coming alongside her {#compassionbloggers}

Our plane arrived in the late hours of the night. On the way to the hotel I learned that we would be meeting our sponsored son Ismael and his family the next day. Originally, I thought we would be meeting his family later in the week, so the news caught me off guard. As I prepared for this trip, there was really only one aspect that made me anxious and nervous – meeting Ismeal’s mom. It wasn’t a fearful nervous, but one rooted in understanding motherhood and all the emotions that come with it. I had spent so much time thinking about her and how I could express my desire to come alongside her in this journey of motherhood. It felt overwhelming to try to find words to communicate how I felt about sponsoring Ismael.

Last week I purchased a set of wooden spoons. They were a simple, practical and useful gift I could share with her. Two of my kids helped me paint the spoons and as I painted each one I prayed. I prayed for her. I prayed for her as I pray for my friends – that she would not feel alone in motherhood. I prayed that as she prepared food for her husband and children she would look at the painted spoon in her hand and be reminded that she has someone cheering for her in a far away place. I prayed as she used the spoons in teaching her kids to cook, she would remember that I am committed to supporting her through supporting her son. I prayed a million things as I painted those spoons and tied them up with a little lace bow.

1.16spoons-001Saturday night I had a hard time going to sleep. My mind was filled with thoughts of her. I know what it is like to open my home and prepare for guests. I wondered what she was thinking, how she was feeling and what would unfold the next day. I wondered if she was going to sleep feeling the same nervous excitement I was feeling.

This morning I placed the spoons into a bag on top of the soccer ball that my kids picked out. I sat the bag next to me on a bus and drove to the church where we would meet Ismael.

1.16spoons-002It all happened so fast. One moment I was surrounded by kids and then the next moment I was meeting Ismael. Instead of meeting his family at their home, they had all come to church. I looked up and there she was – this woman I had prayed for and longed to meet.

1.16homevisit-0011.16homevisit-002The next hour or so flew by. We walked to their home and exchanged stories about how they each found out about Ismeal’s sponsorship. He had been sponsored before, but the sponsor ended support. He told me how he walked into the Compassion Student Center one day and he saw his name on the board for kids that had been sponsored. His face lit up as he retold the story.

I told him about how my kids looked at pictures of kids waiting for sponsors and when we saw his face we knew he was the boy we were supposed to sponsor. His mom also shared how she found out. My mind raced back to the post I wrote Saturday morning regarding how there are two sides to the story of sponsorship: the child and the sponsor. I was wrong. There are so many more sides to the story. Today, I heard the sides of his parents.

1.16homevisit-0031.16homevisit-004We arrived at their home and Ismael immediately gave me the most priceless book of pictures. Copies of family pictures over the years glued into a handmade book for my family. As I turned the pages of the book, I was overcome with emotions. You guys – my kids made him a similar book (he will get it on Thursday). Our translator also let me know that the room was empty last week. In preparation for our arrival, they borrowed furniture for us to sit together. Life flourishes in this home despite very heavy circumstances.

1.16homevisit-0051.16homevisit-006I pointed out pictures of my family and then I pulled out the spoons. I told her how they were made and all the prayers that fell from my lips. I told her how I wanted her to use them and think about how there is a God that loves her and another mom in America that believes in her. I told her I hoped when she saw them she would be reminded she is never alone.

1.16homevisit-0071.16homevisit-0091.16homevisit-0081.16homevisit-010I shared with her that now we are family. The dreams she and Ismael’s father have for him – we will be writing him and encouraging him in those dreams too. I told her this sponsorship will not end and that as a family we are committed to supporting them as they do everything within their means to raise their beautiful children. And then I asked her how I could pray for her.

And her tears began.

Ismael has a heart condition and was recently hospitalized to try to get a diagnosis.

Her son has a heart condition. And my tears fell. Next week my youngest daughter will be hospitalized. She will be having her third cleft lip/palate surgery. A translator is not needed in a room when two mothers can look one another in the eye after words are spoken about doctors, hospitals, kids and surgeries.

Motherhood is powerful. It crosses the lines of culture. Of riches and poverty. Of language.

And then we prayed…

1.16homevisit-0121.16homevisit-013There is so much I want to share about what Compassion International does across the globe for children. So much. Today, I am focusing on my story with Ismael and his family. I know my explanation of sponsorship has been vague. This week I will share more specifics. However, if you have ever considered sponsoring a child, I cannot encourage you enough to step out and join hands with another mom/father/grandparent to insure a child can dream and walk in the knowledge that he can can go farther than what his circumstances tell him. Child sponsorship allows you to come alongside a child and family on a long term basis.

I’ve written so many times here that I am a fan of moms. I’m a fan of working moms, stay at home moms, single moms, worn out exhausted moms, put together moms and falling apart moms. Today I was welcomed into the home of a mom I’ve dreamed of meeting and let me tell you, I’m a big fan of her. As I left her home today, I was pinching myself that I get to do this – I get to come alongside her by sponsoring her son and alleviating a burden that is way too heavy for her to bear. As a family, we cannot wait to watch from a distance as Ismael grows up and the dreams his parents have for him come true!


To read more about our day, be sure to visit my friends Ruth & Shannan on their blogs.

Hosanna – Ecuador, Day 1 ~ Flower Patch Farmgirl

He is Able and We Are Willing ~ Gracelaced

You can also follow the trip on @compassion on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and #compassionbloggers on Instagram

*The photos, names and content of this post were shared with permission from the family. The majority of these photos were taken by @mikevarel – I am so grateful he captured this day for my family. Thank you Mike!Β 






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  • Carol - Beautiful post

  • Oceana - This is such wonderful storytelling. I remember when I was younger I dreamt of sponsoring a child through World Vision and managed to scrape together the money to do it. I loved getting a photo every year of a girl on the other side of the world who was so much like me and yet so different. Despite not being a religious person myself, I can see the enormous value of that generosity of spirit, and it’s great that you’re spreading this message around.
    Looking forward to the rest of your posts from the equator! :)

  • Shannan Martin - Simply, profoundly beautiful.
    I’m so glad you had this moment.

  • Jill Foley - motherhood is powerful…I remember exchanging stories about my daughter’s allergies and my newly sponsored boy’s allergies with his mom in Peru. As mom’s we were able to connect with a shared experience and better pray for eachother and our kids.

  • Byron - Wonderful and beautiful. God bless both your families!

  • Ruth@GraceLaced - I’m so grateful to be here with you. To see the way you live out true compassion. Love you and amen to all this.

  • rhonda - :) I loved this. So wonderful. You are doing God’s work and that is AWESOME!

  • Jacque Watkins - Awestruck and in tears over this connection..between mothers and sons and mothers and families.. “Motherhood is powerful. It crosses the lines of culture. Of riches and poverty. Of language..” YES. What a beautiful moment today was. And THEY.BORROWED.FURNITURE!! Wow. The love and pure kindness to give all they had and more to welcome you..I just can’t get over how special it must have been. Praying for you and the team as you’re there. May many lives be changed, both ours and theirs, through compassion sponsorship. xoxo

  • Kate - You’re kind of amazing – I just love you and all the goodness you bring into the world – thank you for sharing this and inspiring me.

  • Tracy A - Love this friend. I’m so glad you got to meet them and that we get to see it. Thanks for being a fan of moms.

  • Rae - This is so beautiful, Ashley…I am seriously considering sponsorship, so life changing. Thank you for sharing. God bless your family and Ismael’s family.

  • Karen - And they had borrowed furniture so that we could all sit together….. The beautiful gift of hospitality!!! (Swallowing the lump in my throat!)

  • Jenn - oh my goodness i love this. what a blessing and honor. thank you for sharing your words, your heart and this incredible experience that you are on.

  • Heather - Wonderful, wonderful!! Thanks for sharing…and now I need to go back and re-apply my mascara! πŸ˜‰

  • Aimee - Thank you so much for sharing this! Our family just began sponsoring through compassion last year. I don’t know if we will ever meet our sponsor child or her family but it is so beautiful to hear your story!

  • RachelC - Wow. Unsurprisingly, I am just sitting here at my computer crying all over it. This is the stuff of LIFE. This. I love so much about this….but most of all, I love that you are walking alongside this family with a unified purpose, and love is the center of it all. Way to light the way for so many who will come after you as a result of this blog post. Oh, to think there would not be any child left waiting for a sponsor. Proud of you for going and telling these stories. Loving others is always the right choice. Always.

  • Katie M - Thank you so much for sharing. He is so good, and I’m grateful He’s using you in this sweet mom’s life. Lots of tears and prayers for you both right now…

  • tg - wonderful words…this resonated with me because we sponsor 5 little boys in colombia, and i am longing to meet them and their mamas. thanks for sharing such beautiful details of such a personal event.

  • Kimber Cutler - I LOVE THIS ASHLEY! You are such a a great example of me regarding compassion, love, kindness, and selflessness to all walks of life. I love love love that you shared. I’m so glad you’re sharing so much info about Compassion, it is something myself and husband would totally LOVE to look into!!!!

  • Michelle - there is so much beauty in this post and all that you do, Ashely. The picture of you all praying drew tears from my eyes. You are one of my biggest inspirations. .
    thanks to your heart of gold and beautiful words that you share with us today (and everyday), I logged onto the Compassion website just an hour ago and submitted an application to sponsor my first child. My heart is full. Thank you!!!

  • Rikki - Ashley, it’s not often I find myself filled with emotion when I log in and scroll through my favorite blogs and recent posts. I had things to tend to, but I really thought I’d give myself a few minutes, see if I can find any inspiration. I clicked on yours, and instead, I received much more. So much love and compassion and inspiration, I’m so inspired by you and all that you do and share in this space. For other moms like me, and those who sometimes get wrapped up in the little things, it’s a breath of fresh air to be reminded that the world is so much bigger and our hearts have more capacity to love and to give.

  • Rebecca - Thank you so much for posting this. My daughter wanted to sponsor a child for the past 3 years and in December, she started sponsoring her first child (with my help). She just turned 18 and got a job and reminds herself she is working for her ‘little one’ Nicole. Her dream and mine is to be able to visit Nicole one day. Your post shows that it is a possible dream to reach! And thank you for the reminder that in reality, by sponsoring Nicole, we also sponsor her family, not only monetarily, but through our thoughts and prayers. I hope to have pictures such as yours to share with others one day to show them the real work that Compassion does! Thank you!

  • Yvonne Reynolds - I love how God connects us with our sponsored children. He knows which child needs our love and support, and He knows how that connection is going to make an impact on our own lives.

  • Carmen - I got all tears as soon as I saw the photo of you hugging this beautiful mama. Thanks for sharing xo

  • AshleyAnn - Rebecca – it sounds like you have an amazing daughter. Thank you for sharing her (and your) story with me!

  • AshleyAnn - Rikki – Thank you for your kind words. Make no mistake – I get wrapped up in little things too! Often what I write here is reminders to myself :) I’m so glad you stopped by my blog and visited today. Thank you.

  • AshleyAnn - Michelle – YAY!!! I can’t tell you how incredibly happy it makes me to hear you sponsored a child. Thank you! We have friends that have sponsored for 20+ years – it will be as much a gift to you as to your sponsored child. Thank you.

  • AshleyAnn - Kimber – I am so thrilled that you are considering looking into Compassion. If you have any questions, let me know. I may not be able to answer them, but I am sure I know someone that could!

  • Catherine - Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I am happy that you have an opportunity to visit the child that you sponsor. It is one of the most endearing blessings from God that you could ever receive. I have sponsored my little girl in Bolivia since she was 4 years old. She is now 12. Every day I pray that God will keep her safe from evil and wrap her in His arms. I will never be able to visit her or put my arms around her because visiting is financially impossible for me. A visit from their sponsor is one thing sponsored children long for, and it grieves me that I will never be able to do that. Thank you for visiting your child and making a commitment to continue to sponsor him in all circumstances. Love your blog and your photos.

  • To this world: I think I’ve been looking at you all wrong | A Holy Experience - […] and this week she’s leading Ruth from, Shannan from Flower Patch Farmgirl, and Ashley from Under the Sycamore through Ecuador. Will you join them this week for the 14th Compassion Blogger Trip and their […]

  • Debbie - Such a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing and inspiring us to become sponsors.

  • Traci Gray - powerful… wow. thanks for allowing us to see this journey. praying for you and Corbett to embrace everything that God is speaking to you through your time there.

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  • An Open Letter to the Girls of Manta (Guest Post) - life{in}grace - […] This week I am in Ecuador with Compassion for our 14th Compassion Blogger Trip. Enter this with us? Read more stories about our time in Ecuador from Ruth at, Shannan from FlowerPatch Farmgirl , and Ashley from Under the Sycamore. […]

  • How to Encourage a Mother in Poverty – autoblog test - […] sure to read Ashley’s full story of “Coming Alongside Her” and make sure you grab a tissue while you do, because you’ll need […]

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