more than money

Bona is 17. When I met him in Ethiopia last week, I was immediately caught up in his handsome face and soul-stirring smile. Hearing his story and heart only endeared him to me even more.

His mom passed away when he was in first grade, and his dad died last year. There was a visible sadness in his eyes as he talked about loneliness, his older brother living several hundred kilometers away.

The social worker bragged on Bona for a bit. He is first in his class. In fact, he's been first in his class throughout his entire school career. Bona smiled, and I know his heart must have swelled in that moment, hearing all of us say how proud we are of him.

He's been sponsored through Food for the Hungry for five years. With their help and the grace of God, he's pressed on with perseverance and hope in the face of countless difficulties.

Next year, Bona ages out of the sponsorship program. All kids do at age 18. Food for the Hungry will continue to help him with his educational costs and supplies as he goes on to university. He wants to be a doctor, and he has the grades and the drive to actually do it.

I asked Bona how he feels about his sponsorship coming to an end next year. He told me that he really appreciates the tangible benefits of his sponsorship, but wishes he felt more connected to his sponsors. He said he feels as though he's missed out on the relationship aspect of sponsorship. "I wish they would write to me more. And even send me pictures of themselves. I don't even know what they look like."

Man, that hit me like a ton of bricks. Up front, we think the biggest commitment is the $32 a month. But ultimately, writing the monthly check is the easy part. And that's not even what the child is most hoping for. They want to feel connected—like they belong.{Don't we all?}

They don't just want our money. They also want our love and affection. They care more about the letters, notes, and pictures we send because those make them feel loved, cared about, and valued.

I felt so challenged and inspired in that moment to write to my sponsored kids more frequently, and to send pictures of myself, my family, my city, and things I enjoy. That takes more time and effort than writing a check, but these kids are worth it.

If you have sponsored children—through any organization—make some time this week to strengthen your relationship with them. Write a letter. Print some photos. Have your kids draw some pictures. And put a reminder on your calendar to do it again next month. And the month after that.

Let's not just be generous with our finances. Let's be generous with our hearts and our time.

For that's the most life-changing sacrifice we can make.

Originally posted on Deeper Story. Read the comments there >