Written by Pam Mason
In early May this year I travelled to the Dominican Republic to meet Ruth, whom I have been sponsoring for the past ten years. Ruth is now 18 and is in her final year of school.
I first met up with Ruth at the Compassion project she attends in Gaspar Hernandez, a small community in the north of the country. I would not have recognised her from previous photos as in real life she is even prettier and extremely petite! I had underestimated how emotional the occasion would be for both of us, and it was wonderful to see that it was clearly just as important to Ruth as it was to me. Ever since she learned she had a sponsor, she had always wanted to meet me.
From the project building we progressed to Ruth’s family home, first by taxi and then, as the track became atrociously bumpy, on foot. Their home, set in beautiful, lush countryside, with palm trees and fresh coconuts on the doorstep, is built in typical Dominican village style: concrete floor, wooden walls and corrugated iron roof – simple, but adequate. Water has to be fetched from a nearby village pump.
Ruth took me to see the bedroom she shares with her elder sister – small and simply furnished, but beautifully neat and decorated with brightly-coloured pictures. Excitedly she brought out a bag full of letters I had sent her over the years, together with cards, photos, calendars and notebooks, all of which I never expected to see again and many of which I had forgotten I ever sent. I was delighted that she had kept everything and clearly valued our relationship. Ruth could not remember how long we had been writing to each other; she simply knew that it was a long time. It was wonderful to be able to see for myself how much encouragement my letters had brought to Ruth.
At Ruth’s home I met some of her large family: her mother, father, sister and three brothers who still live at home (there are several more older siblings who have already left home). All of her family were extremely welcoming towards me, and her parents are very grateful and proud that Ruth has been able to attend the Compassion project. As for Ruth herself, she tells me that being able to be part of the project is the best thing that has ever happened to her. She has developed into a kind, considerate and confident young woman who is looking forward to going to university and to eventually being able to help her family financially.
The most important aspect of my visit for me was to discover that Ruth now has a real Christian faith of her own. She had previously written about the church she attends and about her baptism, but from the opposite side of the Atlantic and with little knowledge of Dominican culture it was difficult to tell whether this represented a genuine faith. It was a real privilege to be able to pray with and for Ruth and her family, something I never imagined I would be able to do in person.
Through Compassion, she has received not only a good education, with the result that she has a good chance of going on to university within the next couple of years, but also biblical teaching, thereby giving her the opportunity to decide for herself whether to follow Christ. Her participation in the project has had and will have a significant impact in many ways not just on Ruth, but also on her family and the wider community. Ruth’s parents are Christians too, and the whole family attends church together. It was humbling that their prayer requests were focused on a desire to grow closer to God, rather than on material things.
If you sponsor a child, I would really encourage you to consider a visit. Compassion staff will be very happy to facilitate it, and your child will be thrilled!