Grace packs for camp while Isabel lies on the couch trying to recover from a virus. Steve has been busy with household projects and Julia is researching college scholarships this summer. Everything seems pretty normal now after a whirlwind of travel. I have one more trip to go in a week. I am heading to Peru, so I suppose God is not done with my heart quite yet.
The sun is finally shining; summer arrived in the northwest on July 4th, and it looks like it’s going to stay awhile. My yard smells familiar and good, the flowers are in bloom, and the weather is absolutely perfect. I haven’t left my house in two days; home feels like my sanctuary.
Despite my sanctuary, my heart feels stolen. It still hurts from saying goodbye to the girl that burrowed deep within my soul. Her name is Debra, and I met her last week while traveling with my own family and church group to the Dominican Republic. We worked at the same Compassion project that we visited last year where my church sponsors 30 children.
I’m not Debra’s sponsor nor do I know Debra’s sponsor, but Debra remembered me from last year, and clung to me for the five days that I was with her in Barahona.
Debra was that child that broke down the wall around my heart that I tend to put up for protection while I travel. I can’t always engage in the story of every single child I encounter, because if I would do such a thing, I would be in a permanent stage of weeping. Every child I meet has a story, but Debra broke through. She melted the wall, and she burrowed deep inside my soul. She became that one kid that claws their way into my heart to the point I can’t remove the images of her desperate desire for love. For five days, she was my shadow, and everywhere I went Debra found her place next to me.
I asked her, “Do you have a sponsor?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Do you get letters?” I ask.
“No, I have never heard from my sponsor.”
Of course there is always that moment when I meet a child that I have fallen in love with that I have to compare myself to their sponsor. Possibly, in my arrogance I decide that I would make a great sponsor for Debra, after all, I would write. But then God knocks me down to remind me that my own sponsored children would probably love more letters than my handful I write in a year. And for some reason, I was not destined to be Debra’s sponsor, so I must stop being God.
Still…this child deserves a letter…just sayin.
Why was she so attached to me? Why me? For the week we visited, Debra would seek out my family. She had an endearing way about her, and she remembered our names from last year. When someone remembers your name, it makes you feel special. Debra made me feel special.
I loved watching Debra play. A little aggressive, passionate, and funny, I knew she was a bit of a spicy soul. I like that in a person.
On the last day, before saying goodbye, she cried as she told Julia and myself that the reason she loved me so much was because she doesn’t get any love from her own mom. “You make me feel loved, I want you to be my mom,” she said.
I was wrecked after that. Simply wrecked.
That afternoon, several children were to come with us to our hotel to swim, many of our church’s sponsored children, and Debra was to join us.
We took Debra swimming. She didn’t know how to swim, so I tried to teach her to float on her back. For a few moments, I felt the little girl in her blossom and she giggled in her 11 year old way. Pure beauty. She held tight to me for safety, and I kept thinking to myself, this is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad. She was my gift for the day. A treasure, a beautiful, beautiful treasure.
“I love my mom and dad,” she would say as she wrapped her arms around Stephen and myself. I felt like she was living out some sort of dream…even only for a moment.
She was killing me on the inside. God was reminding me again of why I do what I do. He was reminding me that within every child I encounter is a little person who tenderly needs to feel the love of God. Debra, my gift, my treasure, my girl for the day, my daughter for a moment. She called me Mom and I wore the title for her.
I haven’t really been able to write about her until this time. Even now, I cry just thinking about her desperate need for love, and tenderness of a mother’s touch.
But for the day, I tried with all my might to give her every ounce I had and when I said goodbye, I prayed it would be enough…at least until maybe I could see her again.
When we said goodbye, we all shed a tear.
I am praying her sponsor writes her a letter or I might have to send Guido after the sponsor. I have my connections….
Write your sponsored child. You might just be one of the few people who will ever tell them, “I love you.”
Don’t we all need to hear those words?
Specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy
Life, Family, Faith and Travel...the life of a Jones
Dominican Republic Missions trip
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