For over five years, I’ve been a Compassion International sponsor of two children in Pueblo Nuevo.  I picked up packets for Maitte and Alexis after the first service New Life started the program.  At the time, I only had two kids, Lucy and Wyatt, so I thought it would be fun to pick a girl and boy close to each of their ages.  There weren’t any close to Wyatt, so I chose Maitte and Alexis based on their birthdays being close to Lucy’s, both within three days of hers.

Since then, I haven’t missed a payment for either of them, and I’ve sent annual birthday gifts and Christmas gifts, and I wrote them a letter every year or two, so I thought I was doing something great….  Not really, though.  I always thought the money was the most important part because I was always too lazy to actually learn about the program and what it truly is accomplishing.

Another aspect of the program that I’ve always said I’d do is the annual trip to Ecuador, but I always found a reason against going; mostly greed over my finances…  This year, I’ve had some life changes that have forced me to realign all of my priorities.  One of which was making the trip non-negotiable to myself by writing a letter in February to Maitte and Alexis telling them I was coming to see them this year.  Along with committing myself to the trip and to writing them, I also committed to writing to them every month.  However, again, I let this fall away because I let my “real life” come first, and I kept rationalizing my laziness.

Finally, after several seemingly quick months, we departed for Ecuador.  There was a lot of excitement for me, but also some apprehension and guilt about meeting these two kids that mostly only knew me as just someone that sent a check every month.

One of the things advised inside the CI program manual is to keep a daily log of experiences and prayers, which I decided to do.  Starting with the plane ride down, I read and journaled and prayed that God would show me purpose through this trip.

From the minute we first met our guides, Duncan and Carla, and our translators, Ramiro, Patricia, Josue, and Cristina, I did start to receive that feeling of a true mission and purpose for coming.  They explained that while the money is greatly appreciated and needed, it isn’t what will solve the problems of the people of Ecuador or anywhere else in the world for that matter, including Northern Virginia.  Poverty can’t and won’t ever cured with money alone.

The true way to help is put plainly by CI’s mission statement: “Releasing Children from Poverty IN JESUS’ NAME.” Those last three words are so critically important and appropriate in what the true mission is because it’s only through developing a relationship with Christ that these children, and their family and friends through them, find absolute strength and purpose for their lives.  They don’t want our hand outs. They want the cold drink of water that we can provide as Christ’ disciples.  They want to know they’re not forgotten and that they are loved.  That’s exactly what’s being delivered at Centro Familiar “Vida Neueva” (NEW LIFE FAMILY CENTER!!!!) The women who tutor and preach to these kids and their families are so strong and purpose-driven.  They make sure that they are there to support the whole needs of each child, not just the physical.  They provide emotional and spiritual support as well.  They truly are God’s hands.

It became evident from the minute I met the people of the church in Pueblo Nuevo, including and especially Maitte and Alexis and their families, that they were more thrilled to spend time with me than they were to receive my money.  Each of them was quick to show me the letters I had written to them.  Even as they were showing them to me and beaming about them, I felt God’s conviction because I knew he was showing me how little I had done for them.  It’s for this reason and all of the others above that I know God is working through me and my seemingly inconsequential donations and letters (or lack thereof…).

I have, once again, recommitted myself to writing to these children monthly.  It has put a greater perspective on how to not only help the people in Ecuador, but also how to help me better develop relationships with my own children and ours with Christ.  As in almost every poor or missed decision in life, waiting until now to visit Ecuador and to learn these lessons seems like a giant missed opportunity, but I know that God waited to send me until He knew I was ready and mature enough to receive it.  I am forever changed and eternally grateful for being able to experience His love and purpose for me through this trip to Ecuador, and I’m looking forward to returning.  I encourage everyone to do the same and would be honored to further share my experience.

IN JESUS’ NAME,

Amen

Justin Ingram

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