Last Tuesday, during our weekly Skype chat, I told Susan that it felt like too much responsibility. I felt burdened by the obligation I had placed myself under. “These kids might have gotten sponsors by now if I hadn’t promised to do this,” I told her. “But now they’ve been taken off the main list of children who can be sponsored and it’s up to me to find sponsors for them.”
“No, it’s not,” Susan said. “It’s up to you to write blog posts about them and let people know there are three children who need sponsors. It’s up to God to find sponsors for them.”
Right. I knew that, of course. In fact, that was my original deal with God: I would write the blog posts, and He would find the sponsors. But I had forgotten that. I had gone all myopic and imagined myself to be Atlas again, carrying the weight of the world—or at least the weight of these three children—on my shoulders. You can read it in my post last week, written before my conversation with Susan. Fear. And pride.
“Kimberlee,” Susan said, “where is the joy?”
The joy? I’d forgotten about joy, too. But it’s why I sponsor Irsy—because it brings me so much joy to know that I am doing this one small good thing in the world, loving a little girl I’ve never met, sending letters to Guatemala and receiving letters in return, choosing stickers at the toy store that I think she might like and sending those, too. Why? For joy.
But I’d been writing from fear and pride. Fear that you’d say no or ignore me or think I’m weird or holier-than-thou or whatever it is I’m afraid of. Pride that my words would somehow touch your heart and make you decide to sponsor a child. As if it were all up to me. As if it were about me at all. I shuddered at the realization.
“There’s too much me in me,” I told Susan, “too much me in the words I write. It’s why I haven’t written much lately.”
“And maybe that’s why God called you to say yes to Release 3, Kimberlee. Maybe this is about you, about God kicking you in the pants so you’ll write again. He knows you never miss a deadline.”
I had to laugh. At myself. At the irony. And then I found myself laughing for the sheer joy of laughter. And suddenly I wasn’t taking myself quite so seriously any longer.
And it’s in that spirit that I introduce you to Ishmael. A spirit of humility and freedom and laughter and joy…because sponsoring a child is a gift. It’s a gift to that child, but it’s also a gift to you.
Ishmael is 14 years old. He lives in Ghana with his father and grandmother. He is responsible for carrying water, washing clothes, and helping his grandmother in the kitchen preparing the maize, beans, cassava, and goat that are the staples of their diet. His father sometimes finds farm work and usually brings home about $20 a month (!!) to support his son and mother.
The family’s home, like most homes in their small village, has a cement floor, brick walls, and a corrugated iron roof. Ghana, like much of Africa, has been deeply affected by AIDS, and the area where Ishmael lives has a particularly high rate of infection. Other common health problems in Ishmael’s community include malaria and malnutrition.
Compassion’s Child Development Center near Ishmael’s village provides HIV/AIDS awareness programs for parents as well as child protection training and hygiene and nutrition education. The children receive vaccinations, health screenings, tuition (school costs money, as do uniforms), and vocational counseling. They also receive the care and love of tutors who organize games and field trips, help them with school work, and remind them in word and deed how much God loves them. Also, they sing. This CDC has a choir. I love that.
As a 14 year old, Ishmael is in special need of a sponsor. Older kids often have to wait months or even years for a sponsor. Most people want to sponsor the little kids, who are super cute and tug at your heartstrings with their happy, sad, or scared faces. Ishmael is not super cute. He is not cute at all. He is tall and lanky and has a look of fierce pride on his face. If I met him on the street, I’d feel intimidated. But underneath that fierce look, he’s still a boy, a boy whose life has been rough, a boy who needs a sponsor, an ally, a friend.
If you would like to sponsor Ishmael, please let me know.
As you ponder whether child sponsorship is for you, let me remind you of something my friend Lanier recently reminded me: “Say No until you can say Yes with freedom and joy.”
Joy. There’s that word again. For me, child sponsorship is joy. And that’s why I agreed to participate in Release 3 in the first place—because I want to share that joy with others.
Here’s hoping you’ll say Yes with freedom and joy.