This summer, we’re going to be sharing stories of hope found through the work of Compassion International. We are thrilled about Compassion’s work and our partnership with them, Watch Her Rise, created to help bring hope to girls in highly vulnerable situations. Learn more and join us here.
I first heard about Compassion International at a Living Proof Live Event when I noticed a booth covered with the faces of children. Compassion’s mission is to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. The primary way that they do this is through child sponsorships. I’ve come to find that sponsoring a child can make a powerful impact on a child’s life. From health care, education, emotional and social support, to professional development, Compassion works to not only meet a child’s physical and emotional needs, but they also look after their spiritual needs by telling them about the God who loves them.
I prayed about sponsoring a child myself, and I felt led to take that step for Karla when I saw her face on a Compassion packet. She was frowning in her picture, and something about the look on her face struck me—maybe because she reminded me of a younger version of myself: nervous and shy. As I read about this nine-year-old girl, her country, and her family, I wondered what her life must be like, and I wanted to help in any way that I could. I had no idea how much of an impact sponsorship would truly make until I got the opportunity to see firsthand.
Last August, I was invited to go to El Salvador with Compassion to meet Karla. In the days leading up to my trip, my mind was fixed on Karla. As I packed my suitcase and prepared my heart to meet this special girl who had captured my attention, my thoughts raced about what she must be doing and how excited I was to meet her face to face.
When we arrived in El Salvador, we visited the Compassion office to learn more about the work happening in there. We were given a tour of the office by a man who shared with us that he had been sponsored through Compassion when he was a child. Because someone chose to sponsor him, he was released from poverty, went to college, and now works for Compassion overseeing the projects in El Salvador. He works to help change the lives of children, just like his life was changed by being sponsored through Compassion. Hearing his story amazed me, seeing the drastic difference that Compassion can make in a child’s life.
We also got to meet some of the people who translate letters written between children and their sponsors. I was astonished by the number of letters that are exchanged. While you may never get the opportunity to meet in person, when you write letters to your sponsor children, you have the ability to build a relationship that will last a lifetime. I later saw books that children have with letters from their sponsors, and so many children I met told me about their sponsors. They knew about their families, jobs, hobbies, and culture—all through letters.
The next day we got to visit the church where Karla’s project is housed. As we drove into the village, I could hardly wait to jump off the bus and meet her. We drove up to the gates and saw children dressed in bright colors, holding balloons and a welcome sign. In a sea of faces, I immediately saw Karla. She was wearing a beautiful turquoise dress with her hair in a neat bun. She had the same expression I had seen on her packet, and my heart melted.
We spent the day at her project visiting her classrooms, hearing about what she was learning and the medical care she receives. We then had the opportunity to visit her home. I met her mom, little sister, grandmother, and grandfather. They so graciously welcomed us into their home and taught us how to cook their family specialty. One of Karla’s teachers came with us and told me more about her. He shared that she is smart, a great student, and the best soccer player at the project. I got to see her skill for myself when we went back to the project to go play games. As I watched her play with her friends, I saw the biggest smile I had seen from her all day. She lit up and was so excited for me to see her doing her favorite thing.
Through Compassion, Karla gets to be a kid. While the world around her is difficult, there, she gets to play. She is surrounded by friends, teachers, and a church who love her and want the very best for her future. She has a chance for that future through Compassion. Most importantly, she gets to hear about the God who loves her, the God who sees all of His children and cares about each one. He knows her needs, hopes, fears, longings, and struggles. My hope for Karla is that she can grow to be strong, receive an education, and have a future. Most of all, I am praying that she will grow to love Jesus and know the freedom and belonging that can be found in Him, that she will live to be who He says she is, and that she will know that she’s loved.
I think that one of the most impactful aspects of Compassion is that their projects are housed in a local church. This means that they partner with a local pastor and help him not only serve the children who are sponsored, but also the needs of the community. One of the pastors that we met shared with us that his son was murdered by a gang in the village. Now, several years later, he ministers to the same gang and has led many of them to Christ. While we were there, we also got to be at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of a shoe business that is run by children from his Compassion project. These children learned the skills in the project to create shoes and clothes that can now provide them with jobs and opportunities. Compassion gets to come alongside pastors like this, doing kingdom work in their communities and the children around them.
I am so thankful for the life-changing work that Compassion International does in the lives of children all over the world, children just like Karla. I’ve seen firsthand the impact that Compassion can have on a child and, in turn, on a community. We have an opportunity to be a part of that work. Sponsoring Karla has not only made a difference in her life but in mine as well. While it broke my heart to say goodbye to her that day, I know that our relationship will grow through our letters. This special little girl in El Salvador has captured my heart. I know that neither of our lives will ever be the same.
Want to sponsor a girl of your own? Join us in helping give hope to girls in highly vulnerable situations by going to Compassion.com/WatchHerRise.
Savannah Ivey is originally from Knoxville, TN and is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where she studied Communication and Psychology. Her background is in student and women’s ministry, and she is passionate about helping women know and love the real, living Jesus. She was a part of the Lifeway Adult Events team and worked as the Event Project Coordinator for Women’s Leadership Training Events. She now serves as the Director of Communications at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville. She loves conversations with friends, road trips, coffee, and music.