When I returned from my first ministry trip to Kenya, I felt despondent; besides the culture shock of being back home and becoming reacquainted with my usual creature comforts and excess, I missed the lovely people I had met, and I had the sense that the experience’s impact on me might be fleeting if I didn’t take some sort of action.
My strategy for staying connected to Kenya, and keeping it on my mind and heart, was contacting Compassion International and seeing if there was a child in need in one of the areas I’d visited. I began sponsoring a tall, serious-looking 14-year-old orphan named Betty. I visited her project and her home during my next visit to Kenya two years later. (I blogged about this experience in a guest post over at Compassion.com today.)
After this second trip and meeting Betty (who, as it turns out, wasn’t as serious as in that sponsorship photo!), my outlook was much different. In my first days back in the States I don’t remember sulking over my access to unlimited clean water or guilt-moping over my overflowing refrigerator drawers.
Rather, a particular prayer need demanded my attention: Betty, at this point almost 16 years old, was six months pregnant—an especially precarious position for a young woman in a crowded and impoverished community.
I must admit I was a little fearful for the outcome. As cliché as it might sound, for someone like Betty, education is key to ensuring a solid future, and I was worried she’d leave school. Then there was her physical safety and health. I prayed for her, I wrote for her, and I waited. I wanted to do more, but my options were limited.
Her first letter post-visit arrived several months later and was a delightful departure from the letters we’d exchanged in the past. In the two-page missive she asked about my friends and family members by name—we’d moved beyond the standard “What’s your favorite color?” and “Here’s my favorite Bible verse” fare.
Though she was happy in reflecting on our recent visit, she was seemed uneasy about the upcoming months, including her baby’s birth and how life would look for her afterward.
The arrival date of the letter was after her due date, so I was frustrated by the mail delay and, again, set to worrying about her. Then I realized that wasn’t doing much good, so I set back to (mostly) patient waiting. I wrote another letter to buoy her spirits and remind her of God’s presence during this challenging time.
Months passed with no word from Betty. One snowy winter evening I called Compassion to see if they had any news, recognizing that by then my Kenyan sister and her infant were in the midst of hot days and frigid nights. The Compassion reps didn’t have any updates on her or the baby’s status, but they urged me to keep writing, to keep encouraging her to return to school and perform well, and to keep praying.
So I did. And finally, just before spring, I received a Compassion envelope with a postmark from Kenya. I tore into the envelope right there at the mailbox and began reading it as I bolted into the house. Scanning the first few sentences for news of her well-being, I paused in astonishment at the following words:
“I am fine with my health too as well with my baby. My family is fine … they are supporting both me and Little Stephanie.”
I had to sit down right there at the kitchen table and read it again. (Seriously. Wouldn’t you have?) Her daughter … who shares my name … is well, and so is she!
Betty had also returned to school, calling it a miracle. She continued on, her words showing happiness and relief.
“Thank you for writing and encouraging me in troubled times. Psalms 27:1 ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strongest hold of my life; whom shall I be afraid of?’ God bless you.”
Now, nearly four years after that first decision to stay connected to Kenya, I’m linked to this special place in a way that I won’t soon forget.
Have you been moved by sponsorship and/or visiting your sponsored child?