My Refrigerator Kid

By MeLissa LeFleur

One day in December, my life changed.

I walked into an office in Quito, Ecuador and saw her face. I knew her instantly because her photo hangs in a prominent place on my fridge and greets me each morning as I prepare breakfast. Each day I pray that God will grow her into a godly young woman. I see her as becoming a caring mother, a loving wife, and a godly leader in her community.

But for that day, she was only six years old as her little legs ran toward me. I squatted down. Her force about knocked me over as our bodies collided.

After a long and intense hug, her arms loosened, so I pulled away and took a long look at her. She was dressed in a pink sundress with a long-sleeved white shirt underneath, white tights, and black shoes. Her hair was adorable with two long black braids. I knew she had dressed in her very best. It isn't every day you get to meet your sponsor!

Maria had jumped off my fridge and into my heart.

Ten years ago, my husband and I decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International. We chose the organization because it is Christ-centered, child-focused, and church-based—three things we highly value. We selected a young girl named Suzanna from Ecuador and watched her grow for several years. When she left the program, we began sponsoring Maria, also from Ecuador.

Maria, her parents, and her Compassion tutor travelled five hours on a bus to meet us in Quito. We talked about their hopes and dreams for Maria. Her local compassion program provides her with healthy meals, tutoring, counseling, and spiritual instruction. They focus on the five components of a healthy life: physical, emotional, psychological, mental, and spiritual. They bring her hope in very difficult circumstances.

During our trip to Ecuador (and later to Colombia), we had the honor to visit several homes of Compassion children. Some homes had dirt floors and only one room for eight people to find a place to sleep. Others had no furniture at all, just a log fire in the middle of the room. I remember holding a little girl and weeping over her living conditions and familial situation. She was being raised by her 12-year-old brother in a dilapidated house. I caught the eye of her Compassion tutor, and she said, "I treat her as my own daughter and will protect her." If not for that woman, the little girl would be helpless or worse—hopeless.

One thing transcends poverty and that is Jesus Christ. No matter what the living conditions, the children share joy! It isn't that "Oh, I'm so happy I got a new video game" kind of joy. It is the honest, childlike joy that comes from Jesus. We always ask the kids what they like best about their Compassion center. The answer is always the same, "They teach me about Jesus."

Several years ago, my husband and I changed our perspective on children. As I have written about before, we haven't been able to have kids of our own. We decided that instead of moping around and bemoaning our lack, we would enjoy life and serve others. One of our greatest joys is being able to invest in the lives of other people's children. It might be an anonymous gift card to help with Christmas presents or serving with the children in our local church. One time, we figured out how much money we would spend per month if we had children. Why not invest that money in the lives of children around the world?

That's where Maria and Miguel (our little red-headed boy in Colombia) come in. They aren't our biological children, but they are part of our family. We don't have the opportunity to share dinner with them every night, but we can support their basic needs from another continent. It is always a joy to open the mailbox and see a letter from one of them! We huddle together, read their letters, and admire their artwork. We've seen the ministry of Compassion meet their physical needs, but it doesn't stop there. The kids are encouraged to dream big and allow God to transform their futures!

We are honored to have a small part in a ministry that lives up to their slogan. They truly are "releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name."

If God is calling you to sponsor a child, click here for more information.

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Published 1-28-13