By Kathy Cvetko, CFCA sponsor
Imagine walking a gauntlet of men, women and children who are thanking you for the help you have given them. At the beginning of these lines, children are waving American and Honduran flags. At the end, they are escorting you to front-row seats at a Honduran cultural extravaganza rivaling any off-Broadway performance you’ve ever seen.
That is only one of the many extraordinary occurrences that my family and I had on our June 2009 mission awareness trip to Project Ocotopeque, Honduras. However, it serves as a relevant starting point for the story of our visit.
The theme of giving thanks was revisited again and again. At times, it left us sponsors feeling both confused and amazed at such appreciation. Most of us were just as much, if not more, thankful to our sponsored friends for allowing us to experience the full beauty of giving. And yet, looking into the eyes of the people of Project Ocotopeque, we sensed only their deepest sincerity at finally being able to meet us and tell us with a look and a smile that, “It means so much to me that I matter to you!”
Our story of connection with Project Ocotopeque began in 1998, when we first laid eyes on a picture of Yessika del Carmen. We had just finished listening to Jim and JoAnne Rogers speak about a sponsor trip they had completed, and they were inviting those in the audience to sponsor a child or elderly person.
Three things struck my husband and me as reasons to say ìyesî: 1. We could afford the amount each month; 2. CFCA did not advertise, so more of the contributions would go to the sponsored friend; and 3. The organization helped both children and the aging in poor countries across the globe.
We asked our daughter and son, then ages 12 and 7, to help us pick out a child or elderly person who needed a sponsor. They took this decision very seriously as they carefully reviewed each folder. They finally agreed upon a 10-month-old, beautiful baby girl named Yessika.
So, began a lifelong association with a little girl more than 3,000 miles away from our home in Portland, Ore. It was delightful to receive pictures of her every year and to read letters about her and from her as she learned to write. Admittedly, we wrote much less frequently and didnít send pictures. Still, she was always in the back of our minds, and weíd pray that she was thriving and getting the care and love she needed and deserved.
In 2003, my mother, Helen Wyninegar, passed away at the age of 86. She left us a small sum of money, and she was such a giving person that it seemed a fitting memorial for us to use that money to take a sponsor trip to Honduras to meet Yessika.
It would take six years for the four of us to make that journey together, in honor of my giving mother, Helen. However, if itís true that some things are worth the wait, then this certainly falls into that category. The joy and connection that we all felt with Yessika and her family was unlike anything weíve ever experienced! We all now realize how much sponsored friends look for letters and pictures, and, as my husband said, ìWe intend to fix how much we write to you!î I bought her a photo book and filled it with copies of the pictures we took on the trip, and weíre sending it to her.
My family and I feel very blessed that all of us could go on this mission awareness trip together. There are some things that you just canít explain to others if they donít experience it themselves. More importantly, though, all of us were finally able to able to convey to Yessika how much she means to us, and she was able to say ìthank youî for that. This exchange, of personally telling this little girl who lives in such an isolated, impoverished community that she matters to the four of us, and then listening with our full attention as she looked into our eyes and expressed thanks for that recognition, even when we didnít think we deserved so much appreciation, has turned out to be one of the most fulfilling expressions of humanity that any of us, sponsor or sponsored, has ever needed!