Saturday, November 27, 2010

How to Sponsor a Child

Start by visiting the organization's website. Here are the four I currently sponsor with:

Compassion: Compassion International is awesome! Currently, sponsorships are $38/mo. You can also send extra money for birthdays, Christmas, or family gifts. Compassion also offers periodic trips, in which you could visit your sponsored child (which would be awesome!).

World Vision: Sponsorships are $35/mo. WV makes letter writing very easy by sending cute little crafty things that you personalize and send to your child.

Kenya Kids in Need: This started as a Yahoo group who decided to come alongside an amazing man in Kenya, who started a school for kids who were too poor to go to Kenya's "free" schools (Even for "free" schools, kids were required to get uniforms, school supplies, etc.). We have grown tremendously in the last few years. One very wonderful feature of KKIN is the "online store"--You can order gifts (clothing, blankets, school supplies, and more) for your sponsored child, and they will be purchased right there in Kenya, thereby helping the local economy as well.

Children Incorporated: God recently put U.S. kids on my heart, and so I started sponsoring with CI. You can choose from Appalachian, inner city, and Native American. They also have overseas sponsorships. Sponsorship is $28/mo, again with the option to send more for birthdays and such. WIth U.S. kids, you can also send packages, and know that they will get there!

Then what?

Sponsorship really has two components: financial support and letter-writing.

There has been a lot of talk on the web lately regarding the importance of our letters to our sponsored kids. Letter-writing can be tough! The organizations will tell you to "avoid discussing your material possessions." It's amazing, even though I think or myself as a relatively non-material girl, how much of my family "news" involves things: "I got a Droid phone; it's like a little hand-held computer!" "My car just turned 15 years old. I wonder how long it will last... "

I have not always been the greatest at letter-writing to my kids. But after reading some excellent blogs on the topic, I am all fired up about it! Check out my new favorite blog for letter-writing suggestions and lots of heartfelt testimony about sponsorship in general!

As for the financial end of things, this can be very humbling. Ritu from Bangladesh is our best letter writer. We send her some extra money for her birthday each year. The first year, we got a letter explaining that she used her birthday money for a blanket for her mother ("because she didn't have one") and a goat for her family. My kids, who really wanted some new game-playing gadget at the time, were pretty silent after reading that letter.

Why I Sponsor

How I started sponsoring

I actually sponsored a little girl in the Philippines as a kid. I had this idea that my class could each contribute 50 cents a month, and we would have enough to sponsor a child. I discovered quickly that trying to get that 50 cents from everyone each month was a task I loathed--and I wasn't very good at it, either. So I paid for the sponsorship myself, with babysitting money. Every month I was afraid I wouldn't be able to make the $12, but somehow I did--at 50 cents an hour, that was 24 hours of babysitting!

When Christian Children's Fund raised their sponsorship fees to $15, I panicked. I was unfamiliar with the notion of trusting God to provide, and reasoned only that I had barely been able to raise $12/month--$15 was impossible. I wrote to CCF and explained that I had to discontinue my sponsorship. It always felt like an abysmal failure.

Fast forward to about 7 years ago. My daughters and I were sitting in church, watching a Compassion Sunday presentation. That "little voice" in my head said, "You should sponsor." I explained to the little voice that we did not have the money; we could barely pay our bills as it was, etc. etc. Money management has not been my strong point! Then it occurred to me: Often God calls us out of our areas of weakness! Moses the stutterer was called to be the spokesman for a nation; Jonah the coward was called to undertake a dangerous mission in Ninevah; Peter denied Jesus and was asked to start His church. The list goes on. As I debated with God about how I had talent to offer, could even come up with time to offer, but I just didn't have the money, He persisted. My daughter turned to me and said, "I think we should do this."

Fine! We chose Estefani from Nicaragua, since one of my daughters is named Stephanie.

I must say that a heart change was immediate. Getting my Droid phone brought me happiness (I admit it; I love that thing). Signing up to sponsor Estefani brought JOY. If I could only have one of the two, I would absolutely choose Estefani and joy.

And more and more

While waiting anxiously for my first letter from Estefani, I discovered a Yahoo group of child sponsors. I found that these crazy people actually sponsored more than one child! You can do that? Soon I added Ritu in Bangladesh as our second Compassion sponsorship. Many others followed. Somehow, God seems to provide; new jobs come in, just enough to cover my new sponsorships.

What to do when bad things happen to you

Sponsor a new child! We've adopted the approach that, when something bad happens to us, or even in the world, we can fight back by putting something good out there: we sponsor another child. I like to picture Satan, poised to strike, and thinking, "Oh, MAN! If I hit them with this, they'll just add another sponsored child to their list! I HATE it when they do that!"

The rewards

When I urge people to try sponsorship, they always say, "I know, to remind me that there are people who are worse off than me.

No, that's not it at all. You will find that sponsoring brings such JOY. Getting a letter from a child in poverty who says, "I pray for you" is so humbling. Knowing that someone's life is different--better--because of you is mind-boggling. So... try it. Try it. Take a step in faith, and try it. I guarantee you will be glad you did (and Satan will be bummed.).