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.



“Mama,” Jane asks at bedtime as we snuggle on the sofa, “has anyone sponsored Rebeca yet?”

I shake my head. “No, sweetheart.”

She leans her head against my arm. “She’s so cute. You should have described her in your post. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you to describe her. Someone would have sponsored her if they knew how cute she is.”

I smile at her innocence.

“I wish we could sponsor her,” Jane says.

“Me, too,” I say. And I do. If I could sponsor these three children, I wouldn’t have to write blog posts about them. I wouldn’t have to feel the responsibility of finding sponsors for them. I wouldn’t have to face the likelihood that I will fail.

I don’t like failing. I arrange my life very carefully so that I don’t fail very often, or if I do, I fail privately. This putting myself out here and asking for something—scares me. I’d rather save the world single-handedly, thank you very much…which is probably why God prompted me to sign up for Release3 in the first place, because it requires humility, it means I must ask, and it means I must risk failing.

But this is not about me (however good I am at making it seem so). It’s about these three children that Compassion has given me to find sponsors for. No one else can sponsor them while they’re in my care. I feel a little sick about that. Who am I to hold these children’s futures in my hands, even for a moment, let alone a month?

Last week I introduced you to Rebeca, a 7-year-old girl from Peru. Today I want to introduce you to Kanti. Like my Jane, she’ll be nine next month. Unlike my Jane, she lives in India. In her photo she looks sad and a little scared.

She lives with her parents in a dirt-floored, mud-walled, cement-roofed house in a hillside community where her father works, when he can find work, as a day-laborer. He makes about $45 a month to support his wife and child. The community needs clean drinking water and improved sanitation—Kala-azar, a parasitic disease, is common in their community.

What concerns me most, though, is that Kanti lives in a place where she is at high risk of being trafficked. I have read the stories of girls trafficked into the sex trade, and they are horrifying. Sponsorship reduces this risk because sponsored children participate in the activities of the local child development center, where they are known and loved, where their absence will be quickly noticed and reported, and where they learn to recognize traffickers so they won’t be tricked into a life of slavery.

Will you prayerfully consider sponsoring Kanti? Your financial support and, even more, your prayers and friendship will provide a much-needed buffer between this young girl and the people who would exploit her.

“Mama,” Jane says as she snuggles against my side, “Kanti looks sad.”

“Yes,” I say. “How do you think she’d look if she smiled?”

“Oh Mama,” Jane’s own smile radiates joy, “I think she’d be beautiful.”




Dear Friends,

As many of you know, our family sponsors a child through Compassion International. Irsy lives in Guatemala, but she also lives in our hearts and has for the past five years. We pray for her each day, and for her family, particularly her grandmother, for whom she almost always asks us to pray when she writes.

We’ve also begun praying for a new road in her village, which she told us in a recent letter is the first thing she would change if she could. When I wrote to ask her what she disliked about the road, she wrote back and said it is a dirt road, full of holes; she would like to pave it.

We began sponsoring Irsy when she was four. Now she is nine. We’ve watched her letters change from dictations with scribbles to full-blown epistles that she writes and illustrates herself.

Because of Irsy, our family has a connection to Guatemala. We care about what happens there. I’ve even written a letter to our Secretary of State about Guatemalan affairs!

Last month Compassion wrote to me, as a long-time sponsor, and asked me to participate in Release3, a campaign to find sponsors for three children. I wanted to say no. But a little voice nudged me to step out in faith and say yes. So I did.

Last week I received a packet in the mail with the photos of three children who need sponsors. I cried when I got it. These children are beautiful.

Let me introduce you to one of them. Her name is Rebeca. She is seven years old, and she lives in a mountainous region of Peru (I’m not allowed to say which one) with her mother and father and sister. Their house has walls of mud, a dirt floor, and a tin roof. Her father sometimes works as a day-laborer on area farms, where he earns an average of $100 a month (a month, friends!); her mother stays home to care for Rebeca and her sister, who go to the local primary school, and to make her husband’s earnings stretch as far as they can.

In Rebeca’s village, treatable or preventable diseases are common: pneumonia, diarrhea, anemia, tuberculosis. Poor dental hygiene and lack of dental care lead to cavities and gum disease. Poor harvests lead to malnutrition. Unclean water leads to parasites.

Compassion works alongside a local church and community center to provide sponsored children with medical and dental check-ups, nutritious food, tutoring, music and acting classes, computer workshops, and counseling. They also celebrate special occasions (like birthdays and feast days) with the children and their families. Parents of sponsored children receive nutrition education and pastoral counseling at the center.

Such things aren’t free. It costs money to pay tutors and counselors, to provide food and medical care, to offer special classes in music and drama and computing. That’s where sponsorship comes in.

For $38 a month, Rebeca could receive all these benefits from the center in her community. For $38 a month, she could get at least one solid, nutritious meal each day, regular medical and dental check-ups, tutoring help with reading and math, and the chance to participate in music and acting classes. For $38 a month, she will know that she will never go to bed hungry; that if she gets sick, she’ll be able to see a doctor; that if she’s struggling in school, she’ll be able to get one-on-one help.

Friends, would you prayerfully consider sponsoring Rebeca?

My kids and I are praying for God to raise up someone to sponsor this beautiful child (and the two other beautiful children whose photos are sitting on my desk). If after you’ve prayed, you decide that you are that someone, please shoot me an email. I’ll send you everything you need to become Rebeca’s sponsor.


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