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.
Saturday 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.
It 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.
The 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.
We 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.
I 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.
I 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…
There 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.
*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!