Secret Life of a Letter

I feel an instant release of pressure.  Fresh air and new-found freedom are mine as the plastic that holds me tight is torn off, crumpled and tossed in a corner trash bin. I am so glad to be near the top of the stack and not in the middle or near the bottom. I wonder whose face will soon look upon mine. Will it be a girl? A boy? Young or old?

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Noise from scuffling shoes and the flip-flop of sandals announce students’ coming, and the excitement is so great that if I had a heart it would be nearly bursting. Those lucky pages at the top are floating off into eager hands, and any moment now, my turn.

Lingering humidity of the morning rain is heavy in the air, and soaks into my skin. Suddenly, with a lightening-speed stroke, I am swung through the air from the leader’s hand into the hands of the next child, actually, a young man. He looks to be about fifteen, with kind and tender, dark brown eyes. He somberly gazes at me, and I at him. Traveling to a nearby desk, he sits, places me on the cool, etched-up wood top, and continues to stare at me. I see sadness in the unsmiling mouth, and a heaviness of heart emanating from his eyes.

Yeni, a favorite teacher, notices his hesitancy and comes near to inquire. He divulges that he doesn’t want to share the news. He wrote in December that he had passed his grade, and his sponsor responded with praise, congratulations, and encouragement to keep up the good work. How could he tell her this now?

Gently placing her hand on his slumped shoulder, she looks into his troubled eyes. I hear her reminding him of the previous troubles he’d shared with his sponsor over the past eight years, including when he was sent to live with his grandmother due to economic and familial issues. His sponsor regularly wrote to encourage him and tell him of her prayers for him and his family. In time, his family was reunited – an answer to their prayers. With new confidence shining on his face, he picks up the pen and begins to compose. Yes, she will understand. I feel the ink smoothly flowing from his pen onto my skin as the words are released.

Hello Dear Sponsor. It is a pleasure for me to send you greetings through this letter which I am writing with lots of affection… I want to tell you that I am not in school right now because of economic issues in our family. I was only able to go as far as sixth grade… I ask God to allow me to go to school later on and be able to help my family get ahead in life… Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the letter you sent me because it was an enormous pleasure for me to get it and read it. It made me happy…

On and on he went, printing as small as he could, filling all my space. His words make me feel full and happy. I can hardly wait to meet his sponsor.

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He looks to his teacher with a broad smile on his face, folds me up and slides me into an envelope. It’s cozy here, but I wonder how long this journey will take. In a short time, I hear a ripping of paper and a new hand grasps and unfolds me. I am in the country office now. An office worker slides me into a scanner and off I go for translation. A few days go by as I patiently wait. Finally, there is the clacking sound of computer keys. Spanish words on one side become English words on the other, and I am sent electronically, arriving in moments in an American office. With a few steps of procedure, a notification of my presence is sent to the sponsor where she can read me online. I am also printed out, folded up once more and mailed to the young man’s sponsor. I wonder which version will be the sponsor’s preference?

With a blinding bright light, I realize the sponsor is opening me up on her tablet. She greets me with a huge smile as I bring news from another culture, language and life, obviously dear to her heart. I observe her smile fade and her face morphs into one of concern as she quickly reads me through.

I ask that you pray for me so God will take care of me always. I will continue to pray for you and your family. Good-bye with affection.

She sits silently as I read the look on her face and feel her disappointment that he is no longer in school. His words sound so resolute; “is this a final letter from him?” she wonders. Moments pass, then reaching low, she pulls out a large two-inch binder and placing it on her desk, she flips through the pages of letters looking at the very first photo of him at age six, and others throughout the years including the best ones – the two of them together when she traveled to meet him and his mother.

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Pulling out a blank page looking like a relative of mine, she begins inscribing on paper the words of her heart to be sent back.

I praise God for you… I respect you and bless you for doing what is needed for your family. I agree with your prayer that God will allow you to go back to school very soon. I love you like a mother loves her son, I am proud of you, and I pray blessings for you and your family.

What will come next? Will he continue in the Compassion program on the weekends learning of God’s love for him, and maybe learning a trade skill? How long until she will hear from him again? Fifteen years of age and working to help provide for his parents and siblings.

What happens next, is this. That new fortunate letter is folded up to be sent to the boy, and I am thoughtfully placed in that white, thick binder of love. My journey is over, but not without ongoing effect. Because of me, she will continue to pray words of life for a young man in another country where life is much simpler, but also more difficult. Because of me, he will receive another letter from someone across the globe who loves and believes in him. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to change the course of a life – the course of a family, even a community – knowing that someone believes in you and cares.

He can do all things through Christ who strengthens him, and his future is bright.

Have you written your sponsored child lately?

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