“When I saw your mom, I cried an ocean of tears.” This is what Pepe told my children over skype earlier today.
Tonight I am still shaking. My stomach still has the nervous feeling that comes when something so overwhelming has happened. My adrenaline went off the charts today and I can honestly say this week was like a roller coaster. I had my lowest low on this trip, and my highest high, within 24 hours. It’s only fitting that I can say that not only did my emotions ride a roller coaster, but so did my body. It went upside down. Yes, I rode an upside down roller coaster in Ecuador and lived to tell the story.
So… yesterday and the day before were difficult days. We had a medical issue of one of our travelers, but God is SO good, and the traveler is now healthy and was well enough today to see their sponsored child. AMEN! We are all going home tomorrow, which was my prayer request! Thank you for praying!
Then came today. Today was the fun day with the sponsored children. This is where my story really begins. Actually, the story begins in 1994 when we picked out a child packet of a little boy six years of age. His name was Jose’, but his loved ones called him Pepe.
Steve had just started working for Compassion International, and his very first trip was to Ecuador. On that trip, he met Pepe and his mom, our newly sponsored child at that time. That trip changed my husband’s life and he came home and wanted to change the entire way we lived (he was thinking of moving into the garage for awhile because he felt unworthy of our house, I think sackcloth was in that conversation too). I was pregnant with my first baby, and we had some good discussions (hard) on how things needed to change. Why? Because he saw poverty for the first time, and he met a little boy who found his way deep into Stephen’s heart who we had sponsored hoping to release him from poverty. I remember Stephen calling me from Ecuador telling me everything about the day he met Pepe, and how they went on paddle boats and ate at Pizza Hut.
For 12 years we sponsored Pepe writing him letters, sharing pictures of our family. He watched my babies grow up, we watched Pepe grow up.
Many years past. His letters became more detailed, and instead of sharing pictures he had drawn, Pepe began to share his heart. He was a strong christian, and always told us how he was praying and how much he loved us.
Finally, when Pepe was about 17, Steve had the opportunity to come back to Ecuador. However, the day before the trip, we had a family emergency and Steve couldn’t come. Pepe showed up anyway expecting to see Steve. Friends told us of his disappointment, which broke our hearts! What was worse was Pepe had brought every letter and every picture we ever sent, but his backpack was robbed on the bus and he lost everything. He lost every memory of us.
Steve then made a great effort to come back to Ecuador before Pepe would graduate from the program. Right before Pepe was to graduate, Steve and Pepe were able to see each other one last time. It was a heavy day. Steve loved this fatherless boy deeply. Friends will testify that the goodbye was full of weeping. Pepe laid his head in Stephens lap and cried with the reality they may never see each other again. Steve gave Pepe a knife that his father had given him before he died and told Pepe to keep it forever. They said goodbye.
So…I never had the chance to meet Pepe; the boy that changed our lives. I wrote most of the letters, but Steve did the visits. The last letter was difficult to write and I remember crying with Steve as we said our final goodbye. Back a few years ago, once a child departed the program, there would be no more contact. Now, Compassion leaves it up to the sponsor if they want to exchange communication after a child departs the program, since technology has improved with Facebook and stuff. So we said goodbye and wondered if we would every hear about Pepe again on this side of Heaven.
Six years later.
A few weeks ago, I was telling our Ecuador staff about Pepe. I have been to Ecuador now five times and always think of him and how we never met. So I asked if there would be a way to see him. I gave our staff his child number a few weeks ago and they said his project had shut down and there was little hope in finding him. Andrea, our tours staff person in Ecuador, never said anything to me again about it, so I assumed he was nowhere to be found. She was silent… but oh so sneaky.
Today, as all the sponsors were meeting their children, I was so happy for them. One by one, the sponsors were introduced to their children and the tears and hugs began. But then, Andrea said, “Oh my goodness, there is another child here to see their sponsor! Patricia, are you missing a child?”
At that point I began to cry and shake and then appeared a man of 24 years of age. The lobby became silent, all eyes were on us. Like a movie scene we ran into each others arms weeping, shaking, and embracing. They found our Pepe. He is back in our lives never to be lost again. Of course I couldn’t take pictures, because I was crying and weeping and shaking, but this is the picture I got right after we composed ourselves. Our Pepe. (Andrea is in the background, that sneaky friend).
So we spent the day together. He told me so many stories. He said he cried all morning seeing all the Compassion children waiting to meet their sponsor while he waited too. He was remembering being their age. He said that about a week ago, a friend who works at another Compassion project called him and said that Compassion was looking for him. The staff then asked if he would be willing to come to Quito to meet his former sponsor. Pepe said he was so excited and happy. So he prepared!
We talked and talked today. Pepe told me all about his family, and his 3 year old son. He told me that after he graduated from Compassion, (there wasn’t LDP yet), he worked a job, his mom worked extra, and he was able to go to college. Pepe is now a lawyer and doing his final internship. I couldn’t be more proud. His faith is strong, and he is doing so well. His sister is in medical school (she was a sponsored child), and his other sister is a nurse (she was sponsored too). I would simply say, this is a success story!
Pepe asked all about the family. At lunch, between Stephens flights to Germany, we were able to get on the phone and talk to him too while he had his layover in Newark. More tears poured.
Pepe told me all about growing up and how the visits with Steve were the highlight of his life. He remembered every detail of those visits.
He held me close all day, like a mama. Words can’t really describe the joy in my heart. I felt like we (Stephen and I) found something precious we had once lost.
He told me a fun story. His friend, a teacher at a Compassion project, asked him to come fill in for a day. He didn’t have any plans, he didn’t know what to do with the kids, so he just told the kids about the visits with his sponsor and how blessed those kids were that they had a sponsor. He told the children to take full advantage of the sponsorship. He said the kids asked lots of questions and they listened and clung to every word. He told them that through Christ and obedience, God will bless them.
I will be processing my day for a long time, and looking forward to coming back and having him back in our lives. So much in my heart tonight. Today was unbelievable and I have ugly, puffy eyes from crying so much.
Pepe is now in our lives, he is reading my blog too, so I am posting pictures for him.
Pepe, Te quiero! Much love to you. You are the best!
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Thanks for sharing this, so touching, so proud. You have a heart of gold. Mary in NY
What an amazing story! Love how such a simple relationship can make such a difference in all of our lives!
I loved this post…such a sweet, sweet reunion. Powerful picture of God’s family. Touched my heart and made me cry.
This story. Your beautiful radiance at finding Pepe. Lives that were changed for NOW and forever because of the good work of Compassion.
I’m moved to tears because I understand how MAGNIFICENT this must have been for you, him and all who had privilege to see. Including me! xo
The tears are flowing! What a wonderful story – and what a wonderful surprise.
I noticed that my other post didn’t have a link to my blog. This one should. May God continue to bless you and your work.
Such an inspirational, heart-warming story! It is also an incredible testimony to God’s faithfulness and mercy in Pepe’s life and what Compassion’s ministry stands for. Thanks so much for sharing this and inspiring others to connect and be moved to sponsor kids like you did with Pepe. I have a question for you: do you ever include photographers on your blog trips? I mainly do humanitarian photography, and am also fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. I would love to learn about volunteering or connecting with you guys. Keep up the great work. (I have visited Compassion sites in Ecuador, Guatemala and Brazil on various trips).
This just made me bawl! Thank you so much for sharing! I love how much of a success story his life is! And, just for $38/month and a few encouraging letters! Man…what an honor to change someone’s life!
What a wonderful story. I know that every sponsor hopes they will have a long lasting relationship with the children they sponsor, but you very rarely hear of it happening. Thank you so much for sharing about Pepe. He has grown into a wonderful man of God.
Yup, just teared up. This is beautiful!
Ok, I’m a great big marshmallow. I was literally sobbing while reading this post. I’m so happy for your whole family and for pepe’s too!
Oh, what an amazing story about God’s love, so glad you and Pepe were able to meet again and reconnect. Pepe sounds like such a successful young man who loves the Lord!!!
exciting to hear sweet Andrea’s part in all this!
Can’t wait to return to Ecuador next Fall!
This was such an amazing thing. Mom you are such an amazing writer. This post was beautiful. I will see you tonight and I hope to hear more wonderful stories. God has done big things on this trip. I love you very much!
I can’t even get my heart and brain around this one. It was so unexpected and brings back so many memories. What a thrill to think about what God has done in and through and because of this relationship. Patricia, we are going to need to debrief this one. Wow!
Patricia! I’m in tears. This is just the sweetest story. So happy for your family and Pepe!