20 Things I wish I had Asked My Sponsored Kids

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Last September, when I traveled with Compassion International to meet my two Ecuadorian sponsored children, Josué & Emily, I had no idea what to expect. No idea how I would react or what I would see. I’ve written about my trip here, if you’re interested in following along.

They, our group leaders, did tell us to be thinking of questions to ask our kids – they warned us that we would get caught up in the moment and forget what we wanted to know if we didn’t write it down. They did tell us, and I did ignore them. I couldn’t think of anything in particular that I wanted to know – I just wanted to know my kids. I just wanted to see them, hug them, and tell them I love them. I didn’t have anything to ask them. I am, by nature, a quiet person, an extremely introverted person. Small talk tires me – it was enough, in those few moments, to simply hold my kids. To just be there with them – to be completely there. To breathe in the air and know that this moment will never happen again.

And so, like they warned me, I forgot anything I wanted to ask. I stumbled over the small talk- amazed at simply being there. I had no idea what to say or what was appropriate to ask. Fortunately, I was blessed with an amazing translator who kept the conversation going as me and my kids are all quiet, reserved souls – and there were so many new people. Only when I had said my “bye-for-nows” did I realize there was so much that I didn’t ask.  So much more that I wanted to know.

Below are the questions I forgot – the ones that I’m now including in my letters, but wished I had included in my face-to-face conversation. Some of them don’t seem like much, but they are gold to me. Let me encourage you, if you are ever taking a trip to meet your sponsored child, take a notebook with you. Write down your questions for them, and their answers to you. Write down all the names of all the people you meet. Write everything down. Memories are frail and fleeting when it comes to small details – notebooks, pen, paper, cameras – invaluable.

Things I wish I had asked both Emily & Josué:

  1. How are your father & siblings?
  2. What did you do when you found out I was coming to visit you?
  3. What kind of “extras” do you like to get with the letters? (do you still like stickers? Do you like the paper planes better? What makes you most excited to open the letters?)
  4. Which letter is your favorite, and why?
  5. What size clothes do you wear?
  6. Exactly how tall are you?
  7. What is your shoe size?
  8. What is your home like?
  9. What does an average day for you look like?
  10. What is the hardest part of your day?
  11. How many kids in your project get regular letters from their sponsors?
  12. Do any of your friends/siblings not get letters?
  13. How old is your Compassion Project?
  14. How long have your tutors been working with Compassion?

Things I wish I had asked for Emily specifically:

  1. What is your favorite part of the Compassion Program?
  2. What kind of lessons does your mother teach for Sunday School? Does she have a favorite lesson?

Things I wish I had asked for Josué specifically:

  1. How did you get started with your baseball team?
  2. Tell me more about the service projects you and your friends do for your neighborhood.
  3. Who is your best friend, what do you like most about them?
  4. Of all of your baked goods, what have you been most proud to make?

What would you ask your sponsored child, if you could ask them anything?

Ecuador: Main Country Office

Today I’m continuing my series of posts relating to my recent trip to Ecuador. For previous posts, click here.

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On our final, full day in Ecuador, we visited the main country office. Here, we met the country director and several of his staff.EcuadorCountryOffice1

The first hour or so, we were blessed with a presentation on Ecuador and Compassion’s work in the country. I had no idea how young the overall population of Ecuador is – there are 7 million citizens under the age of 25; that’s just under 1/2 of the entire population.EcuadorCountryOffice2

Additionally, I did not know that there are 200 Compassion Child Sponsorship Projects in the country, with 59,000 kids sponsored. I do wonder, though, if Compassion keeps data on how many sponsored kids are 2nd and 3rd generation sponsored kids. I know the idea is that you break that cycle, that ideally, a child who completes the program has the skills and education needed to provide for their family in such a way that their own children would not need sponsors – but, in reality, we know that cycle is a terrible one and I would imagine that not all children who complete the program can break the cycle in a single generation. It would be interesting to see the numbers – and possibly the numbers of those who break vs do not break the cycle in comparison to those who do vs do not receive letters from their sponsors… just a thought.EcuadorCountryOffice3

After the presentation, we took a tour of the office and met the local staff. We were able to browse through the country’s curriculum for the Projects, learn about the letter writing system from their end, and even see the fun stacks of template paper ready to be distributed to the kids. EcuadorCountryOffice4

But, by far, the best part of the visit was the mail room. Every project has their own slot in this room of shelves – and in those slots go all of the hopes, dreams, and well-wishes of 1000s of sponsors around the world. This is also a good time to mention that Compassion lets you drop-off non-letter items for your kids at the main office. All of those bags on the table in the photo below were gifts brought by me and other members of our group for our own kids and the kids of other sponsors we know. Since we met our kids before touring the country office, I took an additional gallon-sized ziplock bag full of things that I wish I had thought of before meeting my kids (shampoo/conditioner from the hotel, rice/lentils from the grocery store, hard candy, etc.). It was a great way to get one last gift to the kids before we left. EcuadorCountryOffice5

I also searched both Emily & Josue’s project slots and found 2 of my letters ready to be delivered! Which was so fun! It gave me a glimpse of how the templates I share here look when they get to the kids. EcuadorCountryOffice7

It also gave me a better understanding of the time-frame involved in writing/delivering a letter. I went to Ecuador at the end of September, 2013. The letters I found I had written at the end of April, 2013. That’s a 5 month travel time; which means that I should start sending my autumn/fall/harvest themed letters now in order for them to get to my kids at the right time. It also means I really should celebrate Christmas in July (or at the latest August).EcuadorCountryOffice6

Another thing I learned while at the Compassion office was that the letters are actually translated in Ecuador. For some reason, I thought my letters were translated in Colorado at the main Compassion Office; but nope, Compassion contracts with locals to translate the letters – both mine to the kids and the kids’ to me. EcuadorCountryOffice8

After the time at the main Ecuador Office, we spent some time at a local market – I only got one photo from the market (below) but I can best describe it as a foot-ball sized space packed with small booth-like structures that, in turn, were packed floor to celling with merchandise. From alpaca blankets to pan-flutes, silver jewelry to hand carved nativity scenes, there was a little bit of everything. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t buy much – I totally filled one of my gift-empty bags with items purchased at the market. But it was so worth it. EcuadorCountryOffice9And that, my friends, was my last full-day in Ecuador. The next morning we rose bright and early to catch our flight back to the states and honestly, I was so exhausted (mentally, physically, and definitely emotionally) that it’s all a bit of a blur. An awesome blur, but still a blur.

And truth be told, I’m already looking forward to another trip with Compassion International. It was so worth it – so, so, so worth it.

 

 

Ecuador: Sunday Morning Church & the Equator

Today I’m continuing my series of posts relating to my recent trip to Ecuador. For previous posts, click here.

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After an intense Saturday visiting our sponsored children, we spent Sunday enjoying a wonderful church service and doing a bit of sight-seeing.
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Before the church service began, we took a quick tour of the facility and had some Q&A time with the pastor and his family. Equator01

While viewing the rooms, my heart swelled to see my sweet Josue’s name – even though it was not the same Josue, it made me happy, nonetheless.
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Finally, we entered the sanctuary and were treated to several wonderful performances by the children before the preacher took the stage to deliver his sermon.Equator05

These girls were precious with their performances. Clearly, they had been preparing for the dance for quite some time.Equator06

They were also very excited to get their photo taken…Equator08

And to take photos 😉Equator07

This sweet girl in her beautiful white dress was a bit sad about not getting to be in the dance routine with the other girls – she seemed to be the one that’s often left out, but she smiled a mile wide when I asked for a photo of her by herself. It’s all in the little things, you know?Equator09

After the church service, we loaded up and went to each a delicious restaurant near the Equator. Equator10

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And now, I can officially say I’ve had one foot in each hemisphere (even if it was just barely for the photo)Equator14

When we got back to our hotel that night, Compassion brought in formerly sponsored children who now travel and sing to perform for us during dinner. They were fantastic, and just one more example of how sponsorship really works. Equator16After such an emotional trip, I’m so glad Compassion scheduled this “down day” to let us recover and process what we had been through. The time to just be a tourist was very much needed. Monday would mark our last full day in the country – and we’ll finish off the trip with a visit to the main country office and then the local market. I can’t wait to share those with you!

 

Ecuador: Fun Day

Today, after a long break from this space (my deepest apologizes, dear readers) I’m continuing my series of posts relating to my recent trip to Ecuador. For previous posts, click here.

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After our hour-long bus ride, we arrived at a water/play park. Since it was Saturday, the park was open to the public, but Compassion had reserved a special area of covered picnic tables just for our large group – we even had our own swimming pool. EcuadorFunDay01Before I left home, I scoped out the end-of-season sales for swim/summer wear. I was fortunate enough to catch an amazing sale on swim suits, flip-flops, and summer dresses. EcuadorFunDay02Clearly, it was a bit dicy as to what sizes Emily and Josué wore. My thought process was buy bigger than you think – they can grow in to it. And, for the most part, that totally worked. (Emily got some shoes that were way too big, though. But, I’m sure there is someone in the family that can use them.)

EcuadorFunDay07I was more worried about the clothing size for Josué – he’s so tall! But, I stuck to shorts and t-shirts, and overall the sizes were perfect. The kids loved their new swim suits, and the water park in general. I was determined to have a day of “yes” not a day of “no” – so yes, I did go down the water slide. Yes, we can have ice cream. Yes, we can play baseball. Yes. Yes. Yes! And you know what, I have no regrets. We started the day in the pools, moved to the picnic area for a game of catch, and then went off on our own for the “gift” time. 

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Knowing that Josué is an award winning baseball pitcher, I wanted to buy him a new baseball glove – but I wasn’t sure if he was right or left handed…. so I took one of each. Turns out, he’s right handed; but there’s a boy on his team who is left-handed (so I had Josué take him the extra glove). You would have thought that I had given him a brick of solid gold. He was ecstatic.
EcuadorFunDay09I also took each of them (including the moms/tutors) an age-appropriate Spanish Bible – which they all loved. At the end of our time together, I wrote a quick note to each person in their Bible and my translator was kind enough to read what I had written in Spanish.

EcuadorFunDay11For Emily, I searched high and low for a Hispanic Doll. It was really important to me that she had a doll that looked like her, not a white doll with blonde hair and blue eyes. I ended up finding a Hearts for Hearts Doll at Target. I was also super happy to learn that when you buy a doll, a dollar of the purchase price is donated to programs that support children in that doll’s region.

Emily adored her doll, and I have a ton of great photos of her hugging the doll, smiling, and playing.

EcuadorFunDay10I also took Emily one of my #26quilts. For more on her quilt, and her reaction to it, click here.

EcuadorFunDay12Emily and her family we so, so, so thankful for the gifts. They overwhelmed me with their gratitude; and I was so, so thankful for the precious moments I got to spend with them. 

EcuadorFunDay13Josué, after seeing Emily pull out her quilt, dove in to his gifts to find his right off the bat. His face light up the moment he found it, and even more so, the moment he found his name. 

EcuadorFunDay14For more about Josué’s quilt, and his reaction, click here.

EcuadorFunDay15A few of the other items I took both of my kids include: Project Life photo albums from my stash, school supplies (pencils, markers, notebooks, folders, pencil sharpeners, colored pencils, crayons, and glue), clothing (shorts/dresses, shirts, swim wear), toothbrushes (for the entire family), family-sized toothpaste, Bibles, small toys (tops, kaleidoscopes), Filtered Water Bottles, hair supplies (bows, ties, combs, brushes, headbands), hand towels, kitchen items (pot holders, wooden spoons, oven mits), and a nice backpack.

EcuadorFunDay16Toward the end of our time together, the group of us headed over to the ice-cream shop in the park and enjoyed a nice treat. It was a wonderful time to fellowship and ask any final questions. Some of my favorite photos come from this easy time. 

EcuadorFunDay17The smiles, the familiarity, it still overwhelms me.

EcuadorFunDay18The very last part of the day was spent taking a huge group photo. It was during this time that Josué, my wonderful boy who fully understood what this day was, broke my heart.

EcuadorFunDay19This 15-year old boy sat with his hand in mine, his head on my shoulder, for the entire photo time. Neither of us wanted the moment to end. All to soon the “goodbye” was creeping up on us, and we would have to part ways.

EcuadorFunDay20And, without a doubt, that “bye for now” never “goodbye” was the absolute hardest part of the entire trip. 

EcuadorFunDay22You’ve opened your heart to these precious kids and their families. You’ve learned so much about them – put a voice with a photo, felt their hugs, danced with them, loved them, and now – all of a sudden – you have to say bye. And you don’t know when or if you’ll ever see them again. And your heart can hardly take it.

EcuadorFunDay21Especially when the kids understand the gravity of it, too. That’s so much harder – you both realize that this might be a once in a lifetime thing and how do you end that? How do you just walk away? – You cry. You ugly cry. You sob the whole way to the bus. You don’t look back – because if you do, you’ll never leave – you’ll lose your nerve. Some do lose their nerve, some have to be escorted from their kids by the tour leaders. Every sponsor cries. You hug everyone. You sit quietly as the bus drives back to the hotel. You gather with other sponsors in impromptu therapy sessions. You share the stories you just learned, you process what you’ve been able to do, and you cry some more. You write your kids – tell them how happy those few moments with them made you – how you already miss them – how you now long to see them again one day. 

EcuadorFunDay23And this, this right here is the entire reason I flew to another continent by myself. For this connection. For this heartbreak. For this relationship. This is everything. 

Want to sponsor your own Emily or Josué? I urge you to check out Compassion International and change the life of a child forever.

 

For When You’re in Hot Water

To say I have felt care-free, relaxed, or even at ease these past few weeks would be a lie. It’s been quite the opposite, I’m afraid. Stress is a funny thing. It builds constantly without release until it bubbles over impacting far more than you expect.

Have you ever been in a situation that is causing you stress, and yet, logically you know there is no basis for the stress – which, in turn, stresses you more? Yeah – that. That’s been happening daily around here. Tiny, little stressors, unfounded and unnecessary creep in and wreck havoc. Not at all fun; not at all.

But, when I can feel it happening – when I know I’m frustrated simply because I’m frustrated. There’s one phrase I’ve started to focus on: Hot Water.

Not the “Oh, I’m in some real hot water now, so-and-so is really going to let me have it for this….” kind of hot water – no, I’m talking about the literal bathtub full of amazingly perfect hot water.

Let me explain: On my fifth day in Ecuador I woke up excited and anxious to spend the entire day at a Fun Park with my two sponsored children, Emily and Josué. I met both my kids in the hotel lobby, and enjoyed a few minutes visiting with them before we boarded the bus for the hour-long drive.

EcuadorFunDayBus2The bus ride, I truly believe, will always be my favorite part aside from the initial meeting. I sat with Josué  on my right, Emily on my lap, my translator across the isle on my left, Emily’s mother next to the translator with her other daugther on her lap, and Josué’s tutor and sister behind me. I’m horrible with small talk – and was so amazed at the moment that I could think of nothing to ask them. There was nothing I wanted to know – I just wanted to be there with them. Josué  laced his fingers with mine, put his head on my shoulder, and just rested there for most of the drive. I wish I could capture that moment in a time capsule and visit it every day – it was perfection.
EcuadorFunDayBus1When I finally could string a sentence together, I asked them about their hotel stay – specifically, “What was your favorite thing about the hotel?” Knowing that getting to stay in a hotel in Arkansas is a big treat for kids, I figured it was a bigger treat for them. I was not disappointed.

Josué replied without hesitation – the bed. I asked if he had a bed of his own at home – he does, the hotel bed was very comfortable though, I laughed a bit and heartily agreed. My hotel bed was indeed more comfortable than my home bed. He relaxed a bit and we talked about his travels with his ball team and the hotels they were able to stay in.

Emily was a bit slower to answer, and more shy with her answer – at length, her Mom spoke for her. What had been her favorite thing?

Hot Water.

It had amazed Emily that you could get hot water straight out of the tap in the tub. She delighted in her shower.

You guys. Hot water was her favorite thing about the hotel stay.

That thing I take for granted every. single. time I turn on the tap for my shower; that thing that I don’t miss until it’s gone; that was her favorite. 

I could not speak. For a moment, I simply could not comprehend. My spoiled American self had not considered this a luxury. I was clearly wrong – and deeply humbled. I asked if they had running water in their home. They do – just no water heater. To bathe, they warm water on the stove. I could at that point see in her mother’s eyes the impact this trip had on them. The love and thankfulness poured out of her like the water had poured out of the tap – and it never shut off. The entire length of our time together she thanked me; she kept conversations going when I could not; she asked questions that I was happy to answer; and she poured out love.

And so, when I find myself overwhelmed, frustrated, insecure, or stressed – I focus on hot water. Because even on my worst day I have so much to be thankful for.

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I am blessed and humbled by the Hot Water I’m in.

Blessed and Humbled; and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here’s hoping that you remember there is always something to be thankful for – and that sometimes the hot water your standing in is a blessing in disguise. 

Ecuador: Meeting Emily & Josue

Today, I’m continuing my series of posts relating to my recent trip to Ecuador. For previous posts, click here. My apologies, I was planning to have this post run last Thursday, Feb. 6, but we’ve had some major winter weather for our area & I took some time away from the computer to enjoy the snow 🙂 

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MeetingEmily&Josue01This will forever be one of my favorite photos from my trip – this moment when I first hugged my sponsored boy, Josue. This moment rocked. From the moment our group of sponsored gathered in Miami, this is what we were all waiting for – and boy did we wait. Before we could enter the room where our sponsored children gathered, there were some technical problems with the sounds system. It felt like were were kept outside those big double doors to the conference room for ages.MeetingEmily&Josue02Finally they got the sound system fixed and we were able to parade into the grand ballroom. Our tour leaders led us to the front of the room, amid the many tables of sponsored children and their families. From the moment we entered the doors (well, actually from the moment we left our rooms to meet up in the lobby) each of us sponsors eagerly eyed the room for our children. Josué, being nearly 6 foot tall and the only black sponsored child there, was easy to spot. He was in the front, left corner of the room and bashfully smiled and waved at me as I spotted him. Once I found him, I was able to locate the area where my “family” was & spotted little Emily grinning like crazy. She looks exactly like her photographs. There was no doubt in my mind that these were my kids. But, before I could rush over to them, the tour leaders had all the sponsor line up in the front of the room & one by one we were called forward to “meet” our children.

I was called last. It took forever. MeetingEmily&Josue03Once my name was called, Josué rushed up to hug me, and confetti was tossed by someone – no idea who. Emily was right behind Josué; and we got a couple of photos before finding our seats. I am so, so, so glad I handed off my phone/camera to one of the Compassion workers who traveled with us but wasn’t meeting her sponsored child. I did not want to worry about taking photos. I wanted to enjoy the moment.

Each sponsor had a round table somewhere in the room where their sponsored children and the kids’ guardians waited. Mine was in the front, right side of the room, and seated myself, Emily, Josué, Emily’s Mother, Emily’s Little Sister, Emily’s Tutor, Josué’s Sister, Josué’s Tutor, and my translator. MeetingEmily&Josue04From the moment we sat down it was amazing. Both Emily and Josué presented me with spectacular & heartfelt gifts.
MeetingEmily&Josue05Emily gave me a fantastic traditional hat & handmade bracelets to remember her and her family by.

My beautiful pictureThey were stunning, and I wore the bracelets for the rest of trip. My beautiful pictureAnd the hat is so awesome. Just so, so awesome. This girl who doesn’t have hot water in her house, used her funds to purchase me this beautiful, traditional hat. I was overwhelmed, and we were just getting started.MeetingEmily&Josue08My dear Josué, my award winning baseball pitcher, he gave me his trophy from a recent game where he was named as the best pitcher only a month before my visit.

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You guys, he gave me this trophy. As in it flew home with me and is proudly displayed in my office. He might have only ever received this one trophy, and he gave it to me. 

MeetingEmily&Josue13He also gave me a handmade card and headband.

I had a few little gifts for Emily & Josué. Compassion gave each sponsor a small gift bag with candy and treats to help break the ice with the kids; but I also knew that I wanted to give each of my kids a camera & let them document the trip.

I bought 2 inexpensive digital cameras at Walmart before I left home with the intention of giving each of my kids one of them. I also stocked up on batteries and 4 SD cards. The plan was to put 1 SD card in each of the cameras at the beginning, let the kids take photos to their hearts content, and then switch out the SD cards with new ones right before I left. I would take their photos home & print them, and then send the photos back to the kids in the many letters I would write them. It worked out perfectly. I would do this again in a heartbeat. I got tons of photos, but never had to be behind the camera – it was so awesome!

MeetingEmily&Josue11After what seemed like 2 seconds, the emcee had us all up and dancing to children’s spanish songs. I have no idea what they sang, and the sponsors and myself were several steps behind the native speakers, but it was so much fun! And man, all the dancing wore me out! It was quite the workout, quite the workout.
MeetingEmily&Josue12And at some point during the night (I honestly can’t remember if it was before or after the dancing, but I think maybe it was after?) we were taken through a buffet line for supper.MeetingEmily&Josue09There was also a face painting area set up for the kids and sponsors. I took Emily, her little sister, and Josué, 

My beautiful pictureThe girls were pretty excited.
My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful pictureI don’t have a photo of the face painting, but they were short on painters so I painted Josué’s face, and he painted mine. It was an extremely special time.

MeetingEmily&Josue18The night flew by, and was the perfect way to start our time together. The goodnight was not nearly as bad as the goodbye that would come the next day. And the couple of hours we had together was a perfect way to break the ice and get past the awkward introductions so that we could enjoy every single minute of our fun day together. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Ecuador: LDP Student Breakfast

 

Today, I’m continuing my series of posts relating to my recent trip to Ecuador. For previous posts, click here.

 

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The morning of our final day in Riobamba, we were all a flutter; in a manner of mere hours we would be holding our sponsored children, hugging their guardians, and showing love through more than letters. It was going to be an exciting day. Sensing that we’d be pretty useless as sponsors after meeting our kids, Compassion arranged for the “learning” portions of our tour to occur before our fun day; and they made use of every opportunity. Before we left Riobamba and began the four hour bus ride back to Quito, we were given the opportunity to eat breakfast and fellowship with four Leadership Development Program (LDP) Students. The LDP is an extension of the child sponsorship program for sponsored children who have aged out or graduated. Students must apply and undergo an extensive selection process before being accepted as an LDP Student. Once selected, they are paired with a mentor in their field of study, and available to be sponsored again. To learn more about the LDP program, click here.

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During our time with them, they shared their dreams, hopes, and fears. Pictured above, from left to right: Luz, Rebecca, Dario, & Santiago. Both Luz and Rebecca are on track to be public health workers, Dario is an award winning software developer (with his own iphone app), and Santiago is an accomplished zoologist. It was awe-inspiring to hear their stories and their testimonies made me determined to make sure the my own Josué was aware of the LDP and had the guidance he would need should he decide to pursue the opportunity.

EcuadorLDPBreakfast02After our breakfast, we loaded onto the bus and began the long and exciting trip back to Quito. To give our kids time to get to the hotel, and make sure we ate, the tour leaders arranged for us to get a wonderful lunch at a great little restaurant along our route.

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EcuadorLDPBreakfast05Again I was pleasantly surprised at the food, and thoroughly enjoyed the meal. They even had vegetarian options – and while I didn’t try it, they looked delicious!

EcuadorLDPBreakfast06I’m not much of a salad person, and we couldn’t eat much of this salad (as a precaution we were advised not to eat any fruit/vegetable that couldn’t be peeled); but this was so good!

EcuadorLDPBreakfast07And pretty! (although by this point I was totally over potatoes… we had so many potatoes….baked, roasted, boiled, in soup, as a side, you can dream it we had it – all very yummy, but there’s only so much potato I could eat)

EcuadorLDPBreakfast08After lunch, we were treated to some beautiful views of the country; and I’m so glad I forced myself to focus on the moment and took in the countryside. It was easy to slip into the anxious rush of wanting to get back to Quito as soon as possible to meet Josué & Emily, but I’m really thankful for that long trip back; for the time it gave me to prepare, to collect my thoughts, and think of questions I wanted to ask my kids.

EcuadorLDPBreakfast10Once we were back at our hotel in Quito, we were given strict instructions to go straight to our rooms and not emerge until 6pm – approximately 2 hours away! And I’ll tell you, that two hours was the longest, ever!

EcuadorLDPBreakfast12All along I knew I wanted to write a letter to my kids while I was on my trip, and, given such a long break, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to write them one last time before I met them face to face. So, I pulled out a couple of sheets of Compassion stationary I’d packed with me and wrote love. For months I’d been teasing Emily & Josué, telling them that I had a very big and very exciting trip to take and asking them to pray for me. In these last pre-meeting letters, I finally explained that the big trip was to see them. I told them that I was so excited, and nervous, and couldn’t wait to give them a big hug. I let them know that it was ok if they were shy, or emotional, as I myself and a quiet person. Basically, wrote to calm my nerves and reassure my kids that I loved them no matter what. I had several of the other sponsors tell me that they didn’t know how I was able to write in that time, with all of the emotions; but honestly, it was just the right thing for me. It helped me pass the time – and was way easier than writing that first letter after I said goodbye to my kids.

EcuadorLDPBreakfast11I finished the last letter with just enough time to refresh a bit and head down to the lobby where we would be escorted into a large banquet room and finally see those beautiful faces in person. This was it, the whole trip was building to this one moment. I could not wait.