paper treasures ~ I got it all wrong {#compassionbloggers}

Sponsorship was a leap of faith for me. Even while I saw the fruit of sponsorship in my own kids, I felt like it was kind of like a trust walk to believe Compassion and child sponsorship was all that I had read. Then, I stepped foot in Ecuador and saw firsthand the work of Compassion here. The first night I face-timed Chris (wahoo for wifi!) to tell him I was so blown away.

This is the face of a child talking about her sponsor – a 66 year old woman in the US.

2.3.16-01We have walked into homes that feel hopeless and the deepest kind of desperation. Then sponsored children begin pulling out their letters and sharing…

2.3.16-022.3.16-032.3.16-04In the letter above, we asked her what was her favorite part of the letter. She let out a little laugh and told us her sponsor made a mistake and covered it up with all the smiley stickers.

Her favorite part of the letter was the part her sponsor didn’t get perfect or polished.

Before you go on reading this post, please go read more about that home visit and our time with the girls in her area. (click here)

As a sponsor, I know I’ve complicated it before. There were times that a letter didn’t get sent because in my head we needed to send more…more pictures, more stickers, more drawings, more. I could not have been MORE wrong. This week, these kids have taught me the power of words and encouragement. They have shown me what it looks like for a child to be filled with hope in what can seem like a hopeless situation. The words written from someone far away has spoken life into them.

2.3.16-052.3.16-06Everything regarding sponsorship has changed for me watching them hold their stacks of treasures. I know not everyone can make a trip to visit a sponsored child (though Compassion encourages it for those that can). I hope through stories and pictures to convey how much these kids treasure LETTERS from their sponsors. Their faces lit up as they talked about the letters – it wasn’t gifts or even all the financial provisions – it was the letters.


A letter. Why do I have to complicate the simple?

Over the last few days I’ve learned a few things from the kids regarding what impacts them the most from their sponsors. I wanted to share those today – for those that will step out and sponsor a child for the first time and for those already sponsoring.

What do you write/include in a letter?

ENCOURAGEMENT. The number one thing the kids talked about was how their sponsors truly loved them, prayed for them and told them to dream big. The simple act of telling a child you believe in them and their potential has a profound affect on that child. Encourage them to dream and work hard at school. Encourage them that they are not alone – you are there. A God who fiercely loves them is there and you are praying for them.

QUESTIONS. Ask about their family. School. Hopes. Fears. Dreams. We met an adult who was sponsored as a child. He told us the first time he considered having a dream for the future was when his sponsor asked him what his dream was. In that moment, he realized that he COULD dream.

HOLIDAY CARDS. For Christmas, birthdays, etc. – send special holiday cards. Several of the kids pulled out their cards and loved how they were colorful and unique. This really stood out to me. Compassion makes it easy to send gifts to your child on special occasions. We usually just check the little box on our sponsorship form that we want Compassion to purchase a gift for our sponsored kids. To be completely honest, I thought what probably mattered most to our kids was the gift, not getting a letter or a card. I was wrong. So wrong. Not a single child showed me a gift that was sent (and I know gifts were given), but they all showed me cards.

STICKERS. Stickers are easy to slip in a letter and the kids loved them.

DRAWINGS. Anything you make or your kids make is so special and treasured.

PICTURES. Pictures of you. Your pets. Scenery. Pictures of you holding their letters and pictures.

PINTEREST. Okay, you can’t send Pinterest, but I just found out Compassion has a Pinterest account FULL of ideas for writing your sponsored kids. I am going to be using this as a major resource when I get home. Genius.

day4-01day423Compassion has made it extremely easy to write sponsored kids. You can write your letter and upload photos from you computer. There is even a mobile app now. I was curious about how the kids liked getting letters that were not handwritten. In talking with the team, it was suggested to send a handwritten letter at least twice a year if we opt to send more digitally. The digital letters arrive faster to the translators, but the handwritten ones are often more meaningful. Our trip leader suggested monthly digital letters and handwritten letters twice a year.

The kids are not able to write as often – you can imagine how difficult it would be for a handful of adults to help them write the letters and then translate them. I’ve assumed that since we didn’t get tons of letters from our sponsored kids that maybe letters weren’t as big of a deal as the financial part of sponsorship. Wrong again.

In the past, we have not written monthly letters. Honestly, I just didn’t understand what a tremendous difference those letters make. That will change now.


day421The impact of a letter from a sponsor on the life of a child living in poverty cannot be measured. However, in order to have that impact on a child you can’t start with the letter – it starts with signing up as a sponsor. This is our 4th full day in Ecuador. We begin traveling home on Friday. As a team we set a dream and goal of seeing 200 children sponsored as a result of this trip. We are listening to their stories, gazing on their beautiful smiles and being wrecked by the hardships they face. As I am writing this post, 90 children have been sponsored. While that is AMAZING…we want to see more children enter relationships with a sponsor. You’ve been reading these posts all week – will you join us today by sponsoring a child?

EcuadorMore from our team:

What Every Mama Dreams ~ by Ruth of Gracelaced

On Seed and Growing ~ Shannan of Flower Patch Farmgirl

An Open Letter to the Girls of Manta ~ a guest post on Life in Grace by Bri

*Many of these photos were shot by our team photographer @mikevarel – Thank you Mike!

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  • Lindsey - I’m loving these posts from Ecuador! (I’ve also not been good about sending the monthly letters, assuming that it wasn’t a huge deal since I didn’t hear from my sponsored child that often, so this post was eye opening and great to know!!) I’m thankful that you’re getting to see them face to face and hear about sponsorship from their perspective!

  • Shannan Martin - So good and necessary! Like you, my perception is totally changed. Also, I didn’t know we could send cards. You just taught me something new!

  • Suzanne - Oh this is stirring things in my heart. Because of having 3 kids with busy schedules and husband with a new job,etc. I was feeling overwhelmed. Just excuses…..will work on this. A side note, I am amazed at how much pride (in a good way) these families take in washing and keeping their clothes clean. This, I am sure, is quite an undertaking but I so love it. And the smiles, they say it ALL! Thank you for letting me walk right beside you in your journey!

  • amber - Wow. As a sponsor who doesn’t write as often as I want, now I want to write even more often. Wow. Praying this sticks in my mind & that letter writing becomes a priority to my family & I. Also praying that many more children are sponsored through your very wise words. Such an amazing thing to be a part of!

  • Byron - It always annoys me that I don’t write often enough. Honestly, all the things that you mention not realizing are the same things I’ve never realized!

    I need to write, not type, more letters. I’ve put off the latest one because I wanted to send a new picture of me and Allyblu! How silly….

  • Michelle - Thank you so much for this week, and letting us in everyday so far. Its such great insight to see how impacted the children are- to see the difference that is made from their point of view and their eyes. We wouldn’t know otherwise, so thank you!
    I just received my confirmation that my sponsorship application went through- I am SO thrilled. I received the prompt to write my first letter and I decided to wait and see how to approach my first ever letter of love, compassion and trust to him. “should it be hand written? what pictures should I send? should i do it electronically first?”
    this blog post really helped me put that into perspective. I cannot wait to hear about his dreams, passions and aspirations and to let him know that he has someone across the world to help him achieve them every step of the way, in any way I can.
    I really don’t think I can thank you enough for sharing your trip with us, and advocating for this mission so beautifully. My heart is so full right now. I wish you all safe travels back to OK!

  • Jenny B. - Ashley, thank you so much for writing this post. It is invaluable. I can’t tell you how much I NEEDED it. We sponsor an almost-11-year-old boy in Tanzania, and I have felt so guilty for not writing him more often. Even when I do the digital letters, I’ve always felt like it’s not enough, or that it’s not good enough because it’s not handwritten. I really appreciate you detailing what is important to the kids, and sharing the goal of a digital letter every month with a handwritten letter a couple of times a year. That is totally do-able, and makes me feel so much better (and encouraged!). Thank you!

  • AmandaK - This has been my favorite post so far. My husband went on a mission trip to Honduras last year, and we sponsor a child through another ministry.
    I have thought the same things about typing vs. handwritten notes, and wondered the same things about a Christmas gift and how we didn’t hear from him often so maybe he wasn’t that interested in communicating.
    Thanks very much for your posts and thoughtful insights!

  • Brooke Riley - We’ve just sponsored two! They have the same birthdays as our two boys! Thanks for sharing this message and giving us the extra push.

  • Laura Jean Bell - I so love seeing your encouragement on the importance of letter writing! It excites me to think that my sponsor child is receiving the love and encouragement! Such a joy to see you loving these people so well. 🙂 Keep on keeping on!!

    blessings upon blessings,

  • Laura J - Wonderful posts, thank you for sharing your thoughts & feelings. How I wish that the sponsors of these beautiful children could see your posts to understand how much their letters mean to the kids! I see some big stacks of mail, obviously they have done a great job writing. Safe journey home.

  • Natalie Lacy Lange - Thank you for this. I have not been good about sending letters–even after I write them. This morning, I SENT a letter and pictures. I also set reminders in my calendar to keep sending.

    Praying for you all on your trip!

  • Morgan - Thank you for posting and sharing about your experience! Just sponsored a child, and I’m so excited. I would have been so much more hesitant (& probably wouldn’t have done it) if it weren’t for you sharing your trip. Thank you!

  • Martha B - Ashley, Your posts have inspired me to sponsor a child through Compassion International. It is something I had wanted to do for a long time and your experience was just the motivation I needed. I chose a girl whose birthday is close to my daughter’s. I am looking forward to getting to know her! Thank you!

  • Angela - I sponsor a girl through Plan Canada. I’ve written one letter. Your post has planted some seeds within my soul.

  • A Letter from Jesus | Faith, Life & Compassion - […] posts are aimed at newbies, but as a seasoned sponsor myself, I find them just as encouraging. Ashley met a man whose sponsor had asked what his dream was (I think I’m going to ask my eldest that), and Ruth’s post on the theme of letters reminded me […]

  • Jessica - Thanks so much for this encouragement! I just downloaded the app and sent a letter to our girl. It had been much too long. This was so eye opening!

  • Sarah - After reading your blog this week, we decided to sponsor a little boy from Ecuador tonight. I am hoping we will able to meet him someday. My son is only 4 now, so we have awhile before he is the age they allow children to travel. Thank you for your blog posts and sharing this experience with your readers.

  • caleb - This is such a great post Corbett! It has been amazing going on this journey with you, and seeing the changes that have happened in all of us. I am super thankful to have experienced this with a friend like you.

  • Andriana - Thank you so much for this post. For so long I made the letter writing about me- constantly delaying because I didn’t have a cute gift to include or something inspiring to say. Today I went out and bought cards and stamps; then addressed and labeled everything so that all I need to do is write a message and mail it out each month.

  • Beth - Thanks for sharing what is most important to our sponsored kids. I appreciate the list of tips of what to send, including the difference between digital and handwritten letters. I love to experience another culture through the blogs and pictures!

  • What Everybody Ought to Know About Hope - […] Ashley from Under the Sycamore […]

  • Vertie - Hi Ashley, I’ve been so moved by your posts that I looked for a child to sponsor in Peru (where we have traveled) and who is 5 or 6, about the same age as my son. I am very close to completing the application but I have a question I am hoping you can answer. I was raised Catholic but don’t really practice any formal religion now. I know that Compassion is a Christian-centered organization, and I’m not opposed to it as such, but I do wonder how much freedom the sponsored children have in accepting the religion of the organization. If the children don’t want to be Christian, are they still allowed to be sponsored? Given the Catholic Church’s long ago treatment of indigenous peoples, I am a little leery of supporting an organization if it doesn’t allow that freedom. I think what you and the organization are doing is wonderful, and I love the ability to connect personally with the children, but if you think that I would be a better fit for a different organization, could you please point me in that direction? My letters would not be encouraging the child to seek a life devoted to Christ. I would encourage the child to pursue a moral and spiritual life in whatever form that takes. Sorry for the long comment. I have great respect for what you do and I don’t want to be disrespectful of the organization.

  • AshleyAnn - Vertie – that is a great question! Thank you for your thoughtfulness and honesty in asking about that. No, the children do not have to become Christians to be sponsored. Compassion has an FAQ page that answers this questions and similar ones. Maybe it will help you:

    Thank you for your encouragement and support!

  • Debbie C - Ashley, thank you so much for shedding light on the importance and impact of sponsors’ letters! We currently sponsor 2 Compassion kids but write to them very little. I’m going to now make the effort to write once a month. Also, thank you Corbett for bringing this to our attention in your beautiful post!

  • Stephanie Barnard - Wonderful post. Thanks for encouraging me to send stickers, drawings, or pictures. Also loved that you mentioned making a mistake or not being “perfect” in our letter writing is okay!

  • Our Simple Summer Learning Plans - Pockets Full Of Rocks - […] enough time in writing notes or getting to know them. We’ve done it some, but after reading this post I know we need to do more. There’s so much benefit to both sides. We’ve used a 3-ring […]