This May I got a plane for Dakar, Senegal to visit our partner schools and meet the little girl I have been sponsoring there for many years. I knew the trip would be difficult because it involved moving around the country so much, never sleeping in the same bed two nights in a row. This is not the kind of trip we set up for sponsors visiting their kids – those trips involve lots of time visiting with your kid, serving in their school, etc. As a GO staffer, this trip was about visiting our partners in ministry, and I was thrilled to be a part of it. We had been in Senegal for about 7 days when we visited ERS School in Dakar, where my sponsor girl, Fatou is a student. The trip was coming to an end, and we were, in fact, flying out on a red-eye that night. I was tired and hot, but really excited to meet her. We toured the school (which is for deaf students), learned about their programs and needs, and spent some good time with the headmaster. Then, we went to Fatou’s classroom.
I recognized her right away when I went in. She had a big smile and very friendly face. Our eyes met and I knew that she recognized me as well from photos I had sent her. The headmaster called her out of the room so that we could talk. I had learned to sign “my name is Hannah,” but that was it. After that, we would need to communicate through a translator. I told her my name, and that I had been praying for her for many years. She responded that she had also been praying for me, that she loved me, and was so excited to meet me. Then she grabbed me in a big hug, and just didn’t let go. She cried, I cried, everyone who was there cried. We held each other for about a half hour, just so glad to be together. I promised Fatou I would always be her sponsor and told her that I loved her. It wasn’t a very long visit, but I still can’t talk about it without getting misty-eyed. I cannot wait to go back and see her again when I can spend more time with her.
Now it is June and I am writing this post from my hotel room in Mexico. I am in Mazatlán to host 4 teams from several churches who are here to work in our feeding centers and at Camp de Futbol, our annual soccer camp for the children of the city. Camp ended last night with one our biggest years yet, almost 1400 children in attendance. One of the kids at camp was Valeria, the girl I sponsor here. I met Valeria on a vision trip 4 years ago and have been able to visit her many times. I love her very much and think of her as “mi hija Mexicana” (my Mexican daughter). She is quite shy and it has taken several trips for her to open up to me. Now she comes and finds me, ready with a big hug. This is a huge step for her and it is not lost on me how much of a privilege it is when she does this.
I gave her a gift, as I usually do when I visit, and included a picture of us together from January. She liked the gifts, but I knew she really liked the photo. My Spanish is better than my sign language, so we are able to communicate better now, but establishing a friendship with Valeria in the beginning was always done with the help of translators. When I visited her feeding center this year, she just sat down next to me, not needing to say much, just smiling at me mostly. The next day, she had written me a note saying that she loves me and sharing her favorite Scriptures (John 3:16 and Philippians 4:13).
As I reflect on my time with each of my girls, I am more convinced than ever that there is simply no language barrier. Of course the verbal communication can be difficult, but with both Fatou and Valeria, simply being together is enough. They know I love them and I know they love me. There is something so pure about hearts being united in the Lord, that is surpasses the need to speak the same language. After all, we do share the language of worshipping God.
If you have ever thought about visiting your sponsor child, I strongly encourage you to make it happen. When you meet your child, there simply won’t be a problem with communication. There will be joy, laughter, and tears and it will be one of the greatest moments on your life. Meeting Fatou and Valeria has given me so much joy, I pray that every one of our sponsors gets to experience it one day.