There’s a stack of papers by me, all written by this boy named José. He just turned thirteen. He likes soccer, running, math, the color red, fried rice, and chocolate cake. He has a best friend named Alex, and he’s proud because he’s making good grades.
I love José. He feels like another younger brother.
The funny this is, I’ve never met him. I only know what he looks like from two pictures he sent us. Both times, he’s standing next to the new clothes our money enabled him to get—new shirts, pants, and shoes, all from a mere twenty American dollars. All I know about José comes through the letters he writes us in his cramped cursive.
But I still love him. When I think of our family, I think about my siblings and parents, of course, but I also think about him. It’s almost like he’s with us while we go about our day and eat together—there’s one picture of him on the fridge, more in a bowl in the dining room. I didn’t really expect to feel this way. I suppose I expected to feel like a noble martyr—my family doesn’t go on fancy vacations or have the newest gadgets, because we sponsor a poor little child who’s benefiting from our money. Pity me. But it’s not that way at all. In fact, it feels more like he’s the one blessing us. When a letter of his comes, we all rush to read it. Whenever we hear about the country where he lives, we all grin at each other, thinking about Jose.
We’re worlds apart—right now, his school year is ending, ours is going full swing—and we’ve never met, probably never will. We only know about each other from a few translated lines every few months. Our lives are so different, too—while I struggle to get even one shirt for twenty dollars, he can get a whole new wardrobe. But still, I love him, and from his letters, I know he’s so thankful for us.
My family started sponsoring José through Compassion International three years ago. Then, he was ten, and he was in second grade. Now, he’s thirteen and in fifth grade. He advanced through at least two grades during the first year that we sponsored him. His older sister has gotten married, and he’s gotten to travel a bit and even go to a concert. Best of all, he’s learning about God—the pastor of the small church in his town wrote us, once, explaining our supports gives children, including Jose, “a balanced diet, medical checkups, spiritual direction, psychological counsel, and help with their homework”.
It’s not always perfect. We don’t pray for Jose and his family nearly as often as we should. Days go by where I don’t think about him. It’s hard to really get to know him through letters, especially when translation makes things sound more stilted and less familiar. The pastor mentioned some of the challenges they face in that area: “delinquency, drugs, alcholism, gang, witchcraft, and idolatry”. There are many problems, both with where Jose lives and the system of sponsorship, but—
When I see the pictures he draws for us, when I read his repeated thanks that we care, when my heart throbs with love for this kid I’ve never met in a place worlds away, in every resepct, from mine, I know: It may not be perfect, but it is beautiful, and I would not trade this experience for anything.