(I’m sharing 3 video clips I took walking through the slums of Santo Domigo in today’s post below.)
Remember you can’t help everyone.
I told myself, as I braced myself before the trip.
Although I understood third-world poverty intellectually and even theologically, I never saw it first-hand personally. Now, I was going to spend 5 days morning ’til night in the field to meet little boys and girls and the families who suffer the realities of unending hopelessness every day.
I was afraid I would be overwhelmed by what I would see — by my own stories of wounding and need.
So, I gave myself a script.
Remember you can’t help everyone.
Although Eric and I already sponsor Compassion children, I decided to sponsor Wissen — a new special needs child from the Dominican Republic the week before I left. In order to write from my heart, I needed to hold a Wissen in my heart, to comfort the brokenness I would experience, to enter each story I write for each child, mother or father I met.
I wanted to protect myself. I said to myself —
Remember, you are simply going to write about what you see. Love them by giving them a voice.
You must trust the kindreds who read will hear their voice and be moved. To sponsor….
Remember you can’t help everyone.
I told this to myself now, as I stood in a dark shack, on our last day “in the field” to visit children and Compassion Centers located in the slums, the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Santo Domingo.
We began our walk through the neighborhoods of Santo Domingo and heard the music of the Dominican Republic.
We walked the furthest than ever — two miles into the heart of the slums — through mounds and heaps of souring garbage in ninety degree tropical humidity — in order to reach this child and his mother.
I felt anxious walking through narrow, soiled streets where naked children run through, where countless men and women stuck in poverty languished. I felt lost in the unending miles broken shacks — as far as the eye could see — standing up dark, wet mud from soiled river water that floods regularly.
I thought about the crime, human trafficking, and violent acts against women I read happened in the slums. I couldn’t help thinking if gang members happened to be high on drugs come upon us, I would be lost here too.
When we finally arrived at the home, I was not prepared for this visit.
Unlike the other children we visited throughout the week — who were Compassion sponsored children — five-year-old Gaviel was UNSPONSORED.
Gaviel did not have that light shining in this eyes. His eyes were sullen, empty of the hope. I did not see in Gaviel the joy in other sponsored little boys and girls who sang and danced, who read God’s word, who prayed with others, and studied in the Compassion Centers during the week.
We were standing because the family didn’t have chairs to sit on.
Five-year-old Gaviel stood in front of his mother with a blank look on his face. His mother has a speaking problem. Because she can’t speak, she can’t find a job.
Gaviel speaks for his mother. It felt awkward to ask him questions.
His father left when he was born. Sometimes he comes around and gives 65 pesos. That’s $1.45. Gaviel’s grandmother who looks like she is ninety years old has asthma, so she can’t work.
How do you have money to eat? No answer.
What do you like to play? No answer.
What do you like to study at school? Our translator Jean Carlos choked up with tears translating Gaviel’s words.
My school uniform washed away by the river that flooded everything in our house. I cry because I don’t have a school shirt to wear. I can’t go to school.
How many times has the river flooded and you lost everything? Five times.
When you went to go to school, what do you like to do? I like to write. He showed us his tattered notebook.
What do you want to be when you grow up? A doctor.
I walk up close and say through the translator, “Tell Gaviel. I want to tell him a story.”
Just Like You
I pantomime as I speak each sentence —
I was a little girl like you. I grew up poor. I was seven years old when my father left me and my mother. I never saw him again. My mother was born in China. Even though we lived in America, she could not write or read English. Just like you, I had to speak for my mother wherever we went.
My mother needed a job. So, I went with her to a hair cutting shop. I asked the them, “My mother wants to work here. Can you give her a job?” They told me, “No.”
Gaviel was entranced. His eyes locked into mine. I continued.
I went to another hair cutting shop. When I asked them for a job for my mother, they said, “No.” Again and again, I asked. Again and again, people said no. I was scared because I didn’t know what to do. There was no one to ask for help. No one could help us.
But, one thing I always did was pray to Jesus. He was all I had. Jesus did eventually help my mother find a job. It was hard for me growing up.
Gaviel, I had nothing. But, Jesus loved me. That is why I am standing here talking to you.
I am just like you. You are just like me. Jesus loves us.
No matter how many times the River washes everything away, you will always have Jesus. He will never let go of you. Jesus will take care of you.
We will write for Compassion sponsors. You will go to school. You will go to university. You will be a wonderful doctor one day. You will be who God made you to be!”
A smile suddenly lit aglow in Gaviel’s eyes — hope suddenly aflame in his heart. I saw joy. As I handed Gaviel some bubbles and a lollipop picked out by my sons Josh and Caleb, and Gaviel smiled into my eyes.
As Gaviel and I took a picture together, it wasn’t the forty-four year old Bonnie standing next to him.
The little girl in me made a friend.
As I said goodbye, I heard a whisper in my ear —
That night, I called my husband Eric, to tell him about Gaviel. I don’t want Gaviel to wait alone another day or another year — to be sponsored. I want him to know he is chosen. I want to see the light of hope in his eyes always. I can’t wait to send Gaviel a picture of our family. To tell him we are his sponsors.
I tried to protect myself from brokenness. But I discovered there is great tenderness, love and beauty in our broken roads because we’ve been held by Jesus.
Now, you can be that voice of God’s love and kinship to Gaviel and other boys and girls. I can’t wait for you and I to tell a little boy or girl: we are your sponsor.
We can’t help everyone, but Jesus whispers —
Help one child. For me.
Help one child. With me.
Help one child. Welcome me.
Put the light of hope in his eyes, just like the one I’ve always kept lit in yours.
For just $38 a month, you can literally change a little boy and girl’s story. Put the light of hope and joy in his or her eyes.
Move close to just one child. Let him or her see the love of Jesus in your eyes. Click here to see all the little boys and girls waiting to be seen. By just one person. Could that person be you?
As you scroll through the pictures, listen to your heart for a whisper. This one. Sponsor him… This one. Sponsor her.
Sponsor a child using my link http://bit.ly/sponsorwithbonnie & get a special Lisa Leonard Necklace, created just for this trip!
Beautiful brokenness! Thanks for sharing your story and his! Totally crying.
thnx for entering into this story and the journey God is inviting us into, Deborah!
A beautifully written story of God moving you to give yet another child hope! Thank you for taking this trip and inspiring us with your stories. Reading your posts have been life-changing for me to reach out in hope too. As always, love your heart, your words and your willingness to include us in your endeavors!
valerie, this journey wouldn’t have meant something real without the kinship of friends like you. thnx for entering into this story and the journey God is inviting us into — and responding by reaaching out in hope too! so glad we can be “pen pals” through this blog!
Today’s post really spoke to me Bonnie. I can’t help everyone, but yes, I can help one! I chose Yerolin who had been waiting 181 days for a sponsor. I’m anxious for her and her family to get the news. Her bio stated that she likes art! So I am really excited to inspire and encourage her creative spirit through our correspondence. I am grateful to you for sharing your journey as a #compassionblogger.
reading your heart and your pick of Yerolin literally made me shed tears of joy for her! and for your beautiful heart! you are forever part of the moment she and her family will receive that letter they have been waiting for month after month. their lives are changed forever. you’ve stepped into Yerolin’s life and the whisper of God’s voice of lvoe through art will comfort her through your hand. if you’re up for it, let me celebrate with you. email me a picture of her (from her online photo) and send me a pic of you. I’d love to share photo with our community!
Aaaaand now I’m crying in Starbucks…
What a gift for him, for you, and for God to see how you have taken all that brokenness to use it for His glory. I just love reading here and being reminded that he is so so good, and that states and countries away we are all walking this together.
While we sponsor a Compassion child now, my husband and I pray that we can continue to be out of debt so that we can be generous stewards of God’s goodness to us!
This is your best post yet Bonnie. God’s best work yet through you! I was spellbound at your beautiful story to Gaviel. I know many more people will sponsor many more children through these beautiful stories told by you, Holley and others. I sponsor 2 children through Compassion and just may be looking for 2 more…God will show me who…
Thank you so much.
May He bless you and your family abundantly as you bless others.
I needed to read this today. Thank you.
Aaaaand…crying at work! I have loved your posts, Bonnie. You will be so blessed by Gaviel. Sweet, sweet story.
This is beautiful and it illustrates what I felt God put on my heart as I read about Jeaus feeding the four thousand in Matthew:
1. We are to give thanks, even in suffering with faith in His goodness
2. Just as Jesus allowed His body to be broken in suffering, so we too, as His followers will be broken
3. This breaking will at first separate us from Him (“My God, my God why have you forsaken me”), but this will help us to realize we cannot control our lives and that we need to place ourselves in His arms
4. In the breaking of His body, God in His power pulled Jesus out of the grave to offer us an eternal gift in Him: One body broken for many: just as in breaking us, God draws us out of the grave in His power giving not only us life and joy in abundance, but He multiplies the gift into thousands more: just as He is multiplying the gift of your brokenness into life eternal for many more souls through your willingness to accept His grace and His gift to you.
And…what I see in both your story and my father’s, is that God requires us to continue to open our heart to suffering, so that in the breaking He will bring more gifts to us and others, as we speak God’s truth in His Word into our souls: we are His, held tight in His arms (see John 6: 35-40) and He is NEVER letting us go.
“My school uniform washed away by the river that flooded everything in our house. I cry because I don’t have a school shirt to wear. I can’t go to school.”
Just those three sentences made my eyes swell… I am only able to sponsor one girl right now due to finances but I do correspond with 8 others and one lives in Indonesia. In her most recent letter, she said “Sometimes I cry very hard because the walk to school is too far.” And in little scribbles she had crossed out “too far” for “a little bit far” because she didn’t think I’d care that much. All I wanted to do was hop on a plane and take those 13 hour and nine hour layover flights to go hug her and say that I do care so much! Thank you for writing this! It touched my heart deeply!
thanks for sharing, Lindsee! soul beautiful!
I began reading your story because I have recently sponsored a girl from the DR. She lives NW of the Santo Domingo and I wonder if she is at the same school as Gaviel – DR402, Cristi is 5 as well, she’ll be 6 in November. it really touched me when you mentioned how Gaviel, who was not sponsored did not have the hope and life in his eyes. It made me think of my 4 (maybe 5 ) sponsored girls and how I hope they are beginning to feel that hope now, as I’m sure Gaviel is. I bet they were so happy when they found out you were his sponsor. You’re so lucky to have taken the trip, one of my goals is to meet one of my sponsored kids one day. 🙂
First, bless you for being God’s voice in these girls’ lives. and for loving them by being their sponsors. If you can ever make it there, I know it will be life-changing and so powerful. From a fellow DR sponsor sister. xo