I got the best letter EVER today.
Many of my Compassion kids are little. Some can't even write letters for themselves but are helped by their tutors. A few of my kids are getting older, and as they do, we are able to share more with one another.
What I wasn't expecting was for a 17 year old boy to be a great correspondent.
Estanly Zaldivar Martinez was chosen for me. He is a correspondence child through Compassion. That simply means that while someone else is his financial sponsor, I am his letter writer, prayer partner, and cheerleader. I get the awesome part...the relationship. To be honest, I was nervous when I received Estanly's packet. What on earth would I say? He will be graduating from the program in a year, so how much of a relationship could we really build? He had several sponsors before me. When I requested another correspondence child, I certainly didn't expect an almost man! I also didn't expect that he would be from Honduras, a country I was visiting just a few weeks later. I battled about whether or not to visit him while in Honduras, not sure if I wanted to keep the special child visit day for my precious Luz Maria. A mentor gave me great advice that I fortunately took. I will be Estanly's last sponsor--I had better make it count. So, most unusually, I ended up actually meeting my sponsored child before I ever received a letter from him.
I learned a lot of things about Estanly that day. My first glimpse of him was of a tall, thin young man with a long coat rack sticking out of his backpack. When we met, he handed me a beautifully carved napkin holder with his old sponsor's name carved on it. After all, word had barely reached him that he had a new sponsor. He was very quiet, and I had to make a point to break away from Luz every now and then to talk to him. At the water park, he looked after Luz like an older brother. He fought off the yellow jackets at the snow cone stand. He kept coming back to sit with his caregiver, Maritza, so she wouldn't feel lonely. His attachment to the little woman who had taken him in when his parents left him was incredible. For five years, this teacher at the Compassion center had cared for him while his parents lived separate lives. I learned a little about his life and we made conversation without our translator using my broken Spanish and his broken English. I worried a lot about whether he was having a good time or not. When gift time came, I gave him a pair of shoes that were far too big. I guess that evened things up with the napkin holder. What I will never forget is how unbelievably sensitive he was. I had just learned that day about the death of Luz's father, and as the day progressed, I started to process some of those emotions. As we prepared to leave, I tried to be cheerful, but it was hard to hide the turmoil in my heart. We were walking over the last bridge on our way out when Estanly reached over and put his arm around my shoulder. Somehow he knew what I was feeling. I read it in his eyes. Before we left, I shared with him that I too had not been raised by my parents. I encouraged him and shared about how God has big plans for his life. I wasn't sure that any of what I said or had done that really mattered. I remembered the too big shoes and felt silly.
Two months later and I finally received my first letter from Estanly only yesterday. I shared a tidbit from that letter here on my blog. When I read his letter, which was written before my visit, I could feel through his words some of the wonderful qualities I had observed in person...his quiet, considerate nature.
It came as quite a shock when I walked out to the mailbox and found ANOTHER letter from Estanly today. It was written about a month after my visit, and it made my heart melt with gladness. Let me share it with you...
"Hello dear sponsors Jonathan and Kimberly Hall, I want to bless you greatly because you are a special person and I thank God for the opportunity that He gave me to be able to meet you in person, because for many years I wanted to meet my sponsor. But God is merciful and though sometimes we are not worthy He loves us and forgives us. Maybe I did not tell you many things because I was shy, but I'm going to tell you through this letter.
I want to tell you that for me you are the most beautiful woman and kind and nice. You are like my other mother. I put all my trust in you. You are very special, so special that I have been satisfied and I have faith in God that I will soon see you once more. What makes an impact about your dad is because I thought only I was raised without my parents. You asked me if I had any needs in my house. I was ashamed to tell you, but I do need a bed because the one that I have no longer works for me. If you want to give me one I'm going to appreciate it.
I had also wanted to tell you that I have three important wishes. The first one is to serve God, the second one is to see you once more, and the third one is to continue studying and to graduate and to obtain a good job so that I can help and build a big house for sister Maritza, who raised me, and one for my father. I know that if I persevere in God, he's going to give me the wishes of my heart. I ask that you would always pray for me because God listens to the prayers of the just. I want to dedicate to you Proverbs 31:29--"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
And to think I almost passed up this relationship, that I underestimated what God could do in the space of a year. I love this boy like a son, and my heart aches in prayer with him. His words of kindness towards me are like a shining, golden, treasure, no matter how unworthy I feel to receive them. His forgiveness towards his father and love for his adoptive mother are a beautiful testimony towards God's redemptive work. Finally, his big dreams convince me that Compassion has helped this child triumph over poverty.
But it's a long road. He faces many struggles. I've got a year to pour into his life and you better believe I'm going to use my time wisely. Would you consider sponsoring an older boy? If you search for a child on Compassion's website and order the results from oldest to youngest, you will be floored by how many older boys need a sponsor. It could be you, and I assure you, most of the blessing will be on your side.
I dream of going to see Estanly graduate from high school, of being there beside him to cheer him on. I don't know if it will happen. It's a dream...but then, Estanly did say that God is faithful to give us the dreams of our heart!