My name is Amanda. I'm a 27-year-old Advocate with Compassion International. I am passionate about encouraging letter writing between sponsors and their sponsored children, and I am always eager to share about our experiences with Compassion. If you have any questions about getting involved or sponsoring a child, please don't hesitate to contact me at - thanks, and have a blessed day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankfulness and Family

Recently I was going through a stack of papers. When I saw this, my breath hitched in my chest:

Last September, I prepared this birthday card for my sweet Stirling. At that point, she had long since left the Compassion program and moved far away. As a result, we had said our goodbyes (seemingly forever). There was no way for me to say Happy Birthday to her, or mail her a card. It was a bittersweet day because I missed her so much.

Inside the card is a long, heartfelt message to my dear girl, including the following words:

"I pray that one day God will allow us to reconnect so that I can give you this birthday card. In the meantime, I will continue to pray for you, loving and missing you all the while."

I imagined that if she and I were ever to reconnect, it might happen when she was a teenager. Perhaps one day she would even stumble upon this blog and make the connection.

Never did I imagine that only two months after writing this card, our paths would cross again.

Less than a year ago, I heard her voice over the phone for the very first time. We fumbled through a conversation that largely consisted of "te quiero mucho" ("I love you") and "no entiendo" ("I don't understand"). We shared very few words, but it was a miracle to hear one another's voices after believing that our connection had been severed forever.

Less than a year ago, I was able to hold Stirling again. She, her mother, and two of her sisters visited me and spent the weekend at my hotel in Honduras. We ate breakfast together, played in the pool, and went to the mall. We had puzzle races and long conversations in my much-improved Spanish. And, naturally, there were many (many) hugs and kisses and so much love I thought I might burst.

Less than a year ago (just a few months ago, actually!), Stirling and I spent our second weekend together. This time, all of her sisters were able to join her and her mother at our hotel. My husband and my mother were there, too! It was a dream come true for all of us as Mike was able to forge an instant bond with the family I'd grown to love so deeply.

This time, we spent virtually all our time either at the pool or eating in the restaurant. I had been worried that my husband would have a difficult time connecting, as he speaks very little Spanish. Those fears were completely unfounded, though. He and the girls taught each other words in their respective languages. He would point to an object on the table and say the word in English. Then, they would tell him what the word was in Spanish. It was so sweet and simple and precious that I couldn't help but watch them together (and fall in love with my husband all over again!).

They also played games at the table in the restaurant. Someone would hide their face behind a napkin, and they would be wearing a distinct expression. Everyone else had to try to guess the expression (with a simple word such as "happy" or "sad").

On this trip, there was laughter and hugs and happiness all around. But there were also many tears. Some sad things have transpired, but I love that our families are able to both rejoice and mourn with one another.

The goodbye was especially heartbreaking for Stirling's older sister, Enyily. She had never been able to visit with us. I had only met her once, very briefly, when I went to Stirling's home in 2012.

At one point on this visit she gazed out the window and whispered that this day was like a dream for her.

When it was time for us to say goodbye, the tears welled in her eyes as she looked up at me and said, "voy a extranarte" ("I'm going to miss you").

We clung to each other as she cried.

Goodbyes are never easy, but the ache has dulled a bit throughout the course of this year. I've seen so much growth in all of our lives.

To me (and Stirling's mother), there has been no greater evidence of God's love than this connection between our families.

God is always present in our lives, even when we can't feel it. He was present when I met Stirling for the first time, and He was present when her family moved away. He was present in my absolute heartbreak at the change, and He was present when he brought us back together again.

There is no way to deny His power and sovereignty as we reflect back on this year, and even over the course of the last two and a half years. At first God blessed us with a story, and now that story has grown to a true companionship and love that I pray will be present throughout the course of our lives.

I never thought that one of the greatest blessings of my life would grow out of such deep sadness.

This year, I truly feel like I understand what it means to be thankful.

"God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing."
-Psalm 68:6

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My little Leidy

This is Leidy.

I met Leidy for the first time earlier this month. She is very young (and very small)...and, admittedly, I was very, very nervous as I thought about this visit.

This is the first time I've ever intentionally visited a child who was so very young. I knew that Leidy would be confused about our visit, and also likely overwhelmed by the city, as she lives in a rural village in the mountains.

When I first met Leidy, she was...standoffish. She had no idea who I was, and she didn't care to find out! I said hello and hugged her mother, but it became very clear (very quickly) that Leidy wanted absolutely nothing to do with me.

She sat with her mother in the front row of the bus, looking forlorn and a little angry. I sat further back with Angie and Heidi, who were both very comfortable with me. I wanted to give Leidy her space, and about halfway through the ride I caught her turning around to peek back at me.

She sees me with the other girls! I thought. Maybe now she'll realize that I'm not so bad...

...yeah, not so much.

Even as I attempted to buy her affection with a new sun hat, sunglasses, flip-flops, a birthday shirt, and even a little "blankie," she was having none of it. Her mom put the new hat on her head and Leidy ripped it off, replacing it with the pink ball cap that she'd already been wearing. For the first time, I'd attempted to win over a child...and I'd absolutely failed!

I left her alone for the rest of the ride to the beach and decided to stop trying so hard. At this point I assumed that I would spend the day primarily with Heidi and Angie, and Leidy could play in the pool with her mom. If she ever warmed up to me, I knew that it would happen on her own time.

Thankfully, that time came much faster than I'd expected!

Shortly after arriving at the beach, we all walked onto the sand to look at the ocean from afar. Leidy's mother pulled me aside and she nudged her little girl, prompting her to show me something.

I could see a change in Leidy's demeanor as she handed me a large notebook. As she opened it, she began to leaf through the pages with great pride! Her mother explained that this notebook was Leidy's homework book from kindergarten. It was filled with her work...all of which was fairly advanced for a child of her age!

She then pulled out a few small gifts for me, including a special drawing from Leidy as well as a letter from her mom.

Then, as Leidy began to realize that I might even be a little fun (maybe), she handed me another gift. This gift was actually wrapped! Leidy's big brown eyes looked at me excitedly, and I asked if she would help me open the gift. She nodded and began to tear at the paper. Together, we uncovered my latest treasure, which was a small wooden keepsake box.

...and then she smiled!

In those few moments on the sand, something had shifted, and Leidy let me in.

Contrary to our earlier interactions, I quickly learned that Leidy can be a wild little girl! She took delight in absolutely everything and played with gusto.

She loved to "make it rain" as she splashed everyone around her (mostly me).

She and her mother taught me their "secret family handshake," which was basically the sweetest thing I've ever seen.

She leapt over the waves and covered her legs in mud and enjoyed the beauty of being a wiggly, curious child.

She sang songs in English and recited the Lord's Prayer and showed a capacity to learn and understand far beyond what I'd ever expected!

She scoured the kiddie pool for water spouts and dragged me over to feel the water tickle my feet.

She went on the "baby slide" over and over and over and over again, for almost an hour straight. Each time she'd reach the top of the stairs, she'd look down and shout, "El pato me quiere comer!" ("the duck wants to eat me!"). She'd scream a countdown and race down the slide into my arms.

Her joy was unrestrained and contagious.

She knew that, at least for these few hours, she was safe. The world was hers to conquer!

I saw a fire in Leidy. She is highly intelligent, excitable, funny, energetic, and vibrant.

However, at barely four years old, Leidy is also deeply insecure.

Clearly, Leidy looks different.

When I first saw her photo (a number of months ago), my eyes immediately went to her bald little head. To me, she was overwhelmingly beautiful. In rural Honduras, though, long hair is both prized and valued. It is very unusual to see a female with short hair...and practically unthinkable to see a girl without any hair at all.

Somehow, I knew that we were meant for each other.

Throughout the day Leidy's mother was questioned by people with the kindest intentions. "What illness does she have?" "Why doesn't she have hair?" "Can't she grow any?"

Thankfully, Leidy is a perfectly healthy child. She has a condition called alopecia, and in her case she can grow a very small amount of hair. She has very light, sparse eyebrows and a fuzz on the top of her head. That's the most that she will ever have.

To me, she is beautiful.

To Leidy's sweet mother, she is beautiful.

But to the world, she is different. To many, she is ugly.

And my wise, perceptive little girl knows this.

Her mother told me that Leidy loves going to school, but she sees the other little girls in her class and comes home crying.

"Why can't I have hair like the other girls?"

The older children in the school pick on her and call her names. They tease her and call her "fea."

My heart broke for this precious child. Her mother told me that Leidy cries and cries and prays that one day God will give her hair.

To be more specific, every night, Leidy prays that God would give her blonde hair.

My heart leapt for a moment.

You see, before my trip, I had assembled an arsenal of sun hats, baseball caps, and head wraps for my sweet little girl. But (thanks to the assistance of my best friend), I was also able to pack a gaudy, absolutely unnecessary princess hat that we'd found in Disney World.

Attached to the hat was a long blonde braid.

Even now as I think about this story, I get chills. I thought that the hat was completely impractical, but hoped that it would be fun for her.

Yet God used this princess hat to answer the earnest prayers of my little girl. He knew the desires of her heart...and He did not remain silent.

Leidy hasn't miraculously grown a head full of thick blonde hair, and to be honest, I'm sort of glad that she hasn't. While I would love for her to get what she wants, I'm not sure that it's what she needs. Leidy doesn't need blonde hair to be beautiful. She is breathtakingly beautiful exactly as she is.

When the day had come to a close, we gathered our things and walked to the bus. Leidy was already on the bus, her scalp caked in sunscreen, but growing pinker by the minute.

She was sitting in the same seat that she'd chosen for the ride to the beach...but this time, the seat beside her was empty.

As she saw me climb the stairs, she cried out my name.

"Amanda!" she called. "Sit with me!"

I happily sat beside Leidy, as Angie and Heidi clambered in too.

I felt a tug on my shirt and looked down to my right.

"Amanda," she said again. She held up her new baby doll. "I named my new doll!" I smiled and asked what name she had chosen.

"Her name is Amanda. Just like you. Now there are two 'Amanda's!"

It didn't take long for Leidy to fall asleep on the bus ride. A few minutes into our journey, her head began to slump and soon it was bobbing up and down. Carefully, I wrapped my arm over her in an attempt to brace her head against me.

And then, in her sleep, I felt her little hand reach up and wrap itself in mine.

We stayed this way for the rest of the ride, even as my arm ached and turned to pins and needles.

She was groggy when she woke, and sad.

Like the morning, she refused to look at me...but this time it was for a different reason.

I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to write to remind her that she is beautiful. And I pray that she will grow up knowing that true beauty should never be measured by what we see on the outside of a person, anyway.

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made..."
-Psalm 139:13-14a

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


It's finally time to tell Angie's story.

Prior to my very first trip to Honduras in June of 2012, I was given a number of child packets. Each of these children attended the two projects we would visit as a group, and they all were in need of sponsors. My job was to advocate for these children...and by the time I left for Honduras, each of those thirteen children had been sponsored!

One of these children was named Angie, and she had been sponsored by a friend of mine about a week before I left for Honduras. In her "official" Compassion photo, she seemed very serious. When I met her at her project, though, she was completely different! Angie was a bright, happy, affectionate child and we had an instant connection.

I even had the opportunity to visit Angie's home! She had an enormous smile plastered on her face the entire time. She held my hand, hugged me, and posed for pictures. I had such a wonderful time with her, but I had literally just connected her with a new sponsor! Our goodbye was bittersweet, because I knew that I would never see Angie again.

Nevertheless, I was thankful to know that Angie had a good sponsor who would write her letters. She would be loved - both by her sponsor, and by me.

I never forgot Angie. Even as I visited other Compassion projects, other children, and even other countries, for some reason my mind would always travel back to Angie. I prayed for her and remembered our visit with great fondness.

In March of 2014, I received a phone call that completely took me by surprise. Angie's sponsor, unfortunately, could not continue to sponsor her. I know that she will always love her, and they shared a very special year and a half with one another. But, even so...Angie needed a new sponsor.

Angie needed a new sponsor!

I had barely allowed myself to dream that one day, Angie and I might reconnect. How could I say no?

Last week I returned from my fifth visit to Honduras. And yes...I saw Angie again.

The anticipation and preparation for this trip was more intense than it's ever been. I thought (and fretted) about the moment when Angie and I would reunite. I had prayed fervently for her over the years, but would she remember me at all?

She remembered.

As soon as I stepped off the bus, Angie flew from the steps of the hotel and sprinted towards me. Her mother laughed and smiled. She remembered me, too.

You know what's so funny about it all? When I was talking with Angie, her mother, and her project worker, I learned that Angie didn't actually know who had come to visit her.

When I stepped off the bus, she knew that I was there for her.

On the bus ride to the beach, I gave her the photos that had been taken during my visit to her home. This was such a dream come true!

We swam and splashed and jumped over the waves. I caught her as she flew down the water slides, until she convinced me to race her...over and over again! (She won every time.) We sat together and held hands, and I taught her to count to ten in English.

It was a day comprised of beautiful moments and precious memories.

When it was time to give Angie her gifts, I drank in her delight as she fawned over every little thing.

But as much as she loved and treasured her gifts, for Angie, that was not the most important thing.

Her mother laughed.

"She is crazy!" she said. "She is talking like crazy. When you first came to visit our home, Angie decided that she wanted to move to your country and live with you. And now that you're back, she's talking like that again! She says that she wants to go home with you."

This visit was a gift. Angie has grown so much over the last two years, yet our bond is ever-present.

I was blessed with the opportunity to remember just how clearly and intentionally God orchestrates these relationships. I don't always understand why, or how, but that's okay.

There's a beautiful mystery to our story, and I believe that it's a testament to the faithfulness of God.

I have referenced this verse before when talking about Stirling, and it carries weight in this case, too:

Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me, I have found my lost sheep.'"

-Luke 15:3-6

As tempting as it can be to fixate on "my role" in these relationships, I am constantly reminded that it is not about me. God could have chosen literally anyone to reach into Angie's life and show her that He loves her...that she is fearfully and wonderfully made because He made her that way.

I am so thankful that God chose this little girl for me, and me for her.