The Impact of Writing

When you sign up to sponsor a child with Children’s HopeChest, there are two primary things you’re asked to do: pay the monthly sponsorship fee, and write to your child.

I’ll admit, I’m not the best at the writing. It has been hard to get my family in a good habit of writing to our sponsored kids on a regular basis. There are so many things in our lives vying for our attention that stopping to take a few minutes to write a letter can simply slip through the cracks. I always have good intentions, but then because it is such a small thing, it gets forgotten.

We first started writing to our three sponsored children in November of 2014. I wrote to Mary, my daughter to six-year-old Joseph, and my husband, Matt wrote to Jorem. Jorem was nine when we started sponsoring him. One of the most fun things about writing to the kids was getting a reply to a specific question we asked. I remember asking Mary what her favorite color was, and a few months later, she told me she liked green and orange.

Since the mail from HopeChest is addressed to me, I typically read all of the letters before handing them out to their recipients. One of Jorem’s letters to Matt in January of 2015 had one single sentence in it that stood out in my mind as different from all the others. The sentence, written by someone on staff, went like this:

“I will give my Mom a hug when I reach home,” says Jorem.It was clear from the letter that Jorem was writing very specifically to what Matt had written him, stating that he was happy to know about our family, our dog, and Matt’s job. But then this sentence, set apart from the rest in quotation marks, was clearly a direct quote from Jorem to the translator.

I asked Matt what it was about, and he told me that he’d encouraged Jorem to give his mother a hug. I thought, “aw, that’s sweet, you’re the best!” and then promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward to my trip last summer to finally meet all the precious children in Ongongoja. I frantically scanned the crowd during the welcome ceremony, looking for one—if not all—of our sponsored kids, but had no luck. A few hours later, we passed out name tags, and I got to finally set my eyes on many of my friends’ sponsored kids, plus my own.

However, very few of them understood a word I said. For Joseph, the child my daughter writes to, I could point to my name on his tag and then point to me and smile really big. “I’m your sponsor!” And even then, I’m not sure he really understood. Mary’s name tag also had my name on it, but for Jorem, it was Matt’s name. And he knew I was not Matt. He could tell I was interested in him though, and I think he grasped that I maybe knew his sponsor. I recruited someone to help me learn the Ateso word for husband, and I tried to tell Jorem (without a translator standing right there) that Matt was my husband, but he still didn’t quite understand.

Finally, though, something clicked, and he went a got his mother and brought her to meet me. She hugged me politely, and I tried to tell her that Matt, Jorem’s sponsor, was my husband. But I butchered the word and needed help, so I grabbed the guy who’d tried to help me earlier. He translated to Jorem and his mother what I’d been trying to tell them, and a light went on in their eyes. Especially his mothers’. Then she gave me a HUG. The kind of hug you get from a friend you haven’t seen in a year, or a child you were away from for two weeks. And from then on, she always acknowledged me, talked to me through a translator whenever possible, and thanked me—and Matt of course—for sponsoring Jorem.

It was awesome to meet his mom like that, the first day, but it didn’t occur to me that there was anything more to it than that. On the second day in Ongongoja, I got to visit Jorem’s home and meet his sister and some extended family. I was so very nervous. I’m bad meeting new people when I know how to communicate with them, to say nothing of this being my first home visit in a foreign country. Suddenly I was wondering about social customs and proper etiquette and of course I knew nothing about either subject. I was supposed to ask them questions, but I literally had no clue what to say, so someone else took the lead there. Thankfully.

Before we left, Jorem’s mother gave me a chicken. I laughed watching Jorem and a neighbor chasing the chicken during our conversation, and then my stomach did a flip-flop when I realized it was most likely for me. OH MY. Talk about an honor! (I loved that chicken. If I could have sneaked him home in my suitcase, I would have!)

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Again, Jorem’s mother hugged me tight and thanked me, told me to thank Matt.

Later that day, I think God through His Spirit brought to mind that sentence Jorem had written to Matt seven months before. I remembered all I had heard about many of the families in the CarePoints in Uganda, how they didn’t show much affection to their children, how they don’t really know how to play with their kids. I remembered hearing that it was uncommon to express affection through touch (one of the reasons the kids probably crave it so much from visitors who are eager and willing to give it).

Jorem’s mother definitely seemed a touch warmer than the other women of the community. I mean they were quick to hug and smile and laugh, but there was just something else with her. Something I could only feel, could never name or describe.

Matt encouraged Jorem to hug his mother, and Jorem said he would when he got home.

What follows here is pure speculation, because there’s no way I can know if Jorem had ever hugged her before. Or if she’d hugged him. But I bet when he did hug her, she asked him why, and he told her—that some Mzungu from America said he should hug his mama. What mother wouldn’t love a hug from her child?

What if she hugged him back?

What if she started hugging him, and his sister, more?

What if they started hugging her more as well?

What if her mama heart was so thankful to a complete stranger for just nudging that idea into her son’s head that she couldn’t help but have some extra warmth for that stranger’s wife?

I know that I will always love her fiercely. I know that there was something there, beyond words we could speak, that connected us, and I know I will never forget it.

THAT could be the power of writing to your child.

I bet Matt never imagined what that simply idea, that suggestion, could become. But I believe, because God is good, and He works all things together for good for those who love Him. I believe it’s just possible that one hug could fill a mother’s heart to bursting, and she then poured that love on me, so I could take it home for Matt.

So write to your kids. Send them love and encouragement and Jesus’ words because those good things, that love, that good news, those life-giving words, will not return empty but will accomplish what God pleases. You simply never know.

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