From 1993 to 2005, we sponsored a little girl from Ecuador named Gabriela, through Compassion International. This is an organization that helps low-income children by providing vitamins, health care and education, including Christian teaching. They are supported by donations from people like you and me.
We'd always wanted to do something like this, but were wary of it, not knowing how the money was actually being spent. After much research, we decided that we'd give our money through Compassion. We've not been sorry.
Gabriela was our first experience with this, and we were her only sponsor until she graduated from high school. At that time, she was no longer eligible to be sponsored. The only regret I have is that we are not permitted to have personal contact with any child we sponsor, once they graduate from the program. We do still pray for her though.
The highlight of our years of sponsorship came in 1994, when I was able to meet Gabriela in person. We'd had an exchange student from Ecuador living with us during the 1993-94 school year and in December after she'd returned home the previous June, I flew to Quito, the capital city where she lived. I enjoyed nearly three weeks there with Karina and her family and I'm indebted to them for making it possible for me to meet Gabriela.
The drive from Quito to Guayaquil, where Gabriela lived, was a long one, taking us eight hours to make the trip. While it's not so far in miles, much of the terrain was through the Andes mountains, making for some slow going. We met Gabriela in the lobby of a hotel in downtown Guayaquil and it was tearfully happy meeting. Small for her age, I scooped her up in my arms and we gave each other a big hug. She spoke no English at all, but I had brushed up on my Spanish enough that we were able to communicate. The Compassion representative was also there to help when translation was necessary.
No translation was needed, however, when Gabriela and I discovered that we knew one of the same songs. With tears streaming down my face, Gabriela sat on my lap and we sang "Jesus Loves Me" in unison - she in Spanish and me in English. I really can't describe how that felt to be united with her in that way.
It was a beautiful day and we walked through the park, marveling at the giant iguanas and the gorgeous flowers. There was an amusement park nearby where Gabriela was happy to ride a few rides before we took a taxi to her house. There, I was amazed at the living conditions and how very little in the way of material things her family had. Yet, here was a happy little girl who was loved very much. She had all she really needed. I learned a lot that day.
We have a new child to sponsor now. Maria Belen is also from Ecuador and perhaps I'll have the opportunity to meet her as well. Karina and her husband still live in Quito and I hope to be able to visit them there in the next few years.
A new letter arrived yesterday from Belen's mother. Belen isn't old enough to write them herself, so her mother does it for her. It was the same with Gabriela until she was able to write to us herself. The letters always come translated, although most of the time I'm able to understand them myself. My spoken Spanish, however, has deteriorated to the point of being useless, unfortunately.
We keep Belen's picture on the front of our refrigerator so that we see it daily and are reminded of the responsibility we have towards her. Not only will she benefit from our financial help, but God hears our prayers for her. We believe He is blessing her through our sharing what God has given to us.
Visit Compassion International.