Have you ever heard of the Dominican Republic? It’s a country that shares an island with the country of Haiti just south of the United States in the Caribbean Sea. Compassion invited me to go there last week on one of their trips and write some stories about what I saw.
I got to visit one of the projects and go to church and help with some Vacation Bible School type activities. I helped lead songs in Spanish. (I don’t even know Spanish.) 🙂 I got to hang out with moms and children who participate in the Child Survival Program, and I got to visit some families in their homes. I got to see a little of what life was like for people. Some of our group had come to meet their sponsored kids, and it was so beautiful. I couldn’t stop thinking about you.
Oh, sweet girl, I’m so very happy that Dennis and I get to sponsor you though Compassion and that you have so many opportunities available through them. Some days I just want to cry for the joy of it. You’re on our hearts every day, and we wonder what you’re doing while we’re eating dinner or getting ready for bed or while we’re watching Grace play her sports. (She finished volleyball season and is trying competitive cheer for the first time. She’s 12 years old now.)
Anyway, on the last day we met with some of the Leadership Development Program students who shared their stories with us. I want to tell you about Yuleisy because she made me cry. (Well, they all did, but I’ll tell you about the others later.)
Yuleisy entered Compassion’s child sponsorship program when she was four years old. She grew up with her mother and grandmother because her parents separated when she was a year old. As you can guess, life was not easy. She later found out that her father had a second family, and that reality was very hard for her. She says that as Compassion taught her about her heavenly Father and His forgiveness, she learned to forgive her earthly father.
Yuleisy graduated from high school when she was just sixteen, and–oh, Nduta! You’ll turn sixteen in just a couple of weeks. And we’ve sponsored you since you entered the program–a little over eleven years now.
But here’s the thing that made me start to cry (well, the first thing): Yuleisy received only three letters from her “parents” during all twelve years they sponsored her. THREE! I know we’ve written way more letters to you than that, but I also know there have been long stretches when you haven’t heard from us. I mean to write. I plan to write. And then I let life get in the way, let time slip away. (I’m crying again as I write this.) Please forgive me.
“It’s good to invest (financially),” Yuleisy told us, “but it’s better to have a relationship.” She told us it’s very hard to see others get mail, and to not get a letter makes children very sad–makes them wonder if their sponsors really care. We also learned that some kids become angry when they are required to write letters when they don’t get a response.
Oh, Nduta. Please know we CARE. We never want you to feel sad or angry. Because you are worth more than the smallest sparrow and are more precious than the finest silver. God has a special plan for your life, and where you are right now and the experiences you’ve had are no accident.
Now here’s something really cool. Remember how you wrote that you wanted to be a neurosurgeon? (Be still my heart!) Yuleisy wants to be a doctor, too. A cardiovascular surgeon. She said she’s studying medicine because of Compassion, and she’ll actually be a general doctor next year! She told us there’s a high rate of congenital heart disease in the Dominican, and she wants to serve children and others in great need. She wants to be a doctor not because she wants to be rich but to help make others rich with possibilities.
I was sobbing by this time thinking about how far she had come, how she’s pressing on to realize this dream, how she will be a fixer of hearts–and how you dream of being a fixer of brains.
Keep pressing on, Nduta. Keep pressing into God as He continues to unfold His plan for you. Study hard. Know that we are cheering you on wherever His road carries you. And remember that ANY work you do for Him is a blessed work and a good work.
Yuleisy reminded us of the power of words. They’re instruments, she said, that God can use to heal hearts. “You can change lives with words,” she said.
You have changed my life–our lives–with your words. I love to touch the paper you write on knowing you also touched it. Sometimes I even press your letters to my lips. Is that silly? It makes me feel closer to you.
Love you oh so big!
In the stillness,
Compassion has 164 projects in the Dominican Republic that serve 55,000 children. Not all have sponsors. Unsponsored children never receive letters. Won’t you sponsor a child today and share your life-changing words?
Linking up with Jennifer and other storytellers today.
And sharing coffee with Holley and other encouragers.