Saturday, January 31, 2015

Child sponsorship... or I should have been selling Skillet t-shirts

Last night, J. and I took P., H., TM, and D. to the Winter Jam concert. We got in free because we were volunteering with one of our adoption agencies, Holt International, who was sponsoring the concert. J. had P., TM, and D. with him inside the concert and passed out sponsorship folder during intermission and H. and I sat outside the concert at one of the child sponsorship tables. That was perfect for both of us. We could hear the music, but it wasn't quite so deafening. (I was also a little afraid of what the noise, lights, and over-stimulation would do to H. as far as seizures.) H. had a ball. She is such a people-person. She sat at the table and smiled and waved and said hello to everyone who passed by. At first I couldn't understand why people were coming up to us to say hello when they weren't greeting the other people working the table. Then I caught the Miss America waving and smiling going on and understood. I also bought us some pizza slices and sodas, thus H. declared the evening, "So, so fun!"

The table where we were working was directly across from Skillet's booth. (If you are not aware of Skillet, they are a heavy-metal Christian group who is popular in both secular and Christian arenas.) I am now intimately acquainted with the full line of t-shirts which Skillet has for sale, having stared at them for six hours. They are very popular. The booth was never quiet and there was a steady stream of customers buying a lot of rather high-priced t-shirts. I briefly thought about going across the aisle and suggesting that they let me give a child sponsorship pitch with every t-shirt sale. My children are relieved that I didn't.

I understand that many of the people who passed by our table already sponsor a child, many people came up to say hello and mentioned this. I'm also pretty sure that many other people hadn't ever heard of child sponsorship and would glance away once they saw what the table was about. I did my darndest to convince people of the importance of child sponsorship... and did a lot of educating as to the difference between adoption and sponsorship.

For those of you who haven't heard about child sponsorship, or who haven't taken the plunge, here's my plea. (And we sponsor more than one child through more than one organization... I understand the financial sacrifice involved.)

Child sponsorship is when an individual (or group of individuals) send money through an organization to support a specific child. Often this means the difference between being able to stay in one's family of origin and being relinquished to an orphanage or abandoned. Poverty is one of the number one reasons children lose their first families. For many families, they live so close to the edge that disaster is often just a meal away. Child sponsorship helps to push these families just a little bit away from the edge and also gives them other support in terms of education and therapies and access to other social services. If you are pro-adoption, you really also need to be pro-sponsorship. Our first duty lies with the children and keeping their families intact if at all possible. As much as we support adoption, in a perfect world, it would not be necessary.

Think about how much you love your children for a moment. Now, imagine with me what it would be like if financially you could not provide enough food for them and had to watch them starve. Parents around the world face this every day. Often they make the heart-rending decision to relinquish their child to an orphanage so that their child will be fed. Now imagine if some unknown benefactor started giving you enough money so that you could feed your child and did not have to face this gut wrenching decision. You could do that for another family. You could do that by spending as little as a dollar a day. Why don't you?

Child sponsorship programs all differ a little in the nuts and bolts, but have the same goal. We do sponsor through both Holt and Compassion International and like them both for different reasons. But we also want to be careful with our money and make sure the programs do what they say they are going to. If you are on the fence about their effectiveness, you really need to do read the in-depth report that Christianity Today did on the economics of child sponsorship programs. They do work.

It was interesting last night to watch who was drawn to our table. Inevitable, it was the children who would stop and look and ask questions. More than once I saw a young child literally try to drag their parent(s) over, the parent would glance at the table, and pull their child away as they kept walking. Also more than once, someone would come up and sponsor a child because their child wanted to. We need little children around us because they keep us honest and help us to remember what is important. Listen to them.

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