There is, however, a question that can't be answered during such a trip.
What's it like to receive your first letter after a connection has been made face to face with your Compassion child?
We had received a little over a dozen letters from Bessy since we started sponsoring her in 2005, letters we cherish, have read and re-read over the years... but we were eager to receive the first letter since having spent the day with her in Honduras.
In the past, Bessy's mother Damary wrote on her behalf. This was such a blessing as it helped in creating a bond not only between ourselves and Bessy, but with her mother as well. When I met Damary in Honduras, there was an instant connection, mother to mother, a bond created from the love we both had for a little girl named Bessy. We talked about the letters and the connection they created, and how the love that we shared through those letters brought us together as family over the years.
I had learned in Honduras that most Compassion children begin to write their own letters at the age of 8, and Bessy confirmed that the next letter we would receive would be the very first letter she would write on her own. I prayed that we wouldn't lose the connection we had built with Damary, even as our connection to Bessy grew. At the same time, I was excited to see how God would strengthen our relationship with Bessy.
Bessy is very, very shy and quiet, as I learned from our day together in Honduras, so I was curious to see how she would express herself through her own letters. Would her letters be quiet and reserved, or would she pour out her feelings and her heart?
What would it be like to receive our first letter from Bessy after having met her?
Three words -- "Beautiful, beyond measure."
We received that letter today, carefully handwritten by Bessy, and within the first two lines, the tears began to flow... Such a beautiful heart for God, and such a gift for writing.
"I am your little friend, Bessy Paola. I give thanks to God for giving to me the privilege to write this letter for the first time with my hands."
"I wish that God bless you and enlighten you always in your daily labors."
"I want to thank you for your letters, books, stickers, pictures, cards and for [what you've sent] my mom. Thank you for all you sent, they are very nice."
She proceeded to answer many of the questions we had asked over time. She even turned the page over and kept writing, and writing, and writing.... such a beautiful gift.
Remember the doll we had provided to her in Honduras? She had told me, in unforgettable words, that all her life, she had believed in God, but having received the doll was proof to her that He answered prayers... she mentioned the doll again, saying "Thank you for making my dream come true by giving to me a doll."
She asked us to pray that her father would accept Jesus, and she asked my mother to tell me that I am in her heart and that she remembers me because I came to meet her and came to her country.
Included in the letter was a photo of her and her little sister, Evelin. In all the years we had sponsored her, we had never seen a photo of Evelin -- what a precious gift. Evelin looks so much like Damary, it's so neat to see the family resemblance.
Although we've sent several letters in the months since the trip to Honduras, I look forward to sending the next one, in response to the one we just received. This sponsorship just keeps getting more and more beautiful over the years.
Thank you, God, and thank you, Compassion, for making this possible.
All in all, I couldn't have imagined a more beautiful answer to the question I'd had for many months.