Just Another Year
For me and my family the year 2017 did not hold spectacularly great moments or incredibly devastating lows. In many ways it was just another year. There were certainly some significant life markers, like having both daughters now in high school, and a move from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Northwest, but these felt like the normal occurrences of life. However, there was an event this past year that stands out as one of great significance. It involved an addition to our family.
A Princess Arrives
On May 28th, 2017, we opened our lives to another child when we began sponsoring a little girl from the Philippines named Princess. That day, as a part of my work with One Child Matters, I was helping a church in Colorado strengthen their partnership with a community in the Philippines through a child sponsorship event. As I was putting up the display filled with child profiles I was immediately drawn to this little one named Princess. I had been looking for an opportunity to sponsor a child from one of the Hope Centers we support around the world, and this little one’s smile captured me. However, there were dozens of families and individuals at the church that day who were ready to sponsor a child, so, not wanting to deprive them of the opportunity, I left her profile on the display. At the end of the event there were only a handful of children still available for sponsorship, and as I collected the profiles I discovered the only girl remaining among them was Princess. That was enough of a sign for me. I filled out the sponsorship information on the spot.
Opportunity of a Lifetime
Filling out a sponsorship profile was just the beginning of the life altering connection we would have with Princess in 2017. Soon her letters began to arrive with details of her family, her community, and her life. Then I discovered that I would be accompanying that Colorado church on a short term trip to visit and serve in the community where Princess is growing up. I was going to meet Princess! The travel experience of getting to the small island where Princess and her family live was an adventure. Several airplanes, a long bus ride, and my first experience on a catamaran just to get to her little island. The impoverished community we encountered was not unlike those I’ve seen in other parts of the world, but this time it felt more personal. This was the environment, with all of its potential pitfalls, in which Princess was being raised. This was the environment that would shape her for better or for worse. It was a sobering realization.
In The Presence of Royalty
However, the day that I got to meet Princess provided me with much hope for her future. We met at the Hope Center run by the local church with whom we were partnering. It was little more than a few tables under a tarp tied between trees, but it felt like an oasis. Here Princess, along with her siblings and friends, played games, sang songs, colored, and had a nutritious meal, all while being cared for and loved by those running the center. The few hours I had to meet and talk with Princess and her family were so good, revealing a caring community surrounding this at-risk child. As hard as it was to leave that day knowing I might not get to see her again for a very long time, I left feeling hopeful for her and the other children in that community. The poverty was palpable, but so too was the fruit of sponsorship. The welfare of Princess is shared by many and our sponsorship is one of the factors making that possible.
The Long Term Goal
One of the highest values I hold when it comes to short term mission trips is the long term impact of the resources invested in those trips. Things like wise partnerships and ongoing relational efforts minimize the “short term” nature of these trips while bolstering their “missional” goals. Princess is the “bright light” who entered our lives in 2017, and she will continue to shine not just because we sponsor her and I got to go and meet her, but because there is a network of caring people (her mother, her pastor, the Hope Center workers, a partner church in Colorado, …) who are invested in her future as well. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings for her and us.