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I asked the question and immediately after it was translated I regretted it. His entire countenance fell; his shoulders slumped, his smile faded, and he turned his head to the side in shame and sadness. My heart was wrecked by the breaking of his. I felt my own face flush and I looked over at his mother, who wore a pained smile as she held the smallest of her dozen children. There was a mumbling of interchange, words spoken in a tongue foreign to me but I knew what they meant: I had caused more sadness for this 14 year old boy with my one simple inquiry. I had asked him, “Do you hear from your sponsor?”

As he wiped away tears under the tall structure of his house where we gathered, where we had come by bus and canoe and truck to meet him and his village, our translator told us his story.

“He has had three sponsors and never received a letter.”

“Not one?”

“Not one. And he wonders if he should even write anymore.”

It took everything in me not to leap forward, to envelop him in a hug and weep with him. Still I wonder if I should have.

We told him it was not his fault, that he should feel no shame. My friend said that sometimes sponsors don’t know what to say or are afraid of saying the wrong thing. I told him to tell his sponsor he wants to hear from them. All rang hollow in the wake of his breaking heart.

His heart. His precious heart that longed and hoped for a letter also beats with a murmur. When we were leaving, we prayed for his heart, for his health, and for his family. And he stood there, surrounded by people who love him but what he wanted was the love from across the ocean, on the other end of the letters he faithfully sends.

When I first signed up for this trip it was mainly to see the young girl I sponsor through Compassion International. That day was everything and more, and I know it meant the world to her just as it meant the world to me. But while that meant the world, this boy with the murmuring broken heart changed my world.

It was stressed over and over and over and over again on the trip: the letters from the sponsors mean the most. And I was (and am) the imperfect sponsor who sent letters intermittently and would forget a month or two and question, Does she really care?

But the shame this boy felt, wondering what fault of his causes his friends to gather with excitement each month as the sponsor letters are distributed while he remained ever hopeful but ever cautious that his name would not be called- this answered my question. No letter came for him. Month after month, year after year. One sponsor. Then another. Then another. Silence.

 

The letters are important.

 

There is no knowing why his sponsors did not write, and there is no blame-placing here. His story- and many other children just like him- remind me of my own lacking as a sponsor and what I need to do to do better.

And I see how God works all things for good for those who love Him later that evening when our group reconvenes to discuss the events of the day. We tell the story of this boy and his family and how we longed to do something. And then we discover that through Compassion we can write to a child who does not hear from his or her sponsor. Eagerly I get his information, and I go to my room and pray and cry and thank God for this little boy. The following week I am plunged back into the daily routines and expectations of my life at home but I make sure to place that call and get his name on my list so I can write to him.

I sit at the computer, and the doubts unfold. What if he doesn’t want to write to me? What if he thinks I am doing this because I feel sorry for him? Do I just feel sorry for him? What do I even say?

And I remember: The letters are so important.

I say a prayer for him, for his sponsor, who may have sat in this same position and let the what ifs keep them from writing, and I pray for the words to come. And then I begin:

Dear —-,

 

The letters are so important.

 

*If you are interested in sponsoring a child or learning more about Compassion, please visit http://www.compassion.com *

 

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