Letters more precious than ….

Children who received letters from their sponsors. Can you see the joy in their faces.

Children who are still waiting for letters from their sponsors.

Kiikzhan and Sara before handing out letters to the children from their sponsors. Sara, who has been here for almost 6 years, also had a letter for each child explaining she is returning to the states, at least for the time being.

Some of the sponsors send a small gift with their letters. The children love these gifts but it is the letters and pictures that they hold onto so tightly. I cannot begin to express how much words of encouragement mean to these children. The interest someone shows to a child is magnified because these are lives empty of the love and stability of a family. The money a sponsor sends does make a huge difference in these children’s lives, but I still think the personal touch of letters is what their hearts grasp onto.

My heart was sad for all the children who didn’t receive letters. There are sponsors who really give of their time to write letters consistently but others don’t. I’ve told this story before but I’m going to share again. A grandmother came on one of the Kid’s Connection trips to see Kazakhstan and meet her sponsored child. She had written several letters and sent pictures of her children and her grandchildren, but admitted that she really didn’t think much about what she had sent. Kind of like one of those good things you to make yourself feel better – “Look what I did, I wrote a letter to a poor little orphan child!” Well, as the plane touched down in Almaty, she began to get a little concerned. What would she be able to say to this child? What would they have in common? Then she wondered how she would handle some of the rougher parts of the trip (the out-houses, for example) and she began to think maybe she had made a mistake in coming.

After a night of resting, she was still nervous when she arrived at the orphanage. Then, before her stood her teen-age sponsored boy. She has two daughters and 2 granddaughters. What in the world would she and a teen-age boy have in common? Through the translator the young man wanted her to come up to his room so he could show her something. After climbing the narrow stairs, she entered a small room with three sets of bunk beds. By the small window was a table loaded with potted plants. He stood proudly beside this table showing off his labor of love. He loves growing things. Well, her heart leapt because she loved to grow things, too. They had something in common. Her nervousness began to fade. She walked over to admire the plants and, as she did, he began to motion for her to look at the bottom side of the upper bunk. She couldn’t imagine what could be there that she would want to see. The translator informed her that he wanted her to look at what was attached to the bunk above where he slept.

She bent farther over until she saw her own family smiling back at her. All the pictures she had ever sent, along with all her letters, were taped to the underside of the top bunk. Each night before this young man went to sleep he looked up into the smiling faces of her family. It was then that it hit her just how much the letters she gave so little thought to meant when they arrived half way around the world. They were treasures to this young man. She was humbled, a little ashamed, but resolved to put more of her heart into the letters she would send in the future.

These letters aren’t going to save these children. They aren’t going to change their situation. But they do give encouragement to lives where there is very little. A sponsor can help a child learn to write out his or her thoughts as communication goes back and forth. I read to my children every night when they were young. I even read to them on occasion when they were in high school – especially books I wanted them to read and knew they wouldn’t on their own. I encouraged my children to cut pictures out of magazines and tell me a story they made up about the pictures. I wanted them to think creatively, to be able to express their thoughts so someone else could understand them. The children here don’t get any of this encouragement. Many struggle in school because they lack so much in preparation. They aren’t in a loving home. The opportunity to begin to write and to correspond with a sponsor helps build skills they desperately need.

I’ve heard some sponsors say the children don’t ask many questions in their letters and it is hard to get communication going with them, communicating as you would with a friend. These children don’t yet have these skills. Reading letters from sponsors help them see how it is done. Sponsors asking questions about what is happening in their life and in their schooling, as well as returning words of encouragement, helps to bridge the lack of attention they received earlier in life, as well as build skills.

They ask me about their sponsors. I know some of the folks who sponsor children but obviously not all. If you are a sponsor, please write your child. You can send letters by email. We are short staffed here in Kazakhstan but the letters are a priority. Anyone who would like to come join us in working with the kids, please come on. The workers are few! We are always looking for new team members.

I love seeing the faces of these precious children light up when their name is called because they received a letter. Neither these pictures nor my words can capture fully how much the pieces of paper with words on them from a stranger mean to these children. To all of you who faithfully write your sponsored child – thank you! Even if you don’t get regular mail back from your child, their hearts are touched. Many of these children are way behind in skills they should have. The staff at the orphanage barely has time to take care of their basic needs, so helping them write letters isn’t on their list of priorities. We supply paper and pencils but, unfortunately, we lack the time to sit with each child though we do try when we can.

Giving the gift of encouragement when you don’t immediately get a warm fuzzy in return is sometimes hard. But I’m telling you, my friends, it makes all the difference to a child on this side of the ocean. Be encouraged! Your time and energy more than doubles in meaning and impact by the time your letters reach here. Thank you – and I thank you for the children who receive the gift of your taking your time and energy to send them a letter or card. Please continue in your faithfulness.

If you haven’t sponsored a child and would like to, you can go to the link on the right side of the this post and click on the Interlink Resources website link. There you will find all the information you need to sponsor a child. You can also donate funds for extra things, things like medical services for children who need medical attention (for example, surgery to repair cleft palettes) or playground and sports equipment, winter coats and boots, glasses, school uniforms. The list can go on. Each little bit adds up.

I’ll be writing a post soon about a shipping container Interlink is filling in Muncie, Indiana with supplies that are being donated or purchased for here. I’ll list ways you can help fill this container and ways you can help raise the funds needed to ship the container here.

Thank you, each one of you who sends me encouraging words. Like the children, I treasure each one. There are times during my day when I do get tired and sometimes even a little overwhelmed with the work and needs that are here. However, when I get back to my apartment, it never seems to fail that I’ll have an email with some kind word of encouragement and a reminder of in who’s strength I do what I do.

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