Hello, I'm your sponsor

Hello, I’m your sponsor.

Have you ever said that? Maybe you’ve given money for Little League trips or band trips or missions trips for a teenager who mailed you a letter or knocked on your door. Maybe you volunteer at a boys’ or girls’ club. Maybe you attend AA. Maybe you’re a mentor, and you’re meeting for lunches and walking through life with someone who’s absolutely dependent on your support. Maybe you’ve done it all and more.

I belong to Compassion International’s child sponsorship program. By the end of this week, I will introduce myself to the first child I ever sponsored. My meager $32/month has sent him to school, put better food on his table, given his mother support, mentored him in after-school programs, taught him a trade, cared for his medical needs, and landed him in church. For less money than most people spend on Starbucks every month, a boy in Ethiopia has managed to survive abject poverty and dream of a life different from his parents’ for the last 15 years.

He is now a man. I tried to visit him last year (I wrote about it in another blog), but his country suffered a political upheaval and the State Department deemed travel unwise. It felt like my heart had been ripped from my body.

Lord willing, this Saturday, I will wrap my arms around him for the first–and perhaps only–time.

I expect we will both weep like babies.

When you sign up to sponsor someone, whether it’s donating money to a fund-raising project or coming alongside a struggling teen in an organized mentorship program, you expect to give up time, energy, and money. You worry about the commitment and the necessity of it. You hope to gain perspective about your blessed life and about yourself as a human being.

You hope it will make you feel better about everything.

(You don’t say that, of course, but it’s true.) Even with the best of motives, we are all self-serving. Even charity serves us.

Scientific evidence to support that charity and philanthropy improves a person’s emotional and physical health. It’s always a win/win scenario. Sponsorship changes the sponsored person, but it also changes the sponsor.

I sponsor children because I want to give underprivileged kids a chance in life. I want to rescue them, and sponsorship is the easiest and simplest way to accomplish that (even writing that, I can sense my own self-interest. Ugh!). But I don’t think I ever anticipated falling in love with a person I’ve never met.

Our letters and pictures back and forth lack variety. We talk of weather, soccer, school, and church. He says Thank you and I say We love you. We write nearly all the same things the following month. What we both feel deeply is lost in the translation. The depth of the bond between us can’t be expressed with pencil, paper, and a translator. But I know it’s there for me, and I surmise it’s there for him, also.

That’s why I can’t wait to meet him.

Hello, I’m your sponsor. Shoot, I’m your other mother. And I love you with a longing that hurts.

That’s the joy of sponsorship.