After picking up two new Correspondence children through Compassion, I decided to call to ask about the sponsorship history for each child. A child’s heart can only be broken so many times and, each time, it needs more time to heal than the last. I needed to know what I was up against before I put pen to paper.
“Thank you for calling Compassion International. This is Datu*; how may I help you?”
“Good morning, Datu,” I began. I gave him my sponsorship number and address for verification purposes, before telling him why I was calling.
While Datu waited for his computer to update as we worked our way through the histories of each child, I became aware of the randomness of it all. One child waits nearly a year for sponsorship, while another may only wait days. One receives regular correspondence, while another receives nothing in a six year sponsorship. Imagine! Six years of thinking she is not doing enough in God’s eyes to warrant a simple letter. Six years of wondering why her sponsor does not love her.
It made my stomach turn and through the distance I heard Datu say something, but the only word I caught was “Philippines.” As I don’t have any children in the Philippines, I assumed I had misheard (or that he was speaking with someone else at the center) and asked him another question about one of my sponsored children.
Imagine! Six years of thinking she is not doing enough in God’s eyes to warrant a simple letter. Six years of wondering why her sponsor does not love her.
A few minutes later, he said it again. This time, I did hear the sentence, but had to ask him to repeat it.
“I said,” he replied, “I was first sponsored as a little boy, when I lived in the Philippines.”
My breath stopped. Life stopped. There was nothing else at that moment except the thick, unspoken bond between sponsor and sponsored child. It was so real, it actually vibrated. The fact that this was not my child (now a grown man) and that I was not his sponsor, didn’t matter to either of us.
“Did you hear me?” he asked.
“Yes,” I managed to choke out, but my throat had constricted and I have no idea how the word sounded in his ear.
For the next few minutes we stayed like that, humming with this new-found electrical current between us, as I asked questions and he answered.
There was nothing else in that moment except the thick, unspoken bond between sponsor and sponsored child.
As his excitement overtook him, Datu began to answer more questions than I asked. I sat back and beamed while he listed the names of the people who had sponsored him and where they each had lived. He knew their families. He knew their neighborhoods. He knew their lives, because he had been welcomed into them through their letters.
As I listened, I became filled with joy at how much this energetic young man had triumphed over adversity. Unexpectedly, I was also filled with pride, as if he were one of my own sponsored children. I had not contributed financially to his sponsorship but, as Compassion strongly discourages contact between sponsors and children once they leave the program (due to privacy and safety concerns), I began to realize that I was offering him something he had not yet had: closure. He was letting me, a sponsor – his sponsors – know that he was okay, that he had made them proud.
When he stopped to take a breath, I asked, “What was the part that meant the most to you?”
“Oh, definitely that relationship. The letters, telling me how proud they were of me, and extending God’s love and their love, and encouraging me to do good in my studies.”
I had not contributed financially to his sponsorship, but I knew I was offering him something he had not yet had: closure.
At this, he noticed the computer in front of him, and gave me the information he had been waiting for. Our business conducted, we prepared to part ways. Before we disconnected, however, his voice took on its earlier, excited, tone. “And do you want to know the best part, Mr. Dee? Do you want to know the best part?”
As he repeated his question, I was instantly reminded of a small child tugging at his parent’s pant leg, seeking approval and attention: “Can I do this? Can I?”
“Absolutely,” I said.
“Through those sponsors and their letters, my family came to know Jesus Christ. My family came to know Jesus,” he repeated, “and they attend ministry near their home. Is that not wonderful news?”
What other answer could there possibly be? “That, Datu,” I said, “is wonderful, incredible, blessed news!”
I could feel his smile through the many miles that separated us. I wanted to add, “I’m proud of you,” but was afraid my emotions might be pushing me too far, so I kept silent.
We said our goodbyes and prayed a small blessing for God to watch over both of us but, for me, my goodbye was not permanent. This young man remains in my heart as if he were my own, and I will never be able to shed him.
Letters matter. The relationship matters. These children matter, and they need to be told that, and you can never tell them enough.
Datu, if you should ever happen across this inconsequential little post in the vast ether we call the internet, and if you should recognize yourself in it, I just want you to know:
I am so very proud of you.