Jefferson Alim, my first sponsored child, is turning 14 today! This would be the tenth birthday I would come up with some way to celebrate his birthday on this side of the world and mail pictures/memorabilia to the Philippines. I did some crazy things - there was even one year that I recycled a cake: I had written "Happy Birthday, Jefferson!" on it, then crossed out his name three times over the next several days to celebrate two other birthdays within our family as well as crossing out "Birthday" so that the cake read "Happy Thanksgiving." Gotta say it was one of the cheesiest things I've ever done. Ever.
This year is weird as Jefferson's birthday has arrived and I don't have the opportunity to write to him. While I am still celebrating silently and covering him in extra prayer today, I'm missing him a lot more than I realized I might. I know he knows I'll never forget his birthday (he even wrote about that in his "final letter"). But what matters most that he remember, now that he's no longer able to be sponsored?
As his sponsor, I want him to always remember that his Creator loves him and purposed his life, even when his circumstances declare differently. I'm hoping that he knows I won't stop loving him or praying for him. I want him to recognize that commitment is important, even when it's almost a foreign idea and not the trend.
Jefferson's a young man now, and as his sponsor I was privileged to have 9 years to speak into his life, since he was just 4 years old. I wrote to him almost every week, reminding him of truth from Scripture, telling him about answered prayer in my life, declaring the goodness of God's grace, and simply writing about life and family.
If you have a sponsored child, do not fail to write to them. Their life is an investment - not nearly as much a financial one as it is an emotional, or even eternal one. They are yours. Write to them, be real to them. Your kid treasures you - and they would recognize you before they would recognize any American celebrity...that is, if you sent them a picture of yourself. They want to know you.
We're celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas soon, so find some things to write about. There are traditions within our culture, so approach this season as opportunity to educate your child. I always found it a fun challenge to describe traditional activities in words that could be easily translated. Maybe this Thursday take a few minutes to imagine how you would explain to your child what was going on and why, as though they were there - and write that in a letter. Send a picture or two along with it...maybe cooking your favorite dish step by step or a list of things you're thankful for (with cultural consideration)? Or when snow comes how about writing about sledding, having a snowball fight, or building a snowman? Do exercise caution about how you describe things, as it is healthier to write more about similarities than differences. Your kids have their own traditions, so ask about them, too!
Bottom line: invest in your kids by writing to them. You'll be forever glad you did.