“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” Henri Nouwen
I thought I was safe.
I exhaled a breath of laughter with two little girls who stuck to me, the moment we stepped out of the Compassion van, like two graham crackers melted into a marshmallow s’more. The girls drew a circle of beautiful children to follow me, children who make a home among shacks of tin-rusted roofs and walls made out of metal sheets, huddled along the polluted waters of “The River”. This is not a river you go stand in to go fly-fishing, but rather used as sewage and garbage that runs through the neighborhood’s backyard.
I knew in my head Compassion would never take bloggers anywhere that risks our safety. But, as our van moved into the “City Belt” — the most dangerous strip of land in the Dominican Republic — I noticed we stopped. A policeman who holstered a metal pistol climbed on, to sit alongside me.
Jonathan, Compassion’s Dominican Site Leader, announced we needed security because the City Belt is where stories for many boys and girls are hijacked into tragedies of human trafficking, drugs, and violence. This happens daily.
But, these adorable girls were Compassion children. Safe. Loved by Jesus.
These children were sponsored.
As they led me to the church where Compassion children meet for worship, a moving cocoon of smiling boys and girls took turns hugging me, bobbing with excitement.
I felt all was right and beautiful as they sang and danced for Jesus. The Compassion children were brightly lit from within, clapping and singing at the top of their lungs like it was Christmas everyday here.
I felt like a little girl somehow invited to a party where I belonged — a perpetual VBS in a joy-filled-Jesus “Safe House”, created daily by Compassion workers and the local church they partner with.
This was a Safe House paid for by loving Compassion Sponsors who are giving purely by faith — having never received the gift of feeling these precious arms physically encircle them.
I felt humbled and overwhelmed by the love these children were deeply longing to give to their sponsors as they hugged me — and held my hands.
Later in the Compassion Classrooms, as I showed the kids my photo album and told them about my family & asked them to guess how old I was — we laughed as if we’d never known anything sweeter in life.
In that moment, I felt safe — from my brokenness.
But, God was about to show me true compassion is not safety from brokenness.
What I didn’t know is that true compassion from Jesus steps into brokenness to transform it into beauty.
I was going to step into the heart of Jesus — by stepping into one Compassion child’s story — to being transformed and fought for along The River.
I met Braudy.
One Tin Roof Shack
I found myself sitting in one of those tin-roof shacks, to meet Braudy’s mom and his five siblings, one metal sheet away from The River.
There were no doors to this home. Fabric hung as curtains. I could see The River as I followed the family out backyard.
“I fight for my children everyday,” Braudy’s beautiful mother told us with strength and dignity. “My husband and I work hard everyday, because I want my children to succeed in life.”
Compassion International was this mother’s secret weapon.
Braudy’s Compassion Sponsor equipped him with real help: classes that taught him God’s ways. Classes that taught him to read and write. Food to feed his body and a community who love Jesus to feed his soul.
Braudy was quietly, respectfully listening to his mother tell us all about it.
Then, something seismic happens.
Jonathan turns to Holley, Mark Gerth and I (the three of us were there in this home visit) and begins to translate for Braudy.
“My sponsor doesn’t write any letters to me.” Braudy says with a face broken by anguish and pain that needs no translation.
Braudy is a twelve year old, but when he spoke looking into my eyes, I heard the voice of a little boy — like a seven-year old girl I knew from long ago when her father left her. Me.
Braudy was looking straight into my eyes.
Something broke me in a thousand pieces. Shattered like the rubble the shed sat on. Shattered like the broken driveway I stood on day my father drove away and left me.
I became the eyes of Braudy’s sponsor — and he asks me the one question that breaks his heart every time sponsor letters arrive for all the little children. Except for him.
No letter. For four years. Since he was eight years old. Braudy is now twelve.
“Why?” Brody asked me. Por que? “Why doesn’t my Sponsor write? I pray to ask God why. Again and again. But no letter. I don’t think my Sponsor loves me.”
Braudy would cry and cry and cry. Because Braudy would write and write and write. And all the reasons that made sense … all the reasons why his sponsor wouldn’t write… all ran out. Braudy doesn’t want to write anymore letters. Because he says he doesn’t want to cry anymore.
My heart could not stop breaking. And I began to cry. Pain for Braudy. Pain for the little girl in me who asked long ago —
why did you leave, Daddy? why not one word? don’t you love me?
I am no longer safe, standing on the side. I see his Compassion Tutor Ana, who cries with Braudy year after year, because she has no sponsor letters to give him.
And in their cries, I find my voice.
Your Story Matters
“Brody, I want to tell you something.” Jonathan translates. “I understand how you feel. My father left me when I was seven years old. I cried to God year after year — Why? I didn’t hear an answer.
But, now I look back and I see. God sent me friends like your tutor Ana — who cries with you when you are sad. Jesus cries with me — through their arms. Jesus loves me through them.
Jesus loves you too. Jesus loves you through Compassion.
All of us visiting here will tell your story, Braudy. You will inspire people everywhere to become sponsors. More children will be loved with letters. Your story matters.
Then, Braudy smiled the biggest smile and a thunder of clapping blew the rooftop with cheers. And that beautiful home lit up with love like fireworks to celebrate Braudy, his beautiful mother and family! To celebrate Jesus!
Don’t sit on the side, sweet kindreds. Tell a child his or her story matters. Let Jesus use your heart and hands to love a little boy or girl like Braudy — who is longing for someone to sponsor them.
Will YOU be their sponsor today? Click here to see all the children who are praying and waiting for a sponsor — EVERY DAY — in some cases more than a year. Let’s be God’s answer to their prayers!
Sponsor a child & receive a special Lisa Leonard Necklace created just for this #CompassionBloggers Trip! I cannot begin to describe how much love these children have for their sponsors. You are their safe haven. Your love is Jesus.
Something Super God-Amazing!
As I looked through the pictures taken of the day, I noticed the first boy who tapped me on the shoulder during the worship service to say “Hola!” — was BRAUDY!! Totally unscripted!! #UnscriptedCompassion
** Our U.S. Compassion Trip Co-Leader Sean also explained with great compassion and clarity to Braudy, his mother and Tutor Ana that although his sponsor has not written him letters, his sponsor REALLY DOES LOVE Braudy, by faithfully giving money to support him all these years.
Sean explained in the U.S., sometimes people sincerely express their love by giving money, as a commitment to give children the best opportunities to dream and succeed in life.
Bonnie, thank you for sacrificing your time and money and your energy, and especially your emotions to do what you are doing on this trip. This brought tears to my eyes… I have two wonderful children through Compassion, and I do write to them every month…but I had no idea how much they might ‘need’ my letters. I am praying Braudy’s sponsor will write, that God will move on their heart.
Praying for you!
Yes, please keep telling their stories. We underestimate God’s greatness and provision when we falsely believe that one person can’t make a difference. Thank you for showing us through words and photos, that Compassion kids are thriving. And the part about Braudy crying because he thinks his sponsor doesn’t love him…brought tears to my eyes. I also write regularly to my kids, but like Susan said above, I don’t think I fully realized how much they cherish these letters. Praying for you all.
This story really touched my heart, Bonnie. My mom and I just started sponsoring two little girls through Compassion, and just recently the Lord led me to your blog and website. When I read that you were going to the Dominican Republic through Compassion, I just thought, wow…how neat that God allowed me to read this after I started sponsoring a little girl. Reading Braudy’s story really spoke to my heart…and I know that I will keep in touch with my little girl through letters and things, with God’s help. I also told my mom about Braudy’s story…and how we need to make sure that we write to our girls.
Bonnie, I know how you feel with the anxiety…I have struggled greatly through a major trial in my life, and anxiety and panic became an everyday thing. The Lord still is in the process of healing me….as I know it will take a very long time. You can be sure of this, Bonnie….the Lord will heal you, and He may be healing you through this trip to the Dominican. When we have struggled in life, God uses those stories to reach out to someone else in need, someone that only YOU may be able to reach because you have more compassion, more understanding, more patience, and more of Jesus’ love to bring to that person by what you went through. You can relate to that person more. It is a beautiful thing to be a part of His plans, to be right in the middle of the story that He is creating.
Simply allow the Lord to flow through you, today, Bonnie. The Holy Spirit will give you HIS eyes to see people the way He does, and you will be used by Him in beautiful ways. Love you! Praying for you and can’t wait to hear more about the trip!
That was me. I was the sponsor who never sent letters thinking of Compassion as a giving opportunity (which it is) but not connecting with relationship part.
One day Jeff Goins wrote a post with a similar message to yours here. It was so convicting for me. We wrote and sent a letter to our sweet now 13 year old girl in Guatemala apologizing ands sling for forgiveness, and now as a famy are sending love her way with financial support AND letter love 🙂
You are so right. These children need to know they matter. To know their stories are important in this world.
Oh, but reading your posts makes we want to sponsor EVERYONE!!!
Thank you for so beautifully sharing today’s experiences. God has used your heart and your writing gift mightily. We have two sponsor children and two correspondent children and we write to them monthly. It breaks my heart that so many kids don’t receive letters, which we hear about with each blogger trip. I would gladly write more children. Why aren’t more correspondents engaged, I wonder? Should I call and ask for more children? What can we do?
Praying for you and so happy you met your sponsored child and gave him hope and a smile to replace the pain of no letters. I too will pray God speaks to his sponsor.
[…] is eligible for sponsorship because there are so many children waiting to be sponsored. Or the Safe House that Bonnie visited where children get to forget for a moment about the violence and poverty that surrounds them to […]
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I never knew how much a letter might mean to our sponsored child. We have written only a few times to our child and I have now been convicted to do so much more often. It is now my goal to write to him at least every month. So, again, thank you for that encouragement to do so.
Bonnie, God bless what you are doing! Fantastic story I am in a program called correspondence Program in Compassion International. I am a letter sponsor for a beautiful child around the same age as Braudy. I will love to be his letter sponsor for him! Is their anyway that you could help me with this? Thank you Bonnie!
Dear friend, I’m in tears here. We sponsored a girl in Kenya for 12 years. And I wrote. Usually more than three letters a year. But there were long stretches with no words–reasons, excuses. And when Yuleisy (is she translating with you this week?) shared her story, I fell apart. So I came home and wrote a letter to our girl
but she won’t receive it because I got word she moved out of Compassion’s program area. I have to trust that our sponsorship and the words we did write made a difference. We’ve sponsored a Dominican girl last week. I’m determined to drown her with letters.
Love you so, friend. And I’m praying for you and your tender heart.
[…] more posts from my fellow travelers on this trip: Bonnie Gray, Bri McKoy, Lisa Leonard, and Ruth […]
Isn’t it amazing how The Lord works to bring people and experiences into our lives that touch on old wounded spaces, where maybe we were robbed of care or grace or respect…and pours that very thing into our lives even deeper and richer than we could imagine. He loves us, oh how he loves us…(David Crowder)
Bonnie, Thank you so much for going and bringing these stories to us.
So I’m sitting here typing this with tears in my eyes after reading about Braudy. What a heart he has. And how amazing that you– of all people, were there to put everything into perspective for him. But I also have tears because for years I’ve heard about Compassion but have never really looked into it. Maybe it is because this story is about a boy in the Dominican Republic and being from neighboring Puerto Rico I felt drawn to it. Maybe it is because today my Scripture talked about God’s timing and how he never leaves loose ends. But today I felt the need to check what Compassion is and now I’m the happy sponsor of beautiful Anyl (above). No child should have to wait that long to have a sponsor. Now I’m giddy with excitement– to get writing to her because I wonder if she like Braudy feels alone with no one writing her. Bless you for telling this story.
Bonnie, what a beautiful story. Thank you for being there, and for sharing your experience with us. I am encouraged to write to our dear sponsored child, Sigo, who lives in Thailand. I do write to him, but not as often as I should. Thank you for reminding me of how important it is not just to give money, but to give words of truth and life to our sponsored children. Bless you!!!
I’m enjoying these stories, Bonnie, though many are so sad. But it amazes me to hear of the strength of faith many have in the midst of such devastation. And they show so much love so freely. It melts my heart. Thank you for sharing these stories.
This letter is for Braudy
Hello I am a woman in America and all of my children are grown. I was sad to hear your sponsor does not write you. It could be that people in America are very busy, too busy. Many people here do not take time to rest and enjoy life. People are so busy making money and spending it they forget what is important in life is relationships. God desires a relationship with you brandy and he loves you very much. I feel sorry for the sponsor who has missed getting to know you. I am inspired by your story and encourage you to keep your eyes on God and his word. He has great things in mind for you!
Braudy’s story is beautiful. I felt like I was back in the DR with how well you described the place and the people. Dominicans are very happy people. I know you will be forever changed by this experience.
Beautiful and inspiring post to say the least! If Braudy’s sponsor only knew the blessing they are missing out on! What a beautiful, tenderhearted young boy he is!
Thank you for sharing this and for sharing Braudy’s story. I pray that many sponsors read this post and realize how important it is for sponsors to write to their sponsored children. The letters don’t need to be long and wordy, just a simple message that you love them and are praying for them.
Bonnie, Thank you so much for sharing your stories and your heart this week. I’m wondering, how long before Compassion steps in to find a correspondent sponsor for a child who does not receive any letters? For many years I sponsored a child and while I wrote a few letters it was not enough. Approx one year ago I really felt the need to up my letter writing with my child. Now I sponsor several thru the correspondent program in addition to the child I sponsor financially. I continue to pray for my first Compassion young lady, wishing that there was some way I could tell her that I’m sorry that I did not write more often. I would be glad to write to Braudy if he should need a correspondent. Please let me know if I could help. Thanks
[…] post about Marlo becoming the man of the house. Holley’s thoughts on ways to express love. Bonnie’s tear-jerker (or, should I say, reminder to keep writing those letters). Lisa’s son has special needs, and […]
I don’t think I expected to cry as much as I did at his story, but when you shared his feelings that his sponsor did not love him because they never wrote him I found myself crying not only for Braudy, but for the part of myself that struggles with feeling that I’m not loved when others don’t seem to invest in relationships in a personal and intentional way. So happy that Braudy had you to speak into his story!
[…] this one. This one, where, when asking about the letters dear Braudy receives, he heartbreakingly answers […]
bonnie, this is such a great lesson for those of us who are new sponsors. i’d read that the letters are important, but your words brought home just how important they must be. i’ll remember this.