On the second day of
Christmas my trip to Ecuador, we left Quito and traveled 4ish hours south to Riobamba.
But, when you get to the highlands, you enter a much more rural area, and you just can’t beat the scenery. It’s like God took giant patchwork quilts of browns and greens and had them draped over the countryside. Also, stray dogs are a problem everywhere. It’s universal.
The best view, however, came after the long bus ride – once we pulled up to visit Project EC469 the first child development center of the trip, and my first visit to a Compassion Child Development Center ever.
We were greeted like celebrities – the kids all lined up with balloons and streamers waving us into their church and smiling their way into our hearts. And I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me tear up a bit. Something about that first child center – that first view – those faces, you start to see your sponsor child in each of them – and you know, in just a few short days, you’ll be hugging your child, and talking to your child, and that’s what gets you. The realization that it’s about to get amazing and big and quite possibly overwhelming; but that it will all be worth it. Every second will be worth it.
So you meet these kids that remind you of your kids – you pour love into them because you’re eager to pour love into your own. You let them know that there is a sponsor out there somewhere who will love them and write them and you encourage the ones that don’t get letters. You let them know that not all sponsors are good at writing, but all sponsors love their kids. You pray that the ones who don’t get any letters will be flooded with love in the form of written words. You sing with the kids, you dance with the kids, you eat with the kids, and you see your kid in them all.
And sometimes, you see *your kid* before she’s your kid. Before you know her, you realize that you’ll not be able to give her up. You may have semi-randomly selected the packets of a couple of children before leaving the bus and entering the center. You may have had hopes of meeting these kids, getting great & moving photos of them, and learning a bit more about them in order to convince someone in your circle to become a sponsor. But then you met one of your “packets.” And a “packet” became a very real little girl. A very real, and very shy little girl, named Valeria.
And while I knew I was not her sponsor, I’m not sure she understood that – or even cared. I was someone there who wanted to see her. I wanted to visit with her. I wanted to know more about her. And from that moment on, she was glued to my side. We laughed, I drew silly pictures & she told me what they were, we played with stickers and painted fingernails nails, and I was determined to find her a forever-sponsor when I got home.
So, when I got home (and even before) I passed her photo around to all of my contacts, there was some interest, but no takers. And Valeria, she had a hold on my heart. I wanted to find her a sponsor, but knew it wasn’t meant to be me – I also wanted to be able to check on her and make sure she had a sponsor that would write and send lots of love – I was picky, but that was a good thing. I ended up finding a sponsor much closer to home – my Mom. After hearing my stories and seeing Valeria’s photos, it wasn’t too hard to convince Mom to sponsor her (I did have to promise to help Mom write the letters, but hey, that’s a small price to pay, right? 😉 ) In fact, Mom just got her first letter from Valeria this past weekend – complete with a beautiful drawing and lots of details.
And after I spent some time with Valeria? Well, that’s when we went on our first home visit…
Want to sponsor your own Valeria? I urge you to check out Compassion International and change the life of a child forever.