Wazoeli is 18 and has a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro from his home in Tanzania. His father is in jail and his mother works 3 jobs to support him and to pay his way to boarding school so he can have a future in a land where there is not enough water and there is way too much hunger. Wazoeli and I are connected because of Compassion International. I just received a letter thanking me for a financial gift for his birthday. He bought a book.
Aibie (age 11) sends me lovely colorful pictures of the flowers and trees of the Philippines. She also thanks me for her birthday gift, her first ever gift. It appears her impish grin masks some problems. She asks me to pray for “strength for her body.” Of the 368 households in her community, 99 are squatters and 153 live in makeshift housing. 155 families have no sanitary toilets and 101 have no direct access to potable water.
Yair (Ecuador) and Pablo (Colombia) are in their early teens. They love school and get good grades. But both are surrounded by poverty and crime and the threat of gangs. They give me Bible verses in their letters and send hugs and kisses.
Marina (age 10) lives in Burkina Faso, where the life expectancy is 54 and the population below the poverty line is 46%. Malnutrition, unemployment, child trafficking, malaria, and HIV/Aids surround her. Because of Compassion she has a place to go for spiritual intellectual, socio-emotional and physical development – and meals.
Manisha (who is also 10) lives in an impoverished area in the rural plains of eastern India in a small structure of bamboo, mud, and thatch. Threats to her are chronic malnutrition, hepatitis, bacterial diarrhea. But Manish loves caring for her animals and jumping rope.
Kassu is a beautiful eight-year-old boy from Ethiopia where only 63% of elementary school children and 11 percent of secondary-age children attend school. Few homes in his area have electricity, running water, or toilet facilities. But he attends a Compassion Child Development Center with a resource room full of books.
I just finished writing letters to all these children. I sit in my modest but comfortable home full of food and electronics and books, with clean water and toilet facilities and electricity, and I wonder what to say to these sweet children of God who live in desperate circumstances. I wonder what their reaction will be when they get these letters. What do they think of me, their gray-haired sponsor from America, where, it seems, everything is wonderful? How do I encourage them to keep trying, to keep studying, to keep believing in a world of chaos and danger and fear.
I tell them that God delights in them, that God has a plan for their lives, that God will protect them, that they can rise above and go beyond. I tell them that I love them, that they are blessings to me, that I am so proud of them. I thank them for their prayers for me and my health, and tell them that I am praying for them and theirs.
When I childishly complain about the things that seem unfair in my life, I remember their lives – where everything truly is unfair. When I am fearful, I remember their bravery. And I call upon God and their Christian Compassion teachers to reassure them that they live in the unshakable kingdom and that no matter what happens to them they are safe.