By May Thomsen
The Christmas season is a time of joy, reflection, and wonder, as we celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth and rejoice that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son. Advent allows us the opportunity to pause and remember the many blessings in our lives.
Every day I am blessed to know that an eleven-year-old boy named Alvalaria living in Busia, Kenya is praying for me and my family. He’s praying that I have a good day and that I am safe. I’m also praying for him – that he’s safe and healthy, that he continues to do well in school, and that he always knows the love of Jesus.
We pray for each other because we share a very special bond – the bond of Jesus through Compassion International. For more than six years, I’ve been sponsoring Alvalaria through Compassion’s church-based child sponsorship program.
Fittingly, our relationship began with prayer. I was not familiar with Compassion prior to a conference I attended, but I took their information home. For several days, I prayed and asked for God’s guidance as I contemplated stepping forward as a child sponsor. One day at breakfast, I began scrolling through Compassion’s website and learning more about the children. At any given time, there are hundreds of children from around the world hoping to be sponsored. Sponsorship is not only a life altering event for the children, but also for the parents who are now provided some relief in caring for that child.
As I was reading about the children, I thought back to a mission trip I had taken to Kenya two years prior where I met a teenage boy named Collin. I thought I had a good understanding on poverty, but still I was unprepared for the extreme poverty facing children in developing countries. Collin told us how he and his siblings would rotate their only pair of shoes among them in order meet the requirement to attend school. I had brought a pair of Toms canvas shoes with me for the trip, and I gave them to his family so they’d have one more pair to share. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “God Loves a cheerful giver.”
It was this prayerful reflection on my time in Kenya that gave me the clarity I sought in making the commitment to become a Compassion child sponsor. Right there, over breakfast, I decided to sponsor Alvalaria. The sponsorship process was simple, and I was able to not only select a boy from Kenya, but also a boy who was young. I wanted to walk alongside my sponsored child for as long as possible.
Today, Alvalaria and I exchange electronic letters frequently. In fact, as I was working on this blog post, I checked the portal to find a letter from him. He shared about the inline skating team he joined in his community and included a drawing of him wearing a helmet and uniform. He attends the local Compassion Child Development Center where he gets help with his schoolwork and plays with his friends. He wants to be a policeman when he grows up to keep his neighbors and community safe.
I love how much Alvalaria shares with me in his letters. When I first started writing, I was more reserved in what I shared. I wrote about what I did over the weekend and encouraged him to be his best. I told him that I was praying for him. He would write back to say that he was praying too -- for me and my family. In the face of extreme poverty, he was praying for me. That I would be happy. That I would be safe.
His letters encouraged me to share more about what was going on in my life. With each letter, our connection deepened. St. Francis of Assisi was spot on when he commented, “For it is in giving that we receive.”
Three years ago, I left my position with the Rescue Mission to join Compassion International as part of the corporate relations team working with businesses to support the mission of releasing children from extreme poverty. As part of my work, I’ve been fortunate to visit many communities around the world where Compassion, through its church partners, has child development centers. I’ve met the children served by those centers, including Alexander from Ecuador, who is sponsored by my parents.
During those visits, one of the first things the children want to show me is their collection of letters from their sponsors. Every single letter is cherished and its clear from the weathered pages that the child has read the letter many times over, often reciting phrases from memory. The letters let the child know they are precious, they are supported, and they are loved. The letters give hope even when circumstances are dark. They let the children know there is hope for a different future – a future free from the seemingly unrelenting grip of extreme poverty.
When I’m asked about the impact of child sponsorship, I talk about lives transformed. And I don’t mean just the lives of the children. I mean also the lives of sponsors like me. My life is transformed because of my relationship with Alvalaria. His prayers and love for me have stamped my heart forever.
In a recent letter, Alvalaria closed with Matthew 19:14 when Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” He signed the letter, “your loving son, Alvalaria.” He had never used this signature line before, and I was so moved. With just four simple words, he had expressed the depth of our relationship… for both of us.
Being a Compassion child sponsor is an incredible opportunity to change the life of a child living in poverty and bring new meaning and purpose to your own. Often times, if I find myself with even five minutes of free time waiting in line, I jump on the Compassion app and jot off a quick note to Alvalaria to let him know I’m thinking about him and praying for him. Such a quick and simple gesture immediately lifts my spirits and gives me perspective in today’s busy world.
If you or your family is considering becoming a Compassion child sponsor, I hope you will find that prayer and reflection lead you to making the commitment as it did me. I love having Alvalaria as a part of my life, and I look forward to walking alongside him via our letters and prayers for many years to come. You can learn more about sponsorship here.
May your Christmas be filled with love, joy and peace from our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Prayer Is Powerful
For children living in poverty, there is often no safety net. Hunger, disease and disaster are constantly pressing in. That's why prayer matters so much.
Every month, the Compassion staff around the world sends prayer requests on behalf of the children we serve. The requests are for children who are sick, for families that are fractured, for the lost to be found — for miracles. It is an honor to lift up those requests. Please join us in praying for children in poverty.