Julie Watson is a member of the CFCA Communications Department. She went on a 2008 mission awareness trip to Bolivia, where she met Luis, her sponsored friend.
He was shy and quiet, and I was the peculiar American whose presence frightened the 4-year-old boy.
While waiting for the bus to depart to the first subproject visit, I felt a tap on my shoulder. A translator from the project was standing there with a surprise for me: Luis, my sponsored friend. I didnít even recognize him. I hadnít been told that I would be meeting him. My own confusion soon turned into exhilaration, and Luisí eyes told me of his confusion, too. He was experiencing something new as well.
As the bus pulled away from the hotel we took our seats. Luis returned to the security of sitting next to Olivia, his guardian from the orphanage. Slowly, Luis began to smile and make eye contact with me. He was looking around the bus, which was filled with a dozen or more strange, white faces that all looked back at him. His face broke into large smile, and his dark eyes twinkled like stars in the evening sky. As the trip went on, ìShorty,î a nickname given to Luis because of his small stature, began to sit closer to me and play peek-a-boo-type games.
Luis enjoyed the bus ride and sat back in the seat, drinking his soda. I wondered if that was what had contributed to his decaying teeth. Olivia told me that the children in the orphanage donít get sugary snacks or drinks. They did not know what care he had before coming to the orphanage. When I asked if his teeth bothered him, she told me that he often holds his hands cupped around this jaw because of the pain.
Even with the toothaches and a bit of travel sickness, he never ceased to be a bright ray of sunshine for many on this trip, especially myself. I wanted to sweep him up and carry him home, where I could give him everything I thought a 4-year-old needed to be happy and healthy. I settled for helping him in whatever way I could. His immediate need was obvious: helping with his dental care.
When I returned to Kansas City, I asked Sponsor Services to ask the project to find out what was wrong with Luisí teeth, and what it would cost to get them fixed. I learned that Luis would need very extensive dental work, yet the total cost would be only $80 U.S. Can you imagine?
Sponsor Services helped me set up a special funds account to pay for his dental work, which the project said would begin sometime in February. I pray that he is feeling better.
I plan to return to Bolivia on the 2009 mission awareness trip and canít wait to see Luis and his new smile. God bless CFCA and all the staff members who are helping my special little friend smile again.