Great song to have on our minds as we wake up super excited this morning because this is the reason we've all come on this trip...to meet our sponsor children. <3 Everyone on the trip has a sponsor child and our excitement has been heightening every day this week. We've seen the amazing work of Compassion firsthand at each of the 3 projects, in the lives of the Leadership Development Students we met last night, at our visit of the head office in Quito in the afternoon and meeting some adults who've grown up in the child sponsorship program and have graduated and are now working with or volunteering with Compassion in some way.
At breakfast everyone was a bit giddy, nervous, excited, quiet, contemplative, etc...a mixture of all sorts of emotions coursing through our minds and hearts. Knowing what would happen today but yet not knowing how things will go and not knowing what to expect...will our kids like us, will it be awkward, who will be with them, will they like our gifts, how will our translator be, etc... Many questions and thoughts. :) When we met in the lobby at 8:30 am, we were told that there was a change in plans and we would be meeting the children here at the hotel first and then travelling together by bus to the waterpark where we would be spending a few hours together with them. Whahoo!! That was more exciting than the first plan, which was to meet them at the waterpark. We like this idea way better. Now we'd have even more time with them! :) We had our debrief together as a group first and then once all the children had arrived and were waiting for us in a banquet room upstairs, we gathered our stuff for the day, including gifts we had bought for them, and went upstairs. We stood in line waiting for our names to be called.
Whew! Talk about emotions going through our hearts and minds. After all the talk during the week from kids in the program and from the older students about how much it meant to all of them when letters were sent back and forth between the sponsor and the child, and how much it hurt the children when the sponsors didn't write...Kyrstin realized she hadn't sent an over abundance of letters to her child over these first 5 years of sponsorship. Yes we sent letters and always at Christmas and birthdays and a couple in between but not overly much. She was hoping Ruth would not hold it against her for not writing her more. But hearing the testimonies from so many about how much it meant to write letters, made us realize how we can improve how we write and when we write and there's always room for improvement, right? :) I know that after meeting Liliana and knowing that her previous sponsor only wrote her 5 letters in the time of that sponsorship, sure has made me want to get home and write her a letter...and actually, I wrote one to her before I left Ecuador and left it with the head office staff there so that she would get one from me real soon. :) Kyrstin and I took a picture of us with her polaroid camera and put it in the letter as well so she would have a picture of us right away. :) How fun and how special is that!! I can just see her smile now! :)
So, back to the lineup outside the room of where the sponsor children were. Yes, it was hard to keep our emotions intact and Kyrstin's heart burst while we were waiting in line. It was good to see and tears are never something to be ashamed or embarrassed of, it shows we have a heart, and tears show that something has broken through the exterior wall we often have up. Tears were a very good thing this morning, and believe me, everyone in our group had tears :) and they make our heart soft. We hugged and smiled through our tears as we waited anxiously for our name to be called. Soon we were at the door, and we could see the lineup of children with standing with their project workers and a family member with them. Was that her? Was she wearing pink? Was that her father with her? Our tears came more as we knew we were up next. Then the moment we've been waiting for came....Kyrstin and Ruth!!!....two young excited girls ran with open arms towards each other and Kyrstin went down on her knees to hug sweet Ruth with all she had. The tears flowed even more freely. Our translator David, myself, Ruth's father and her project worker stood back a bit as Ruth and Kyrstin shared this amazing rare precious divine moment. Kyrstin was the first to break from the embrace and to look at David through her tears and say "can you tell her how much I love her?" Oh thank You God for this incredibly precious moment!! Thank You for bringing us all here! We all moved to another area and sat together on the floor. Kyrstin had pulled out a couple of things from our gift backpack to give to Ruth right away...a small stuffed teddy bear and a small photo album which we had put a couple of photos in already...one of Kyrstin holding pictures of Ruth and letters she had received from her as well as one of Kyrstin with her dogs. :) We had sent them family photos over the years and now they would have a photo book to put them into. Through our translator David, Ruth's dad smiled through his emotion and told us we looked exactly like we did in the pictures they have of us. I can't tell you what it meant to hear from him how our sponsorship has impacted their family and how much it has meant to Ruth to write letters to Kyrstin, how often they'd look at our pictures or pray for us. There was just so much on our hearts/minds to say to one another. We asked many questions as we could before it was time to get on the bus to go to the waterpark with them. We laughed, we showed pictures and they gave us a lovely family photo of them to take home with us. How special was that!! :)
Soon our name was called to go down to board the bus. It was so fun riding that half an hour drive to the watepark, talking exitedly and laughing together. Our translator was the best. :) He was amazing! It seemed like he could listen to two conversations at once and translate it to each person no problem. The father had questions for me, Ruth had questions for Kyrstin, we each had questions...what fun!! The project worker had some questions as well, but often he just smiled and listened. It was a joy for him to be here for this as well. He had been a sponsor child most of his life, graduated, took some extra schooling and now was a tutor at the Compassion project he had grown up in. His sponsor had never written him or had sent him any photos at all and he had never met his sponsor either. So meeting us today was a fulfillment of what he never had. It made me sad that someone would just send their money but never have anything personal attached to it. No letter, ever?? No any picture? ever?? That just seems too cruel to me. :( So not only was this a great day for Ruth and Kyrstin, but also for me and Ruth's father and her project worker and for our translator as well. I can't imagine the emotion that the translators must go through to witness this time and again, sponsor children meeting their sponsors. <3
While we were on the bus I asked where they lived and how they came to Quito today. They live 6 hours from Quito, about an hour from Riobamba. They had to get on a bus at 2 am this morning to get to where we were this morning. The father could only take one day off from his work and they would have to take the bus back to their home late tonight. None of them had slept on the bus because each of them were way too excited about coming to meet us. :) They had found out last Tuesday that we would be coming and their household had been a buzz of excitement since then! Can you imagine?? Oh it was such a delight to hear their joy and excitement as they spoke to us! The father makes furniture and the mother cleans washrooms at the hospital, but both of them don't make very much money obviously, otherwise their children couldn't be in the sponsor program. The mom would have loved to have come but she had to work. Their bills are quite high too. They've been married for 19 years and he said just like any marriage, they have their moments of struggle. It was such a blessing though to see one father as part of the family unit, again it's not that common here in Ecuador. They have 4 children, a boy who is 17, a girl who is 15 who looks after her two younger siblings a lot cause her parents work, Ruth who is 9 and a younger brother who is 7. They were a beautiful family and we love the family picture they gave to us!!
The bus came to a stop at the waterpark and we all got out to make our way to the change rooms. We dropped off our bags at a picnic table and gave Ruth a new bathing suit which she excitedly accepted and ran off to get changed into it. She couldn't wait to go in the pool and down the waterslides with Kyrstin. She couldn't swim but the pools were a good depth for her. David, our translator, was a great sport and went into the water with them as well and they all had a blast! Not all of the translators did that, so he was pretty special to do so. I loved taking pictures of them in the water and Kyrstin and Ruth laughing as they came down the waterslide together. What a precious time this was!! :) We had a snack, we visited, we laughed, we asked question after question trying to get to know each other better in this short time we all had together. We had lunch, then we took out our gift back pack and showed them the gifts we had brought with us for them. Her favorite color was purple so we had bought her a purple dress. She loved to draw pictures for Kyrstin, so we brought her a sketch book and pencil crayons and we brought her a Dora the Explorer coloring book :) as Dora knows Spanish too. We brought her a couple of t-shirts and a pair of pants, markers, hair accessories, a Spanish Bible, a ball for her younger brother, toothbrushes and toothpaste for her and her family, a bag with a Canadian flag for her mom with a couple of kitchen utensils for her as well, ...what joy it gave to bring out these gifts which seemed so little compared to how much we have. We could have brought a whole lot more for them because at this moment, I didn't want to stop giving to them. There just are not words to describe all this to you...even though I've used so many words up in this blog post already :) We also bought her some stickers and some licorice and skittles and an Uno game. We played a few rounds of Uno with them all at the picnic table and had lots of laughs. David thought he was gonna win us all, but he didn't. :) They also had a couple of lovely gifts to give Kyrstin which was hard to accept because we knew they didn't have much money....she got a Ecuador bag that said Riobamba on it, a matching toque and scarf which had lamas on it. Soooo nice!!!
The time passed much too quickly and it was time to part before any of us wanted to. We had an ice cream treat together as we said our goodbyes and we prayed together, two families across the world blended together for a precious moment in time, face to face before our Creator God who loves us and brought us together for such a time as this. We have much and they have little, but we are altogether rich in the love and joy of Christ, which we all share and know that if we don't see each other again on this earth, we will see each other in heaven. Their family are all believers and so is ours and we are together in Christ as one in the body of believers. So amazing to share this time together. Yes I said the word together 5 times in this paragraph and perhaps it emphasizes a point that we can't and are not meant to live alone on this earth but together with others and to be a team. That is God's intent. It is His Will that we be one in Him. And here we were. A family from Canada, a Spanish family from the Andes mountains in Ecuador, a Compassion Project Worker and a Compassion translator...one big family unit in Jesus Christ, together, praying for the Lord's will and guidance in our lives. Words don't describe...our hearts are overwhelmed, overjoyed, humbled at this God-ordained moment in time which none of us will ever forget. <3