We weren’t prepared.

We thought we were. We were eager with anticipation. We had brought gifts. We had prayed and prayed. We had flown and driven and walked and waited and sat on the edge of our bumping SUV seats, to see if we could see yet. Our family couldn’t wait to meet our sponsored children in Bolivia.

And then we did. Rosario first.

Then Miriam.

And finally Erik.

But we weren’t prepared. It is one thing to see the picture of your sponsored child on the World Vision packet. To read black and white words about their lives. To assume (because we’re all a little skeptical about relief organizations) that where they live is probably not that bad. And to think of them and pray for them . . . really far away.

It’s an entirely different thing to walk into their home. And everywhere you look is worse that you ever imagined. Worse. Times a hundred.

World Vision is not making things up. If anything, the page they send about your child is reality-light. They give you the run-down without the dirty hand holding yours. Without the smell of sheep housed beside where your potatoes were cooked. Without the cold that multiplies inside mud bricks underneath thatched roofs. We visited three World Vision communities in Bolivia, only three. With hundreds more around the world, this amazing organization is working to build self-sustaining communities, where food supplies are secured. Water is clean. Nutrition and heath are taught. Education is increased. And people, real, genuine, kind, beautiful people are being helped.

Everywhere we went, we were thanked and kissed and hugged. Two villages held parades for our family. There were speeches and recitations and gifts. At the second parade, the entire village lined the street to greet us. A band played as we exited our cars. The town leaders blessed us with traditional white confetti on our heads. Families cheered as we walked and ran to hug us at every step.

In the middle of this second overwhelming walk, my daughter, AnnaGrace, looked at me and asked, “Mom, why are they doing all of this for us?” When we finally made it to a quiet spot I told her, “The parades and food and music aren’t really for us. We have just met these people. This is the beginning of our love for them. They are doing all of this to say thank you to World Vision. World Vision began changing their lives long before we ever got here.”

I too want to say thank you to World Vision. Thank you for running toward poverty and oppression with the compassion of Jesus. Thank you for serving the least of the least. And thank you for taking my family to see what our big God can do when people give a little each month. Your work in this world is a world of integrity. I am honored to be a tiny part of your family and your mission.

With great humility, and with even greater passion, I will keep telling about the beauty of World Vision’s ministry. And beauty of sponsored children.

God keep you safe tonight sweet Rosario, and Miriam, and Erik. Be warm. Be fed. God is near to you, stay underneath His wings.

You can sponsor a child in Bolivia today by clicking the link at the right of this post.