I became a sponsor for Martha who lives in Ecuador some 13 years ago. For years, I received letters and prayed for her and her family. She would send me pictures on the back of her letters, always of a mountain and a little house. Sometimes flowers or other natural elements crept into the pictures. I knew her home must be beautiful.
During the time of my sponsorship, I began to travel to Ecuador for work and it became my favorite place on earth. I believe the Andes are where God kisses earth—they must be His favorite place. When I changed jobs about 3 years ago, I began to work for Compassion International, the organization through which I sponsored Martha. Soon after, Martha exited the program. She turned 18 and her time as a sponsored child came to a close. She was planning to go to vocational school and was doing very well for herself.
I traveled to Ecuador with Compassion on my second overseas trip on staff, and I knew I had to try and meet Martha. She had already left the program, but because she is from a small town and the Compassion people knew her well, they tracked her down and made it happen for us.
I walked into the hotel lobby and knew it was her. She looked exactly like her pictures. There she was with her mother, her project leader, and his grandson. The ladies were dressed in traditional Quechua clothing. Long navy blue skirts and capes. The group had traveled for eight hours on the overnight bus to meet me.
Martha had never been to Quito before, the capital of her country.
I took them to the city center and we explored. We visited the Voto Nacional Basilica, the beautiful Catholic cathedral that looms over the city. We climbed to the very top and enjoyed the amazing view together. Then we went to the mall for lunch and shopping. Watching Martha’s mom trying to get on the escalator was hilarious and sweet! She was scared but brave, and some very kind Ecuadorian men grabbed her arms to help her on and off.
Martha chose McDonalds for her lunch, and ate only a few bites before packing it away, wanting to save some for later. Her mom chose pizza, same as me. She had never had pizza before and didn’t know how to eat it. I showed her how to pick it up and eat it from the end first, which she thought was a very funny concept.
As we wrapped up the day I told Martha I wanted to buy her something. Something she got to pick out—something she wanted. I had already loaded her down with tons of gifts. A tote bag filled with a Bible, a cross necklace, and all kinds of goodies. Martha said what she really wanted was a backpack. We walked around the mall and finally found the perfect purple backpack for her. She was so excited.
I will never forget my 10 years of sponsoring Martha, and her picking out that purple backpack as the one gift she desired. I hope she thinks of me sometimes when she uses it.