Giving and Receiving Through Child Sponsorship


Yesterday was incredible. I sensed God everywhere and was 100% convinced I’d tasted a bit of heaven on earth. At the end of the day, I was certain I had three or four blog posts worth of stories to share about Compassion International and all the amazing work they’re doing with children here in the Dominican Republic.

But friends, yesterday was also crazy long. We didn’t get to writing until 10:30 p.m. I hadn’t taken my usual nightly pre-writing shower, and once I did start writing, I had a hard time getting out of my head and into the groove of my true heart. I stayed up drafting the post until 3:37 a.m., woke up at 7:00 a.m. to get ready for the day, began editing at 8:00 a.m., and by 8:30 a.m., I was in absolute tears. The post needed a major rewrite. There was no way it was going to get published before we needed to leave for the day.

I walked out to the empty courtyard and sat myself on a white chaise lounge. Tears streamed uncontrollably down my face as I typed a Facebook message to my blog readers explaining why there was no promised post for the day. I was a mess. An utter disaster. There was no hiding it from anyone.

This was NOT what I had planned.

This was NOT the way I wanted this to happen.

This trip was my dream come true, God’s dream for his girl. And in my mind? I was messing it all up.

But I have to admit, from the second I sat down on that chaise lounge, God began speaking to me. Sun streamed down on my face all 45 minutes I typed, even as tears streamed abundantly.

I finished the Facebook post and pressed publish. There was just enough time for me to run up to the room and grab my stuff. Today we were going on the bus to visit our sponsored children. I was determined to enjoy every moment of the day with my sweet sponsored child, Meranyelis, and not let this get the best of me.

All the bags I’d packed for Meranyelis were sitting on the bed. Three plus my own backpack made for quite a heavy load. I couldn’t help but believe these bags represented the loads I’ve packed for myself, the pressure I’ve placed on myself to be enough, to do enough, to perform enough. It was almost ridiculous how heavy the bags were. Tears continued streaming from my eyes, even as I closed the hotel room door.

I passed an employee as I walked down the hall to the elevator. “Buenos Dias,” he said, as he smiled and nodded gently.

In the elevator, I looked down at the (in)courage bag I brought filled with gifts for Meranyelis’ family. Words screamed like lightning to my soul. Redeemed. Just as you are. Jesus. Courage.

When I got downstairs, I tucked myself away in a little nook where nobody could see me, broke out my “A Penny for Your Thoughts” journal, and began scribbling the words that were swarming in my brain. Amanda, another sponsor on the trip, approached and asked how I was doing. “Not good, I’m having a really hard morning,” I said. She smiled and gave grace in her usual loving self.

I got on the bus and fellow writer, Kris Camealy, was there holding a seat for me. She knew something was horribly wrong. Yeah, I told you there was no hiding this from anyone. Kris proceeded to speak words of encouragement over me. She told it to me straight as I cried and stared at the white leather seat with gray stitching in front of us. Her words rung true and refined my soul.

“You don’t fit.”

“Your 5-point method isn’t going to work anymore.”

“You have no idea what you’re doing.”

Sometimes you need a friend to remind you what’s true about you. It sounds brutal, but Kris was right on all counts. I have no idea what I’m doing, and it’s okay. Kris promised me it’s okay. She told me she’s excited for me and all God’s about to do in my life.


So there I was, in line, about to meet my sponsored child. I’d gathered myself enough to be presentable, to be ready for this life-changing experience of meeting my sponsored child, Meranyelis. But when I broke out my camera and tried to take a picture, I realized I’d forgotten the charged battery in the hotel room. If you know me at all, you know this is a worst nightmare scenario. Amy with no camera on the day she’s meeting her sponsored child? Horrible. Terrible. No good. Very bad day. Seriously. I had no other choice than to ask for help. Thank the Lord, Lairsz, a photographer, is on the trip and committed to taking pictures for me.

At this point, it was clear. God was trying to work something out in me today, whether I liked it or not. This planning, this preparing, this scheduling, working, trying hard and producing every aspect of my life so it was good and right and perfect? It wasn’t going to work anymore. God wanted me to surrender it all.

It was time to meet Meranyelis, the highlight of this sponsor trip! She was beautiful, stunning in fact. But at first she looked scared out of her mind, like me.



We sat down at a picnic table and after some conversation, Meranyelis presented me with a gift. She’d created a beautiful picture of a home. At the bottom of the bag were two bracelets she’d made, one for each of us, both the same. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” I said.

The girl led me from then on out. From the second I laid eyes on her sponsored child picture on the Compassion International website, I knew she was a leader in the making.



Meranyelis wanted us to play hand games and sing songs. I didn’t know how to do these things. I’m not good with my hands like that. But I sang the songs and played the hand games anyway. Because I love that little sponsored girl, and the repetitive movements were soothing to my soul.

Then she wanted to go swimming. The water was freezing cold. We were shivering, but stayed in the deep anyway. Because I love that little sponsored girl, and the cleansing properties of the water were soothing to my soul.

Meranyelis found a volleyball, another one of my worst nightmares. I hate volleyball. With all my life, like the worst ever. But I swallowed every bit of my third grade self’s pride and played anyway. Because I love that little sponsored girl, and healing the past’s hurts was soothing to my soul.

There was rhythm to the tossing of the volleyball back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. As I watched my sponsored child throw the ball, then catch it, the words give and receive washed over me.

Give and receive.

Give and receive.

Give and receive.


I50A5165We agreed it was time for a snack, so we got out of the pool and I grabbed my wallet. Before we left, I asked Meranyelis’ tutor if she wanted anything. “No,” she said. “I’m fine.” At the snack bar, I asked the translator if she wanted anything. “No,” she said. “I’m fine.” We purchased two small bags of Doritos for who knows how many pesos. I only had a $20 bill, nothing smaller. The snack bar employee had no change to give, so another male translator overheard and paid our bill in full. “Gracias,” I said with humility.

Give and receive.

Meranyelis, the translator and I proceeded to walk to a quaint little treehouse on the far side of the property. Meranyelis took the lead as we climbed the rounded staircase. There we sat, just the three of us in a tiny wooden treehouse all alone. It was completely quiet. At that point, we’d lost the photographer so there was no option to photograph this holy moment. It was just God and the three of us in the tree.

We talked about family, friends and girl things like our favorite colors up there in that treehouse. Meranyelis and I ate Doritos and licked our orange fingertips as we chatted about small things, everyday things, holy important things. We let the time slip away as it may. Nobody knew we were there. In fact, when we finally decided to wander our way back towards the group, we discovered everybody had been looking for us. It was time for lunch.

“We lost track of time,” seemed the only response.

We ate. We found the photographer. And we went back to that treehouse because I’d promised sweet Meranyelis a picture in that place so we could remember.



When it was time for us to give our sponsored children the gifts we’d brought from home, I went back to the bus and grabbed those three heavy bags for Meranyelis. I was honored to give her the gifts, of course. But something had changed in me. I didn’t want to spend time showing Meranyelis every gift I brought her from the USA. I wanted to spend more time with her. I wanted to spend more time giving and receiving, together.

So I showed her bag one and explained, this is for your family. I showed her bag two, the most important one, the bag with purses my daughter and I packed for Meranyelis and her friends. Then, I showed her a handful of things from bag three before I decided I’d leave the rest up to Meranyelis to discover at home, in secret, as a sweet surprise from me.

I didn’t need to show my sponsored child how much I loved her with gifts. I had already shown her how much I loved her with myself.

Give and receive.

Give and receive.

Give and receive.

Will you sponsor a child through Compassion International? You’ll give life and hope to a child living in extreme poverty. But you’ll also discover the hidden treasure of child sponsorship. You’ll learn to receive. Click here to be connected to Compassion International’s website where you can view hundreds of beautiful children waiting for a sponsor. Give and receive. Today.


This blog post is part of a three-week series I’m writing about my journey to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. Click here to read all the posts from my series.

Be sure to check out my fellow travelers’ blog posts from yesterday’s adventures. Sandra Heska King shared “Why We Can’t Stay in Our Corner of the Forest.” And Kris Camealy wrote a thought-provoking post titled “One Way To Build a Future.”

If your heart has been touched by the words in this blog post, would you be so kind as to share it with friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, and via email? I would be oh so grateful. The more we spread the word about Compassion and the great work they’re doing, the more sweet children will be released from extreme poverty. Thank you, friends!





  1. Hannah Hinojosa says:

    What an amazing visit. Your girl is precious.

  2. Tiffany Femling says:

    Great to see the kids who are sponsored! Nice to see more pictures of you in action too!!!

  3. Janelle Khanyisile Keith says:

    Beautifully captured full of such holy moments a s we experience God, when we come as we are and dance in God’s grace.

  4. Bruce Femling says:

    My laptop isn’t working, so I am using Bruce’s phone to write this message. I knew you would crash at some point with no sleep and with all the emotions of dealing with the things at home before you left. Try to relax and leave your worries with God. I’m wishing you a great day today!! Do you get to spend another day with your sponsored child or was yesterday the only day with her? Looking forward to reading your post again tomorrow. Remember: This is the day that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it! Love you so much! XO Mom

  5. Barbara Matalamaki says:

    All the best with your journey! As our priest talked about a similar program on Sunday I thought of you. One thing he said was “you are inviting these people onto the bus of life.” The great thing, Amy, is that you are along for the ride. Good luck

  6. Jaimie West Bowman says:

    I love it Amy!! Maybe you forgetting your camera battery was a gift from God – a way for you to fully experience what was happening right in front of you. These pictures are amazing. The whole trip sounds amazing and I love what God is doing in and through you, and that you are open and sharing it with all of us. Thank you!!

  7. Vicki Thunstrom says:

    This is just perfect Amy. What an amazing blessing! Thank you for sharing the details of your day.

  8. Such a beautiful post!! There is so much we want to give to our sponsored children, but you summed it up so perfectly. They really just want time with us. And I believe that some moments don’t need to be photographed. They will be forever etched into our hearts and our memories. I pray you continue to be open to God’s plan for the rest of your trip!

    • Amy says:

      So agree with what you’ve said here, Yvonne. Particularly about not needing every moment to be photographed. Some moments can’t be photographed. They’re just too special and too holy. But they are etched in our memories forever. I most definitely had some of those moments on this trip. And thank you for your faithful reading and prayer during the trip. I’m so grateful.

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