The bittersweet feeling of not being their sponsor

In March 2006, as a still very brand-new Christian, I did something I never expected: I picked up a packet from the Compassion table at my church, and sponsored a little boy in Honduras. His name is Jocsan (though he’s not a little boy anymore). I met him a few months later, when I went Honduras for the first time. The experience of meeting him was a unique one without a doubt (and amazing). To see the boy from the photo on my fridge and share a meal with him… it was unreal. (I wrote about this here.)

While there, I learned he had a younger sister, Lauren. The circumstances of their family permitted that she could be sponsored too. So I did.

A relationship in letters

For years, Emily and I, then Emily, the kids and I wrote to Jocsan and Lauren. I was able to return to Honduras a few years after my first trip (about 10 years ago). I spent a day with them, and even met their mother.

I never went back to Honduras.

But I never stopped writing.

The little kids we sponsored soon turned into tweens, then teens. We learned about all their interests, fears, and desires. They were introduced to our kids as they were born, and even made gifts for Hannah when she was a baby. They followed along with our journey moving to America. They asked us to pray for them, and we asked them to pray for us.

Then at the end of 2017, we got the first letter—the one I’d been expecting for a while: Jocsan had turned 18 and completed the program. This year, we received that letter again: Lauren, shortly after turning 18, had completed the program.

The end of a relationship

Getting those letters—letters I was already familiar with; letters similar to those I wrote back when I worked for Compassion Canada—it hit me in a way I didn’t expect.

They were done.

Both of them were in college, ready in so much as anyone can be, to begin the next step on their journey to adulthood. To, Lord willing, end the cycle of poverty that was the whole reason they were in the Compassion program in the first place.

I was and am excited for them. But at the same time, it also means something obvious, but still weighty:

Neither of them are our sponsored children anymore.

That part of our relationship is over.

We don’t get to find out what happens next. And that’s more than a little bittersweet. These kids grew up with ours, even if only by paper. They were a long distance extension of our family. So we’re grieving the end of the relationship, even as we’re excited for them, and continue to pray for them.

Taking our time starting a new relationship

When Jocsan completed the program, we didn’t immediately start sponsoring another child. We wanted to wait. And we kept waiting. We now have no sponsored children for the first time in 13 years.

It’s a weird feeling.

We’re planning to sponsor another child, but we don’t want to jump into it too quickly. I could pick a child online tomorrow and get started.

But that feels wrong.

See, this is really the first time that all our family members can engage around choosing who we sponsor. To pray together about the decision. To learn about different children’s needs together.

And that’s kind of exciting for me. But it also means it’s going to take some time. Lord willing, we won’t wait too long.

The bittersweet feeling of not being their sponsor