Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Bittersweet Letter

I am a mailbox checking addict... there, I've confessed.  Here in the US we also get mail on Saturdays. When we moved from Canada and I found out about this, I was ecstatic.  I was also confused about the flag up, flag down business.  In Canada, I've either had a mailbox right on my house (no flag), a mail box connected to a mail room in an apartment (no flag), or one of those community mailboxes (no flag).  So the only flags I knew about were the ones other people had, mostly on rural type roads.  In Canada, (currently, I believe) the flag up means that the mailman has come and you have received mail.  In the US, I discovered, the flag is put up to notify the mail carrier that you have outgoing mail, and unless you have outgoing mail it stays down. (Isn't it cool that you can send mail out from your own mailbox?  I know you can do that with the community mailboxes back in Canada because there is a general mail slot... but your actual mailbox isn't two way). 

For a mail checking addict like me, this is problematic because unless I have outgoing mail, or watch the window continually (and since we're confessing, sometimes I do...) I don't actually know if the mail has come.  I have, however, developed a "highly scientific" system.  If I don't have outgoing mail (I did try to have outgoing mail all the time, but that gets expensive!) I do a survey of the other mailbox sets that I can see from my house to see if any flags are up and then monitor them throughout the day to see if they've been put down.  Not a perfect system but relatively efficient!  I'm sure a very few of you will find this fascinating and most of you will just be shaking your heads at me!

Anyhoo, because we receive mail on Saturdays, I received mail on Christmas Eve.  I wasn't sure I would, not knowing how the USPS would observe the Christmas holiday (they had the 26th off, in case you were wondering, and well-deserved in my opinion).  But there on Christmas Eve was a largish envelope for me.  In it was a letter from our sponsor child, Maria, in Ecuador.  It is a bittersweet letter because Maria is aging out of the program in January and this is the last official letter we will receive from her while we are her sponsors.  Our family has sponsored someone in Maria's family since 2003.  First her sister and now her.  As I have confessed before, I was part of the "Lame Sponsors" movement before 2010 and as such would write only very rarely, generally around Christmas when I received paper and instructions to write my child.  Thankfully, before I started sponsoring with Compassion in 2010, I learned more about the impact of my letters from bloggers like Ann Voskamp, Lisa-Jo Baker, and Michelle Wright  (if you click on their names, it will bring you to posts about the importance of letter writing). 

So when I began those new sponsorships, I also applied the same letter writing principals to my previous sponsor child Maria from Sponsor Hope.  Can I encourage you that a real relationship developed?  That in my one year of earnestly writing to her once a month and praying for her more often really made a difference.  It did.  My bittersweetness is that it came too late for her sister, and while an encouragement to her, was only a year of letters, when it could have been 4 years.  But God is gracious and we are not to worry about yesterday's regrets.  May I encourage you to start writing more if you haven't been a regular correspondent?  It truly does make a difference in the lives of these children.

I'd like to share parts of Maria's letter with you.  For some background, Maria's father passed away in 2009 and her mom passed away unexpectedly this past August.   Maria is the youngest of  6 children and is 18.

Hello dear sponsors please know I am so thankful for how you support me in my sad moments.  Thank you for your prayers, I tell you that I am doing well and always trying to get through the loss of my mother.  Thank you also for the prayers you send.  You are wonderful people, kind and nice.  I am doing well in my studies.[...]

I tell you that I recently wrote my second trimester exams and I did a really good job.  I want to tell you about a new idea I have had, I have been thinking about going into the career of being a chef.  It would be a new diploma, so I would have two.  Both would be lots of fun and I'm praying that I will reach my goal of having two professions.  I know I can do it.  I have a positive mindset and I'm working really hard.  I know with God's help I can do it and thanks to your help as well. [...]

I went to visit my mother's grave. [...] I never imagined I would ever be visiting her there but I know I must be strong and accept and try to understand that we all must die someday, nobody can live forever and so we don't suffer, God waits for us who believe in Him with open arms.  God has given me tests and I have managed them.  I know I have experienced a lot of hurt and bad things and I didn't think I would get past them but little by little I try.  Never think I forget you.  I love you like you were my second family. [...]

I hope your kids and all your family are well.  May the King of the Heavens take care of you, protect you and continue to bless you.  Blessings, Maria.

I don't think I need to make too much comment.  What a blessing our time with Maria has been. 

I am pleased to tell you that we'll be able to keep supporting her family as she has a niece who is entering the sponsorship program and we will be sponsoring her once Maria moves out of the program.