Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sofía Nicole Aguilar García (HO-259-0311)

I sort of feel like a proud father....LOL! We just sponsored our 4th child in Honduras. This one is a little special. I will explain in a moment. Our first sponsored child is Linda. I have shared my story about her many times and she will always be "my girl". I honestly hope she gets into LDP one day. She was a packet on the table and looked "spunky"- that was honestly the reason we chose her over any other one. Little did I know that God had a plan for my life through that packet. Honestly something melts inside of me when I see her picture. Jeyelly is my "other girl". I met her in Honduras while visiting a project in 2007. I just happened to be tossing a football around with her in the morning. God again had a plan- it happened to be registration day at the project ( sponsors usually do not see this )- she was at the project to register and have her picture taken for the child packet. When I found out she was available I sponsored her on the spot. After all we already were building a relationship. Jorge is Karen's special child- mention the name Jorge and she will reply: "He's so cute"! I was working a WRBS radio-thon for Compassion. He happened to be on the web page and she wanted to sponsor him- he looked so sad....he became number three. Three is a good number. Every time we have wondered if we could afford to do this and stretch the budget. Besides sponsorship we like to send individual and family gifts so multiply this by three and you can see our concerns. But every time we have been blessed and God has provided.
So what about #4???? Sofia...this is a child we have pursued for about two months. In December Jeyelly mentioned in a letter that her sister was enrolled in the project. We have a photograph from 2007 of Sophia but that is it. She is two years younger than Jeyelly. We got the letter in March and knew we wanted to sponsor her if she was available. It would be cool to have siblings. The thing is we did not know her child number or anything else. I called Compassion. They showed that Jeyelly had a sister but were not sure if she was registered. Without that child number it is hard to find a child within the system. Also she could be registered to Compassion Canada, Australia or any of the other partner countries. Ayax is from the Honduras Country office for Compassion-he handles sponsor ministries and is my friend on Facebook. Through the magic of technology he got me her child number. Right away I called Compassion. Miracles of Miracles- she is in the US system BUT she was assigned out for a Compassion Sunday Event. This is a major program in the United States where churches are encouraged to present Compassion and sponsorships on April 26th. Over 1000 churches participate. She was out there somewhere. She would either be sponsored or would be placed back in the database on 5/29/09. All we could do for a month and a half is wait. We would have loved to have sponsored her right away and then gotten to see her when we visited Honduras. However God's plans and timing are not ours. Compassion knew of my wishes and if she was available she would become one of my children. Last Friday came- I called and was told she was not sponsored. She would be released into the database at 5pm est at which time she would be assigned to us. True to their word I got the call and we now sponsor Sophia. We have to wait for a few days for her to show up on our account and then I should be able to post a picture here. It will be about 2 weeks before we even get her child packet. It will probably be two months before she even knows we pulled this off with God's blessings. We had told Jeyelly last week in Honduras that we were trying to sponsor her sister. It has all worked out the way God planned...we are excited and feel blessed.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Witnessing-Always being prepared

A couple of days ago I posted about how one of the highlights of my trip to Honduras was the fact that our bus driver became a Christian on our next to last night. Earlier in the week Abraham (our Country Office leader) mentioned that Umberto was watching us, that he was not a Christian and was seeking. I know we all prayed for him throughout the week. However only one of us (Phillip) was bold enough to approach and witness to Umberto. This got me often does God place someone in our path and we fail to follow through with the Great Commission? Often we leave it for others or just kind of half hearted give it a casual mention. I am thankful for Phillip-God placed it on his heart and he made the effort. As a result Umberto became our brother.
This goes for our role as Advocates also. We are called to speak for the children. Are we prepared? When the opportunity presents itself do we speak up-do we have a child packet available? Do we give 100%? Our ministry is a calling. It is not something that we just do casually. It is not just about working events, placing brochures or staffing a table. Rather it imaking a difference in a child's life. Each time we speak or each packet we hold a child is represented. Our goal should be nothing less than doing everything we can to insure sponsorship of that child.
I know in both instances I can be better prepared and more bold. It is my prayer that God uses me and grows me. This is what I yearn for over the next few months.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Prayer for Honduras

Today I got to work and found out that Honduras and the surrounding areas had suffered a 7.1 earthquake. It was centered just north of the coast in the Caribbean. As of right now 6 deaths have been reported and many homes have been toppled. The incredible thing right now is how this hits home. The quake was felt throughout Honduras including Tegucigalpa where my sponsored children are. Hardest hit were the areas of San Pedro Sula and the coast-both of which is where we were last week. I believe that the bridge that was destroyed was one that we travelled over. A man had a heart attack in Tela which is where we were last Friday night. Today most of us were Facebook bound-talking to each other and expressing our prayers. We did hear in from two of our translators via Facebook (they are in Tegucigalpa) that everyone is OK but quite shaken (no pun intended). Reports from Compassion indicate that none of our children were affected but that is not yet confirmed.
Honduras is not known for earthquakes. I can only imagine the fears that Linda, Jeyelly and Jorge must have felt. I only wish there was some way to contact them and let them know we are thinking about them. Most of all I wish we could hug them and let them know we care. Also I can't help but to think about all of those people, children, project workers that we met last week. I can only hope and pray that they are all ok and that any problems that did occur will be quickly resolved.
To those that are following this blog I ask you to lift your prayers to God- it is He that is in control. In a country already racked with poverty I can only imagine what a disaster like this can do to the economy. Reports have stated factories were being closed due to damage. What are those workers to do without compensation? Here in the States we have the ability to quickly make repairs and bring aid. I am not sure how this will play out there. I do know that God has a plan and all things will be accomplished in his way and timing.
As I hear more I will post updates- in the meantime just offer your prayers!!!
God Bless <>< 5/29/09- Compassion reports that no sponsored children or projects were affected. :)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Get on the Bus- Forget about Us?

This is my last glimpse of Linda as she steps on the bus and heads away from the waterpark. Tears are in all of our eyes, mine, hers, other sponsors, other children. It is an emotional experience meeting your sponsored child and then having to say goodbye. For some this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. For others they know they will be back. We promised in 2007 that we would return in 2009 and we did. We know we will go back in 2011. I made a promise that I would be there for her Quinceanera and I plan on honoring that.ñera
The question often arises regarding the cost of these tours. Couldn't the money we are spending be used for a better purpose in the ministry. We advocate for children, couldn't the money we just spent be used to sponsor even more children. Does our visit even make a difference? I tell all of my story of meeting Linda in 2007 and then becoming an advocate. My story is not much different than that of all sponsors and advocates. Even after this trip I could see the difference in many of the eyes of those that went. Hearts were broken and lives had been changed. But what about the kids???
I can only imagine the thoughts that go through their heads. Though I cannot know their thoughts I can see it in their eyes. What was once an abstract thought "Is my sponsor for real?" now has become a reality. A face now belongs to those letters. A hug now belongs to those prayers. In speaking with the parents and project directors that came on visitation day- they voice the thanks that the sponsorship is not in vain. It is making a difference and giving hope. A visit like this is the "cement" that joins the two of us together.
In 2007 I did not see Linda until they called her name. This time she was right at the front of the line- with a great big smile she waved at me and two years melted away. I started to choke up right then and there. Jeyelly bolted for us as soon as she saw us. Jorge is only six and I don't think he understands but I know his Mom does. I could see it in her smile and hug.
The key to sponsorship is not really the dollars but the relationship. Those children need to be reaffirmed and blessed both by our letters and if possible by our visits. Not everyone can afford to visit but they can write. I have seen the importance of the letters. The children cherish them and hold them dear. It is their link to their sponsors. It is one of the most important agents of change in their lives.
When Linda stepped on the bus I know neither of us are forgetting about each other. We have a relationship even across the miles and the language barrier. Letters and prayers will flow back and forth from Maryland to Honduras until we see each other again. I have a job ahead of me the next two years. My goal is to make sure she does everything she can to get into the Leadership Development Program. I am about to become her biggest motivator and cheerleader.
Less you think I was wrong about the letters....Linda brought hers to the park with her. Every letter and photo she had brought to show me. I know I am not forgotten.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 7 & 8- Living the Life, Saving & Rest

As the tour draws to close I leave a big part of my heart here in Honduras. I love my wife, my kids, my friends BUT there is an extended family here in Honduras that will always have a special place in my heart. Karen and I made a conscience decision ( we felt God calling us in this direction) to sponsor all our children here. This is one of the poorest countries in Central America with about 87% of the population living under the poverty line. Our daily prayers are of course for Linda, Jeyelly, and Jorge, their families, the projects they attend. We also hold in prayer the Country office as they further the mininstry of Compassion here in Honduras. We have been without internet for a little over a day as we headed north for a day of relaxation on the Carribean. I has a touch of the 'bug" Friday which I think was more from being emotionally tired and partially dehydrated. All is well now! Friday was an awesome day regardless. We spent the morning at another project toward the north. Instead of doing VBS we actually broke into several small groups and went to different family homes to live their life for a few hours. The home we visited was up a very steep dirt hill. Only walkable-no way a car could manuever this road. The home was basically a one room home without any electricity. We were to help them prepare lunch. The cooking area was a stone slab outside. We prepared the fire, cut the vegetables and meat, and made the broth. What a humbling experience. It is one thing to be told about poverty, it is another to see it and even more to live it. I will be the first to say that the experience was not long enough as we easily could walk back down that road and get on the bus and head to the resort. We could leave but they could not. They had no options. That may have been a low point emotionally but God is always good. We had to have an experience to bring us back up. All week we have been driving on two buses. The drivers of these buses are not Compassion staff but contract labor. They do a lot of work for Compassion but are not necessarily Christians. Umberto was the driver of our bus. After a week of watching us, much prayer on our part and a few well spoken words by team members he accepted Christ last night. What a great way to bring our tour to a close. Today was really just a day to unwind and process all this. We have a short turnaround as we must be up at 4am to head to the airport. I will write more in the upcoming days about this experience. I thank you all for joining in with me. God Bless!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Falling in Love all over again!

Today was child visitation day! This was the day two years ago that changed my life forever. Those that know me and know my story understand the impact that meeting my sponsored child meant and how Compassion became my focus. I can never really put into words what a day like this is truly like. The emotional highs and lows are hard to describe. The doubts and fears that I had two years ago were not present. It was more like nervous anticipation about the entire day. We would be seeing Linda and Jeyelly for the second time and meeting Jorge for the first time. We actually arrived this time after the children. They were all lined up in front of the park as we got off the buses. It was pretty neat seeing sponsors looking for children and children looking for sponsors. Of course we had to stay in our groups but there were lots of pointing and waving. Toward the front I saw her. Linda! This time she was wearing a denim cap and looked like a teenager but was as beautiful as the last time. As soon as I saw her my eyes watered up and I fell in love one more time. Two years and we were back! As we waited Jeyelly saw us and true to her personality she broke ranks and ran to us and gave us big hugs. The last time we just happened to sponsor her when we visited her project. I am not sure at that time she understood what sponsorship meant. Now two years later she clearly understood and was so excited we had come back. Now we looked around but did not see Jorge. Anyways it was time to move into the park. Once we got in Sponsors were on one side and the children and their family members on the other. I happened to look over and Linda, Jeyelly & Jorge all were standing together. Not sure how they found each other or even knew Jorge but there they all were together. Names were called and we all were reunited. Oscar from the Country staff would be our interpreter. I cannot begin to tell you about the whole day. I am sure over the next weeks I will post various thoughts that come to mind. At this point I will just tell you some interesting tidbits- those little God Moments.
Linda and Jeyelly immediately bonded. They were like best friends! Hanging and having fun together.
Jorge was shy at first but then blossomed into that typical six year old. He was all over the place and all we could do was laugh. He was hard to keep up with and thankfully his Mom handles him well.
I happened to have a pair of goofy glasses in my backpack from VBS- I will post a funny picture on my sister blog (Link to the right)-they were a great icebreaker AND many Sponsors now have pictures of their children looking goofy. :)
I had talked to Compassion about getting a birthday cake and having a little celebration if possible. Linda and Jeyelly celebrate their birthdays the first week of June and Jorge had his on Compassion Sunday. Well food can't be taken into the park but at 2pm we told our group we had to do a special photo. We went out of the park and suprised them with a tailgate birthda party in the parking lot. We had a large cake and soda and sang Happy Birthday in English and Spanish. It was a great moment and Compassion made it possible. We also were able to call back home and let Courtney and Stephanie say hello to the girls.
Karen crocheted a lot of hair scrunchies that we have been giving out at the projects. Turns out Linda knows crochet as well as her mother. She asked Karen to show her how to do these and now maybe this "craft" will be another source of income for them.
Of course all good things must end...after giving our children their gifts (that we had brought) goodbyes, hugs, and tears were shared and the day was quickly over. Right now it is still too hard to express our feelings but I will in the future. I just know there is no doubt that we will be back again!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Broken Hearts and Growing Dreams-Day 5

Today was an incredible day. Already our hearts are being prepared (one way or another) for meeting our sponsored children tomorrow. Today our team visited a project on the Carribean. When you think Carribean you think resorts...however poverty still exists in the Northern part of Honduras. This center ( Jehovah Jireh) has been around awhile and they are well established. Their pastor has a heart for the children. We ran a VBS, served the children lunch and viewed the record keeping process at this project. At the end of the day my family did two home visits. This is what I am going to blog about today.
I know that our hearts are going to be torn tomorrow when we meet our "children"- it was a major impact last time. However I was not prepared for today. God showed up big time and broke our hearts but at the same time showed that dreams can grow bigger than we could hope when He is in control.
Visit 1- This was just a great testimony to the work of Compassion and its partner church. We visited a home with a single mom and 2 children. She had dropped out of school at an early age and was living in this area that we visited. She attended the church and her oldest boy was entered into the project. Somewhere in there ( sometimes translations are not really clear but the point came across) she wanted to be able to help her son in school. She went back to school and graduated. She became a tutor/worker at the project and even attended college classes and got a degree in Elementary Education. Her boy is now 12 years old and is attending the project as well as her younger daughter. Three months ago she retired from the project, got a loan and opened her own business. Several blocks from the project/church is a gray building that now houses her bakery. How awesome is that? Not just a change in a child but an entire family.
Visit 2- Our next visit was with an older couple and their younger daughter (11 years old). It started as a typical visit with us asking some general questions. Then the mother said that Carolina had a interesting story. Turns out that these are not the girls parents, not even her relatives. When Carolina was 5 years old her parents split up. The mother left and the father was still in the area but not really involved. Carolina wandered the streets and neighborhood. This "mother" often gave her food and showed her love however Carolina had no hope. They offered her a place to stay but Carolina never stayed. One night they heard a knock on the door and there stood Carolina in tears. She said she wanted their love and wanted to be there. They took her in. They talked to the father who let them have guardianship. Not sure how that really transpired but regardless God placed this little girl into their hands. They have raised her, made sure she went to school and attends the project. She has a loving sponsor who regularly writes her. She now has hope and we stood their in tears. Beth sang to her, we told her she was a child of God and now had us praying for her and we circled her with prayer! Walking back to the bus all of us were pretty much silent. Our hearts had been broken but we saw the dreams and hope in her eyes. GOD IS GOOD!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day 4- Work Day!

Today was our workday at one of the projects. We were supposed to return to the same project we visited yesterday-however Karen and I switched to the other team for the day which I will explain shortly. We went to a different project that was in a very poor area. One portion of the homes are close to a river that in a few months will be in danger of being flooded out during the rainy season. Very sad! We arrived at the project and a group of us visited with the director and saw all the recordkeeping that is done. We were able to see a child file which was very interesting. We got to see how the information is obtained for child packets. We got to see performance areas for the children. We also got to see the accounting books for the project. Just further evidence that Compassion is commited to integrity from top to bottom.

Our work project for the day was basically creating a garden area for the project. Next to the building was a lot filled with rocks, trash and all kinds of foliage. We spent the entire time removing the trash, digging down and removing all of the rocks and then finally grading the area as best as we could. The rocks had to be taken by wheelbarrow out of the area. Apparently the lot was used as a dumping ground prior so we found loads of garbage that needed to be cleaned out. While we worked several of the group also played with some of the kids and kept them entertained with a parachute.

Well the reason we switched teams is such a "God Thing". We ate breakfast with Richard and his daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth sponsors 3 children and her father had come on the trip with her. He does not sponsor any but at breakfast was talking with me about sponsoring an older child. Karen and I shared our story with him and I knew he would be sponsoring one by the end of the week. It was just going to happen. As we loaded the buses Sean (our tour leader) asked for 3 volunteers to switch teams as two people from the other team wanted to go to this project and possibly sponsor a child. As soon as we heard that one of the people was Richard we were off the bus gladly. It was such a God Thing as we got to see the record keeping (which our original team did not) and that would be beneficial in my ministry. Also for the simple fact that Richard did sponsor a 10 year old boy. He actually got to work along side of the boy during their work day and then ended up meeting the boy's mother and sponsored him!!! As icing on the cake- the boys best friend was sponsored by Elizabeth. Good is Good!!!!! Dinner was such a Central American Experience- we ate at Applebees! LOL......

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 3- VBS, Home Visits & More

Today was our first real ministry day. We broke into two groups and visited two different child development centers. The one that I visited has only been open a year but already had 300 children enrolled. It is in a very poor area of San Pedro Sula. We did worship, drama and arts & crafts with the children. There was lots of loving being poured out from both sides. A really neat thing that Compassion had today was the availability of child packets for children at that project. At the conclusion of every sponsor tour is the chance to take some packages and find sponsors for unsponsored children. Well this was neat because we would be able to take packets and match them with the actual child. Can you imagine being able to talk to a potential sponsor that you met "this child" and you have hugged them and you have photographs to show. How cool is that! Talk about easy could even give them a letter of thanks from the child before they even sponsored.....WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In the afternoon we did some home visits. My group visited two homes in order to speak to the families and hear about the impact Compassion has made in their lives. These are always emotional visits when you truly experience the poverty right there in front of you. The one thing that really struck me today was the fact that the homes we visited were in an area where the families do not own or rent the land. In all honesty they are there until they are forced to move. The city owns the land and can force them off at any time. As Beth Crosby mentioned tonight they have no anchor. Poverty is bad enough but can you imagine not even knowing if tomorrow you may not even have what you currently have?
In the evening we had a meeting and dinner with some of the staff from the Country office. We got to hear a lot about the ins & outs of the Compassion programs and had the opportunity to ask questions and pray for the staff.
Tomorrow we return right back to the same project to do some mission work for them. It should be a hard work day but rewarding.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Worship, Malls and More- Day 2

What an incredible worship service we experienced this morning at a partner church in San Pedro Sula. The church was located at one of the projects but really was up to date with a great worship area. They had a full praise band and we rocked out to Forever, Open the Eyes of my Heart, I Could Sing of Your Love Forever and some others all in Spanish. This church has birthed 60 other churches in Central America. Their pastor was incredible as he spoke at length regarding the Parable of the Seeds being sown. At the altar call quite a few people came up and answered the call. It was a great experience to worship with brothers and sisters from Honduras!
After lunch several of us walked across the street (an adventure in itself) to the local Mall. It was a small mall but interesting to see the American influence. Holy Cow- can you believe we traveled all the way to Honduras to see this?
We spent some of the afternoon on a tour of the city and then had an early dinner (which lasted forever) and then made it an early night. Tomorrow we begin our actual ministry at the projects. I want to close this day by sharing some pictures of a church we visited while taking the tour. This is not a Compassion church however it is the largest church in Honduras with seating for 15,000 at a service. This building was incredible and the fact that they are still building speaks of the strength of the church here in Honduras. Check out these pictures:

Day 1- The Adventure Begins

From all across the U.S. a group of us have gathered in Miami to begin our Tour. Most all are sponsors, some are Advocates, and we even have a couple of Area Coordinators. Some have been here before and for some this is their first time. All of us have different gifts that we are bringing to this team. We have those that love to worship, those that love to teach, those that are gifted in crafts but the one thing we all have in common is the love of children. As I write this first part we are in the air on our way to San Pedro Sula where we will be based. Most of us had some time to bond before the flight as we waited for the group to gather. The really unique thing about this trip is many of us have connected for several weeks on Yahoo and Facebook. We have been talking, joking and planning before we even met. We have been praying for each other. As we gathered at the gate and recognized each other it was more of a reunion or discovering of long lost friends. Soon the plane will be landing and through the miracle of time zones a two hour flight will be about 20 minutes. We will clear customs, get our luggage, and meet our Country staff. We will be taken to the hotel and dinner. ************************** It is almost midnight Honduras time….2 am est. We have been up for about 21 hours…still running with a lot of energy but better get some sleep…tomorrow is our first full day here. It was great seeing some of the Country Staff from two years ago. Great to know they are still ministering to the children. Blessings!

Friday, May 15, 2009


We are one day to go until we fly to Miami and then to Honduras. We are scurrying around and trying to take care of those last minute details. Don’t really know if we will get any sleep tonight but will certainly try. I figured today would be a good day to give some “back-story” on this trip. As I said we knew we were going to be going back. We patiently watched the Compassion website for notification. Late last summer the tour popped up. Lo and behold it was April 4th-April 11th. Spring Break for our daughters! They could go with us. We paid our deposits and all of us were excited. We booked airfare for all of us to Miami. We were gung-ho and ready!!!!

Bump #1- Whoops….seems no body realized that the tour was schedule for Easter week. Honduras would be basically shut down. It would have to be rescheduled for May 16th to 23rd. Major disappointment- the girls would not be able to go. (We were not going to pull them out of school that close to the end of the year)- Deposits were refunded for them but airline tickets (for the girls) were a loss. We had bought non-refundable/non-transferable tickets. So unless we stick them on a plane to somewhere and back we are out those tickets. We had to pay an exchange fee for ours.

Bump #2- We are notified by Compassion that apparently our return flight from Honduras to Miami on 5/23 is cancelled. We will not fly out until 5/24. Good news in that we now have an extra day. Bad news in that we now have to change our return flight from Miami home. There is another exchange fee. Compassion graciously reimburses us for that problem.


God Moment #1- I had thought I would just kind of sit back this time and “help” – that is not take on a leadership role. Seemed like a good decision since I was on my second trip and there would be first timers that would be excited to be involved. (Just as I was in 2007). We told Sean (our Tour Leader) that we would serve wherever needed. Well last Friday I found out I would be in charge of the Bible Lesson/Drama portion of VBS. Those of you that know me are probably laughing as this is what I love to do in Children’s Ministry. Leave it to God to put me where I belong (even if I try to hide). The only problem was finding a suitable/culturally relevant type drama to do. Through a series of “God Moments” I connected with Jenny at Mountain Christian Church. She had just returned from a mission trip to the Dominican AND had written a great puppet skit that would work perfectly for our program. Graciously she shared it with us. THANKS JENNY!!!!!!!

God Moment #2- Compassion sets up a Yahoo message board so we can get to know each other and communicate prior to the trip. The big difference since the last time is the advent of Facebook. Most of us have accounts so we have REALLY gotten to connect, encourage, Pray and know each other. Tomorrow when we actually meet in Miami it will be like meeting long lost friends. Can’t wait!

Well time to get things together….the journey is about to begin! Keep us in prayer!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Honduras: We Are Go!

A little over two years ago we returned home from our Sponsor Tour to Honduras. At that time we knew we would be back. There was no way we could not return. If you read the "My Story (and I am sticking to it)" entry then you know the impact that meeting Linda and that tour had on my life. It defined my ministry. Both Karen and I believe in Compassion and support its ministry fully. We now have three children that we sponsor in Honduras and to be honest.....they and the Country are on our hearts and minds daily. I work as an advocate to encourage sponsorships and open other's eyes to the ministry of Compassion. Recently I became the Area Coordinator for the Advocate Network in Baltimore. My life has been turned upside all because of one little girl.

So it is now time to return. We are going back on another Sponsor Tour from 5/16-5/24. I have decided to blog the adventure this go around. A group of about 35 of us will meet in Miami Saturday afternoon to fly down to San Pedro Sula and start our week of ministry. Several of us are going for a return visit. Some are going to learn about Compassion. Most are going to have that experience of meeting their child. The one thing I know this go around is that no one will return home unchanged.

So for the next week or so my musings will be posted here regarding the trip. I encourage you to follow along. Blessings!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Does Compassion Work?

I am often asked, "Do Compassion's programs really work. Does it make a difference in a child's life?" I have written of my own experience and seeing the difference it has made in my sponsored children's lives. However, maybe I am biased... Actually, I am not- there are countless stories from sponsors, advocates, even children about how lives have been changed. Compassion has a program known as, "The Leadership Development Program (LDP)." This program identifies future leaders within the sponsorship program and offers them a chance to attend the University and further their education. Similar to child sponsorship this is the next level. I offer here a YouTube video of Michelle Tolentino, a former sponsored child and a graduate of the LDP. She talks about her life in poverty and the impact that Compassion had. She is now doing graduate work at Moody. She is an excellent testimony to the fact that the programs do work!!! Sit back for about seven minutes and decide for yourself.

My Story (and I am sticking to it! )

I am a child sponsor and now an Advocate /Area Coordinator for Compassion. It was not always that way. It took looking into my sponsored child's eyes to see what my mission should be. My wife and I have sponsored Linda in Honduras for the last several years. We felt we were doing a "good thing." Our monthly support was automatically deducted from our account and we wrote letters once in a while. Not a lot of effort or energy on our part but we felt we were helping. In June of 2006 we were contacted about taking a Sponsor Tour to Honduras and meeting our child. We of course wanted to go and thought it would be neat to meet the child we were sponsoring. Maybe our visit would be "inspirational and encouraging" to her. I sit here now thinking God must have been laughing at that one. In March of 2007 we took our tour to Honduras. If you ever have the chance to go on a sponsor tour or actually any short-term mission trip take the opportunity and listen for the Spirit to speak to you. On our Sponsor tour we visited several of the projects where Compassion works. We saw the love and care that the children receive while at the project. We did home visits and saw the poverty and the horrible conditions that the children lived in. We have so much and they have so little. We also had the opportunity to hear and learn about Compassion's programs and their ministry. Our hearts were broken but the best was yet to come. The day came to meet our child and we were to attend an outing at a water park that these children would never be able to attend. The children arrived and each was called individually for each sponsor. When our child's name was called she stepped forward and my life was forever changed. Here was the child that we sponsored, who lived in total poverty, and she was dressed up in probably the one nice outfit she had. She was in what we would consider her Easter finest complete with a beautiful hat. She timidly came forward and took one look at my wife and I and burst into tears. I know she was overwhelmed at actually meeting her sponsors. However at that moment and for the rest of the day every time I looked into her eyes I saw the love that she had for us and for what we (and God) were doing in her life. I saw the difference we were making and the importance of sponsorship and child development. I came back from Honduras with a changed heart (and another sponsored child). I finally understood the global picture and what we were called to do. I decided to become an advocate for the "least of these." The next time I look into Linda's eyes I want her to know that it was her that made the difference.