This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of HomeLife.
When someone decides to sponsor a child with Compassion International, you don’t really know at first who the child is on the other side of the world. All you can know at the start is their name, age, birthday, gender, and a little about their family and community. You’re given a picture — a single little face to look at, pray for, maybe post on the refrigerator, or use as a bookmark in your Bible to remember that child. You may not know her favorite color, her best friend’s name, if she has any pets, what she wants to be when she grows up, what she likes to eat, and if she knows Jesus as her Savior. Of course, in most cases, you can find out those special details over the years as you write letters back and forth and get to know her more—which is one of the most fun aspects of sponsoring a child.
Lifeway Christian Resources and Compassion are partnering to focus specifically on finding sponsors for highly vulnerable girls. These are girls born into extreme poverty and fighting for a chance to survive. Girls in the developing world are more at risk for exploitation, can be sold into sex trafficking and child marriage, refused basic education, forced into child labor, or expected to provide for their families at a young age.
We’re coming alongside these girls who are living in situations that are well beyond their years and means to handle.
Through child sponsorship, we can watch these young girls rise and help them walk in the power of Christ. Sponsoring a highly vulnerable girl can help her overcome the many obstacles she is facing. The love and support a sponsor can provide could change her life forever.
When Lily Cottrell said yes to sponsoring a little girl as part of Lifeway’s partnership with Compassion, she had no idea who was waiting far away in a little community near the capital city of Kampala, Uganda. But it was going to be a match made in heaven.
Lily, the teenage daughter of Travis and Angela Cottrell, attends Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. She is one of the talented group of singers called Voices of Lee. Travis has been the worship leader at Living Proof Live with Beth Moore events and other Lifeway events for several years. Their family is passionate about worshiping through music and leading others in worship. They sing together individually and as a family, creating beautiful music that helps usher people to the Lord in a meaningful way. This family was born to sing. They’re also passionate about helping those in need and have been Compassion sponsors for years. Travis, Angela, and Lily traveled to Peru a few years ago to meet Maria Nelly, the precious 12-year-old girl they sponsor. Travis has also traveled to Haiti to meet Wilbens, their sponsored child there.
When Lily traveled to Uganda to meet her new sponsored friend, Faith, who is 6 years old, she also got to meet Faith’s mom, dad, and five siblings, who all live in a one-room brick home in a small slum community about 30 minutes outside the city center. Faith’s father is a day laborer and her mother sells vegetables and cleans offices to make a living. They make about one dollar per day to provide for their family. Faith is enrolled in the Compassion program at a church which is a 10-minute walk from her home. There she learns about Jesus and gets help with educational fees, healthcare, nutrition, and the care and support of a loving local staff to help her flourish.
“Meeting my Compassion child changed my life. I didn’t know I could instantly love someone I had never met who lived across the world. Her family received me with such warmth. They were full of joy even though they had so little. To know that I can make a difference in this little girl’s life and even in the life of her family with a small monthly donation is mind-blowing. Even as a college student, I can make sacrifices so Faith can hear about Jesus, have the healthcare and educational support she needs, and help lift her out of poverty and into a place of hope and opportunity,” says Lily.
The fun and surprising thing about Faith’s family is they are a family of singers. The day Lily met Faith’s family, they were greeted with gleeful song by her smiling father. Faith and her mother and siblings joined in. It was a sight to behold as they all immediately realized the uncanny connection between Lily’s family and Faith’s. As the group sat crammed into the warm one-room house, Lily introduced herself and announced she was indeed Faith’s new sponsor through Compassion. The entire family launched from their seats in joyous praise to God for bringing Lily to them—singing and giving praise to Jesus for this gift!
Faith’s father told Lily that his great hope was for Faith to be able to attend and stay in school. Not long ago, the family moved back to the rural village they were born in so they could try and make a better living. Faith had to be pulled out of school, but when they moved back to the city, local Compassion staff found them and invited Faith to join the program. Now Faith will get so much more than just an education; she will also learn about God’s love and provision in her life. Faith will be a shining light for her family as she is able to complete school, get a good job someday, and help break the cycle of poverty in her family and community.
“This experience has changed me. I’m so thankful for Compassion and the way they change hearts around the world and here in the United States. Faith‘s heart wasn’t the only one that was changed—mine was too,” says Lily.
It’s beautiful to think about God pairing Lily and Faith in a sponsor relationship. A match made in heaven, since worshiping the Lord through song is something so important and special to both families. With Lily by her side, Faith now has a better chance to grow and thrive and escape the circumstances that make her highly vulnerable. She will have the chance for a bright future, as Lily’s care and support through Compassion helps break the cycle of poverty.
Join us in life-changing gospel work in the lives of needy children. Connect a child living in poverty with a loving, church-based Child Sponsorship Program. Your support provides medical checkups, which often save lives; nutritious food; health and hygiene training; educational assistance; access to special services like surgeries and disaster relief; and mentoring to help children discover their incredible value to God. Most importantly, your sponsored child will hear about Jesus Christ and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with God.
Join us in our Summer of Compassion as we seek to sponsor more than 500 children and release them from poverty in Jesus’ name. Click here to sponsor a girl today or learn more!
Shannon Kozee serves on the event marketing team at Compassion International. She lives in Franklin, Tennnessee.