Three Surprises Meeting My Sponsored Child

02/03/14

I work for Children of the Nations, so I thought I knew what to expect when I went to meet my sponsored child. I've answered tons of questions about child sponsorship, written countless appeals for letters and love, and put together several stories about sponsors meeting their kids. But when the day came for me to actually meet my sponsored child, there were a lot of things that surprised me. Here's what I wasn't expecting:

 
Meeting my child was amazing, but it wasn't exactly what I expected!
                                      Meeting my child was amazing, but it wasn't exactly what I expected!
 
1) Meeting their sponsor turns the most confident, outgoing child into a giggling, blushing fool. 
 
I first locked eyes with my girl the night we arrived. All the children were gathered at the school for our welcome ceremony, and she was sitting in the second row. I immediately recognized her from the photos, and my face broke into a huge grin. She smiled back, then immediately hid her face. 
 
For the next few weeks, I spent as much time with her as I could, but it seemed the second she was with me, she turned ridiculously shy. The other children teased her constantly about me—why don't you spend more time with your sponsor, why don't you talk to her? She would giggle and hide her face. She seemed so overwhelmed to actually meet me, and there seemed to be a lot of pressure and expectations on both of our ends—so much so that for about two weeks, she barely said anything to me. But she still always wanted to be near me—we spent many an afternoon just sitting and cooking together behind her house, or playing games with some of her friends at the guesthouse. By the end she seemed more comfortable, but it took time!
 
One of the best ways to bond was cooking together at her house
One of the best ways to bond was cooking together at her house. Here, we're cooking up some of the packaged meals that people like you send to Sierra Leone.
 
Playing Bananagrams with my sponsored child (left) and her friends on the guesth
                   Playing Bananagrams with my sponsored child (left) and her friends on the guesthouse porch. 
 
2) Your letters really are treasured.
 
I've written it a thousand times—your letters are treasured, read, and re-read. But nothing could have prepared me for the moment I walked into my sponsored child's home in COTN's Sierra Leone Children's Village, and saw years' worth of their sponsors' cards and photos, carefully displayed on their bookshelf and taped to their walls. I wasn't prepared when Marie showed me every letter I had ever written to her, nor for when she asked me why I hadn't written in the past few months . . .  
 
The most powerful moment for me was when one of her housemates, Mabinty, told me she was keeping all of her sponsors' letters so she could show them to her own children one day. "I will say, this is the woman who helped me finish school and become the person I am today," she explained. Wow.
 
The girls displayed all of their Easter cards from last spring on their bookshel
The girls displayed all of their Easter cards from last spring on their bookshelf. When they got their new Christmas cards, they put those up and carefully stored the Easter cards in their trunks. 
 
3) Saying goodbye is really hard . . .
 
. . . and you're not supposed to promise you will be back! That seemed to be the only way I could make it OK, but I don't ever want to break a promise (especially not to a child, because they never forget), so we prayed together that God would give me the opportunity to come back. 
 
I'm scared I won't be as faithful as I want in writing letters. I'm scared I won't keep her close to my heart and in my prayers when I get distracted by everyday life in the US. I'm scared I won't ever be able to come back. Saying goodbye is hard. But the difficulty is worth it for having known this incredible young woman, this child full of potential and joy, this new member of our family. 
 
 
Everyone's experience meeting their sponsored child is different. Have you met your child? What was it like for you? Comment below.
 
 
Or, sponsor a child today if you are not yet a sponsor!