Ann Voskamp’s post that day…
“I’m the stranger who doesn’t pass by but stays with her here, and I take the bread of this moment, give thanks for it, and I give thanks that we can be broken and we can be given and this is how Christ is recognized in the world.” Ann Voskamp
and later in the post…
“On the bus taking me far away from Xiomara, I am no longer a stranger on the road and I see Christ and I am forever beautifully broken and wrecked for the poor and even my life can be given to satisfy emptiness.” Ann Voskamp
Was it by chance that a newbie to Twitter, I found Ann Voskamp among the first? Was it by chance that I felt a deep connection to Ann’s writing and she also happened to be a blogger with Compassion International? I believe not. I believe God brought me to Ann so I could be daily encouraged by her posts, and to bear fruit in my life through child sponsorship I had dreamed of for so many years.
May 10, 2012: I had been following the Compassion Bloggers in Tanzania on Twitter and read The Nester’s blog post Decorating Truths from a 15-Year-Old Tanzanian Boy. She tells of her trip to meet sponsored child Topiwo, boy with his head down in humility, smiling. The picture of The Nester meeting Topiwo was priceless and just as those children from the TV ads in the 1980’s, it will be forever etched in my mind. Psalm 23 painted outside on the entry to his handmade hut home. The Nester, subtitle of her blog “It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to be Beautiful,” describes Topiwo’s hut as “breathtaking…humble…glorious all at the same time.” My heart was in Tanzania, overflowing with compassion for people I had never met.
Fast forward to July 2012. Ann Voskamp and her son were in Haiti with Compassion International. July 17, 2012, a post from Ann that lingered in my mind for days, The 1 Thing You Really have to Know About Your Family. Ann’s words remind me that “Faith cannot have a non-response.” She shares of 12-year-old Wesley who can’t read. Wesley with Compassion sponsor photograph and letter in hand, Ann posts about this moment…
“Attached is a picture of a couple smiling happy in Central Park. Wesley’s standing barefoot and wordless in front of a windowless shack with a photo of folks hugging happy in Central Park and how can we help where we are born in this world? This soundless howl pounds in my ears.” Ann Voskamp
I think of little ones waiting for sponsors, little ones whose only lifeline is sponsorship. I am moved to sponsor a child. Again. To serve as a source of hope, as partner with Our Creator – what more is there to life than this?
My journey to child sponsorship continued, slowly but surely narrowing in on Haiti.
A die hard fan after two cruises with my husband, I have been looking forward to an upcoming cruise our family will be taking with Royal Caribbean. Months ago when booking, I guided us to an itinerary that included 3/4 destinations to which we had never been, one being Haiti.
As I began thinking through our day ashore, I remembered a family friend who is in the process of adopting two children from an orphanage in Haiti. Following their visits closely on Facebook, I have been very much drawn to their story, the children, that orphanage in Haiti. I had hoped to take a day trip to the orphanage, only to discover upon further research it was on the opposite side of the island, not to be traveled to and from in just eight short hours onshore.
I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to sponsor a child through Compassion International and our family could take a day trip to meet the child – only to discover that our cruise ship would be docking at a private peninsula in Haiti, passengers not allowed to travel beyond a fence because of safety concerns. So close, but so far away.
July 22, 2012. I had come to accept the fact we were not going to be able to visit the orphanage or a sponsored child, but it had been just days since I read Ann Voskamp’s posts about Haiti and I was still having a hard time justifying a carefree day ashore in Haiti. I searched the Royal Caribbean website for shore excursions and got excited about a cultural tour only to discover upon booking that it is not being offered on our sailing. Still searching, I read deeper into the Haiti shore excursion reviews, generally glowing reviews, stating how beautiful the land is, how pristine the beaches, how great it was that Royal Caribbean provides a buffet for passengers on the beach; spattered here and there were heartfelt comments about passengers’ desires to positively impact the people of Haiti beyond the fence. In an effort to make a difference onshore, one passenger brought extra clothes and gave them to people at the market, another shared bananas with a man in the market who gobbled them up in seconds.
How was I going to travel to Haiti knowing there were babies at the orphanage, children I read about on Ann Voskamp’s blog, people in need of so many resources? And me and my family – unloading from the luxurious cruise ship on vacation, sunning on the beach, dining at a buffet. How do these two worlds reconcile? How do I reconcile these two parts of my heart that seem so conflicting? Is the God that created in me a love for cruising, for travel and special time with my family, for meeting people and seeing new places the same God that created in me a desire for child sponsorship, a passion to help people, a longing to make a lasting impact on others’ lives? How, truly God, am I to reconcile these two worlds?
After discussing all of this with my husband, we decided that we would forego all shore excursions in Haiti, and would instead sponsor a child through Compassion International.
I fully expect that my heart could tear in two that day. I fully expect that I will pray for peace that day, to sit on the beach knowing there is such poverty beyond the fence. I fully expect to be drawn to the markets so I can experience just a taste of the rest of Haiti – meet people, look into their eyes, engage them in conversation, admire and purchase the beautiful creations they have fashioned to support their families.
I also fully expect that I will be spending a lot of that day praying for the people of Haiti. And one of the people our family will pray for that day in Haiti and many days and years ahead will be our sponsored child, sweet little Bethchaida. Four-years-old, living with her father and mother, responsible for making beds and cleaning, father and mother sometimes employed as farmers, 4 children in the family, above average performance in preschool, and regularly attends church activities. A sweet face that captured our attention as we scoured the Compassion website for children waiting for sponsorship.
Bethchaida’s photograph was flagged because she had been waiting 182+ days for a sponsor.
Why it took me this long to find Bethchaida I do not know, but I feel confident that God always knew this was the path.
Little Bethchaida, as we begin this journey together, I pray that you are nourished with food, clothed in protection, bathed in love and care, with the things you need not just to survive, but to thrive. I pray that you discover your creator God and His son Jesus, who died so that you could be saved and live with Him for eternity in the beautiful paradise called Heaven, where there will be feasts and singing and days filled with joy and peace. Where we will dance together, hand in hand, you and me and all of your little friends. Sisters in Our Creator, for eternity.
One more thing I am compelled to note…if you look at the photographs and regularly read posts from Compassion Bloggers, you know that even amidst the poverty, there IS joy, there IS peace, there IS beauty, there IS love, there IS hope for things to come. These things cannot be purchased, but are treasures bestowed on us by God.
Do you feel called to sponsor a child? It’s just $38 a month. There are children waiting for a sponsor at Compassion International.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-40.