"It was the best day
of my life so far."
There are aspects to my personality my family does not appreciate; for one, I'm inclined to share my thoughts with you, whether or not they're solicited. When you consider my strong sense of justice combined with the opinion that people in service-related industries should deliver--imagine this--excellent service, you can begin to see where this volatile combination might ignite.
My professional background is public relations and marketing. I'm crazy enough to believe businesses should not only do what they say but do it well. In my head, a business owner should want to hear from me because a) I'm a paying customer, b) my opinion is most likely shared by others, c) if I bother to say something, it's because I care about the business and want to see its success, d) I'm not a jerk when I express my concern or observation--it's positively, intelligently and kindly communicated. My philosophy is I'd want to know if I were in their shoes.
My family doesn't appreciate this as virtue; they wince or groan or search for a sock to stuff in my mouth when I feel the need to express these marginally-filtered, unsolicited "constructive suggestions" in response to circumstances or people. I do exercise restraint and discretion, I keep my mouth shut more often than not...but sometimes I'm compelled.
A year or so ago, my daughter read about a mission trip in Brio Magazine; readers were challenged "to 'adopt a village'--a Compassion International project in Guatemala City, by sponsoring a Compassion child who lives in that area. The Never The Same! '09 mission trip [was to give] readers an opportunity to go to Guatemala and meet their sponsored child...a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!"
Last summer our entire family also read "Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations". It's an inspiring book about rejecting mediocrity (I strongly recommend it if you have a tween, teen...or plan way ahead). I could be wrong, but I think the timing of reading these two things close together encouraged Rachel to pursue sponsoring a child through Compassion and to take part in Brio's mission trip. Without rehashing my previous post, suffice it to say she was determined to make it happen.
Though it wasn't her only motive, Rachel was most excited about meeting her sponsored child, Evelyn. Yes, she wanted to minister to others; certainly, she was intrigued with visiting another country and culture; but meeting this little girl she had faithfully written for months--and who had written to her in return!--was what she was most looking forward to.
Imagine her disappointment when she found out two nights before the day she was supposed to meet Evelyn, it wouldn't happen unless she (and her best friend Kate, who co-sponsors Eveylyn) could come up with an extra $300-350 to fund Evelyn and a guardian's travel expense! Because she had to let her leaders know right then, she called us for advice; our phones were off because it was after midnight. Kate was able to reach her mom who didn't say "no", but discouraged them. They already had invested thousands of dollars and $300 more on short notice wasn't realistic.
I found out the next day.
To say I wasn't happy is an understatement--I knew what this meant to the girls! While I wasn't sure what their final decision had been, it was reasonable for me to assume they declined the offer (based on what Kate's mom shared with me).
I wrestled with how to respond all day; or whether to stay out of it all together.
Compulsion to "speak" over-rode restraint. I emailed our trip contact, expressing my anger, frustration and disappointment. While I was quick to praise trip planners for their added safety measures, attention to detail and impact they were having in my daughter's life, I clearly detailed why this was a huge failing that impacted not just my daughter, but many others--I wasn't advocating just for her, I really felt the need to speak for all who were affected.
I used strong language, but I also conceded that while this caught us by surprise, we knew it didn't surprise God, and that regardless of her/their disappointment, He could use the circumstance for their good and His glory. (I just re-read my email, concerned I'd cringe when I saw it again, but I didn't, thankfully! It was balanced and reasonable.)
The next morning I had two email responses from trip leaders (Susie with Brio Magazine and Calab, Big World Ventures partner). They thanked me for writing, heard my heart and felt my Mama Bear pain. They explained that because so many readers had sponsored children in Guatemala City, Compassion had had to draw children from projects outside the area; areas remote enough it was costly to bring them in to meet their sponsors.
Because Caleb and Susie were kind, apologetic, attuned to my specific concerns and responsive, they assuaged my anger. They responded exactly how I would have had our roles been reversed.
That's all I was looking for--a place to absorb and diffuse my fury. Well, that, and the hope my words might assure this wouldn't be repeated in subsequent years.
What I got was so much more.
Throughout the day, Susie and Caleb remained in email contact. Both were in touch with Compassion offices and Susie let me know that somewhere there had been a breakdown in communication—the kids were never supposed to fund their sponsor children’s travel expense! They were scrambling at the last minute to arrange as many sponsor/child visits as possible, realizing not everyone would get to.
We didn’t know Rachel, Kate and Evelyn’s fate, and I was reluctant to get my hopes up for them. Having the amazing privilege of meeting one of my own sponsor children, I understood what was at stake. I wanted this so badly for them it make my heart ache.
So I pray-wished throughout the day, trying to seek God but tripping over my flesh-inclined binding. If I thought it would have worked, I would've bargained with God.
And then we got The Call around dinner time, and before I processed words spoken, sound waves of excitement told me everything I needed to know...
Rachel, describing meeting Evelyn,
the little girl she sponsors through Compassion International
Did my email make a difference? I doubt it. Was it the right thing to do? I'm pretty sure it was. Was I blessed by the end result? Is that really a question that needs to be asked?
What I do know is this: when I feel a compulsion to speak for those who have no voice or need an advocate...it most definitely is a time to speak.
Postscript: I can't let a post that mentions Compassion International not give you an opportunity to sponsor a child in need. After SEEING the difference Compassion makes in the life of a children and their families, I'm begging you to begin a relationship with a little one in need TODAY. Click here to find out more!
Also, because I think so highly of the book "Do Hard Things", I'll be giving away a copy to a lucky reader. All you have to do is make a pertinent comment to this post :).