From Katie: Today I'm excited to head to Guatemala (one of my favorite countries) with Compassion (one of my favorite ministries) through the eyes of Ashley (one of my favorite bloggers whom I've never actually met in real life). Sit back, relax, and cheer as you see how God worked!
I didn’t think I had the kind of courage it takes to pack my passport and hop on a plane to a foreign country without any friends or family until my friend Brian died. He’d been doing work with a humanitarian aid organization in Afghanistan when he was killed on August 5, 2010. Brian and I had worked as camp counselors together for two years and had become good friends. His death shook my world to the core. I wasn’t sure how to cope, so I prayed. Often.
I was already sponsoring two little girls through Compassion International but had felt for many months that I needed to sponsor another child. In the midst of the grief surrounding my friend’s death, I decided to start searching for another child to add to my Compassion family. It took a few weeks, but I finally found a very handsome little boy in Guatemala. He had a shy smile and sparkling eyes but those were not the first things that caught my eye. That little boy shared both his first and middle names with my friend.
A few months later I found out Compassion was hosting a sponsor tour to Guatemala. I’d never been out of the country before. I couldn’t say much more than “¡Qué pasa, calabaza!” in Spanish. And my heart pounded every time I thought about trying to go through customs. But in a moment of insanity or incredible courage (I’ll never know which), I signed up for the trip and paid the deposit.
I shouldn’t have been afraid. I should have known God would take care of me. But me of little faith, I was afraid. Very, very afraid. As the trip inched closer and closer, I started to notice strange “coincidences.” I nearly unraveled in gratitude when I received the schedule for the tour and saw that the day I would meet my little Brian was the one year anniversary of my friend’s death.
I set out on the trip at the end of July, passport and antacids in hand. We started out the trip with an outing to a Compassion church partner. The kids led us to our seats one by one and sang familiar songs in Spanish. They showed us their classrooms and drawings and letters from their sponsors, then we ate dinner together. I’m from the South where hospitality is an art form, but the kids in this project took it to a whole new level. I didn’t feel like a stranger in the country of Guatemala. I felt like family.
The week continued, and I only fell more and more in love with the people I met, with the others on my tour, and with Compassion. We witnessed children carrying the world on their shoulders, setting it all aside as they walked through the doors of the Compassion project and saw their friends. We met young adults with accounting and architecture degrees all because of God’s work in their lives through Compassion and letters of encouragement from their sponsors. I particularly enjoyed walking through the office there in Guatemala City, getting to know the staff, and hearing about the inner workings of Compassion in Guatemala.
On our last day there, we met our sponsored children. I lined up and waited to meet Brian, feeling more nervous than I’d felt on my wedding day. I worried Brian wouldn’t like me or that he’d be upset because I hadn’t written him enough letters. Suddenly my name was called, I was propelled into a large room, and a little boy rocketed himself into my arms. I saw his dark brown hair, falling into his eyes in the same way my friend’s hair had fallen. I choked on tears and a smile.
That little boy loved me. And God loved me enough to take my grief and turn it into something beautiful through something as simple as sponsorship. When I first started my journey as a Compassion sponsor, I kind of guessed how my letters and $38 a month could change the life of a child. But I never dreamed that God would use that same sponsorship to pour compassion and joy into my own painful circumstance. All through a little boy with my friend’s name and haircut.