Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts on a First Letter Received

Yesterday, I happened to check in on the OurCompassion website.  OurCompassion is a wonderful place for Compassion International sponsors to chat, share ideas and thoughts, post pictures and find support.

I came across a Journal by Casey Durrett that I just loved.  With her permission, I am sharing it here.

I sponsored my first child in June of this year - a little boy in Rwanda. A few days later my mother and I jointly sponsored a little girl in Ghana. Though I understood it would be quite a while before I received a first letter from either of the two children, I was unable to help myself by about week 4 and couldn't wait to get to the mailbox everyday just in case a letter came faster than expected. My anticipation grew and grew everyday - as I knew each day passing would take me closer to the day a first letter would finally arrive.

As I returned home from work on July 15, I walked down to the mailbox as has become my daily tradition minus Sundays, of course. It was a very hot day here in Tennessee, and I remember thinking as I walked down the driveway how much I'd appreciate it if my employer didn't require certain codes of dress as it would certainly be more comfortable if I didn't have to wear these dress pants made of rayon, polyester, and nylon on these humid July-in-Tennessee days. All thoughts of the sticky humidity and the loathing of the classic black dress pants went away as I opened the mailbox, thumbed through a rather large stack of mail and found an evelope from Compassion stating I had a letter from my sponsored child inside.

Now, here's where most people probably will assume I ripped open the letter right there, read excitedly as I stood at the mailbox, and then returned inside. But, no, I couldn't open this long-awaited letter at the mailbox. Instead, I raced back inside, got out of the sweat-city dress pants, changed into much more comfortable khaki shorts and a t-shirt, grabbed a glass of water, sat down at the kitchen table and then, with much care, opened the letter.

I think I'd like to stop for a moment and consider what my expectations have been regarding the letter system. As a first time sponsor awaiting my first letter, I haven't really known what to expect in a first letter. Both of my sponsored children are young, so I was certain they wouldn't be writing for themselves. And though I have learned through the Compassion website and OC that there is a tremendous process for letter writing, I guess somehow I imagined a detailed letter with all sorts of information about my child included.

Back to the letter... As I opened, I did not know yet which child the letter was from. I suspected I would get a letter from the Ghanian child before the Rwandan child as information I have received here at OC has helped me to understand a bit about the differences in letters coming from these two countries. Sure enough, the letter inside was from little Anasthasia in Ghana.

As I looked over the letter, I found some basic information about my precious little Anasthasia. Her favorite foods are rice and stew, her favorite color is red. She has two brothers, and a best friend named Sakina. Her favorite Bible story is that of Jacob and Esau (an excellent choice I must say). At first glance, I don't want to use the term disappointed, because I was hardly disappointed in receiving this letter... No, I was absolutely delighted! But, I was surprised, initially, by the lack of length. The actual letter written by the staff member on behalf of Anasthasia was quite short. I believe, as a first-time sponsor, my expectations were of a bit more detail and length... I've had such a desire to come to know these children that those few sentences left me thinking... But... I want to know this, and this, and this, and this!

Then, the few sentences in the letter really sunk in. Anasthasia wants to know my family. She would like me to pray that the Lord gives her wisdom and understanding in her studies. She prays that the Lord God Almighty protects me and keeps me. She colored a few pictures for me... A little girl, a flag, and a tree.

Though this short letter isn't full of the hundreds of details I would love to know, it's such a reminder to me of what is truly precious in life... God and family. That short little letter with the sweet drawings also reminds me that, in this process, the Lord has extended my family. As I looked at the drawings she'd colored in, I looked at a piece of paper her little hands had touched - far away in Ghana. I was holding the  beginning of a journey. I was holding the beginning of a future, and though I cannot know completely what that future will be or what all it will involve, I can know for certain that somehow my life will not ever be the same as it would've been if I hadn't joined Compassion. I can also know that a little girl, many, many miles away - will someday come to understand that the Lord, in His love for her, and in His love for me and my mom - placed her photo in front of us on that Monday afternoon in June.

Of course, I'm still excited to learn more details about Anasthasia and her family, but I also realize all that will come in time. For now, I'm spending time reading up on Ghana and Ghanian culture. I find myself possessing "new eyes" when it comes to shopping. I'm always on the lookout for something that would be useful or fun for the children and that is suitable for sending according to the Compassion guidelines. I'm learning all about letter writing - not being too long, leaving room for translation, and I find myself mentally-editing just to be sure I never accidentally write something that might be offensive. For instance, when Anasthasia mentions she likes stew, I think "I like stew too!" Then I think of my version of stew, and I note that beef is in my stew, so I then set out to determine if cattle might possibly be sacred and eating beef shouldn't be mentioned! So, I set out in search of "more information". My mother and I look at paper dolls and wonder... Do we send dolls of any/all races? Should we center on darker dolls? I also find myself searching for information on gifting, timing involved in the gifting process, and preparing a calendar for times when monetary funds should be sent in order to arrive by some certain date - like her birthday. I dig around Oriental Trading Company looking for stickers, small coloring books, and paper crosses that can be colored in... I get excited that many of the items come in multiples, so (through information received here at OC) I get thrilled that I could use the extras to send along for their friends.

And with all of the above, what I find most amazing, is the fact that before ever receiving the first letter - before knowing anything much at all about little Anasthasia... We have loved her. From the moment we saw her picture and toggled back and forth making a decision - we loved her. We care about her life, her health, her family, her future.

I think what I have ultimately realized in this last few weeks, and especially after receiving that first letter that was quite different than what I'd initially expected... We may be called "sponsors" but without realizing it, these children are really sponsoring something in us. Their need is giving us an opportunity to respond. And the process we go through actually develops something in us - it grows us, it stretches us - it causes us to love beyond our front door. Our good and merciful Lord who's ways are too great for us to completely understand is working not only in the lives of these children - but also in our lives as He expands us, works on our hearts, and teaches us about what really is most important in this thing we called life: Our Lord - and the commandment His Son gave us - Love One Another.

I'm tremendously thankful for the lesson I learned with that very first letter, and I'll continue to race to that mailbox Monday - Saturday.

Thank you, Casey, for allowing me to share your post here! Readers, what do you think?

If you haven’t taken the time to check out OurCompassion, why don’t you hop over now and take a peek?