Compassion,  Rwanda,  Stories

a child for whom no one was coming

The face of Compassion, photo by Rowdy Smith 2013

September 23, 2009

I have been praying for you before I go to sleep at night – and that is while you are sleeping, because you are 6 hours ahead of me. I would love to know what you would like me to pray about! You are in school, right? What is your favorite thing about school? Would you like to write letters with me? I would love that.
I was actually in Rwanda this past August and I am hoping to come back in 2010. While I was there, I got to meet people from churches in Kibuye, Kirinda and Mugonero, as well as Kigali. I want to send you a few pictures, so look for that to be on the way soon!
I’m sending my love, from far away, but I hope you can feel it. I hope the next time I see a picture of you, that you’ll be smiling! You are so beautiful.

This was my second letter to our Compassion child, Tumakunde Claudine.  I was trying so hard not to use contractions – just to make it more readable for her if she were learning English.  I love contractions a lot, so I was on my best behavior. Reading this brings back every emotion I had writing it way back in 2009.

That was 7 years and 4 trips back ago, and on one of those trips, I met her.  Somehow the words exchanged in two dimensions were instantly clothed, sweaty faced and blushing, complete with voices and elbowy embraces. Claudine transfigured from the solemn photo on the fridge, the book mark in my Bible, and 4 years of crayoned letters,  into a picky eater, a refuser of cheek kisses, a smart and a sassy young woman who melts for purple nail polish.  She was a God-lover singing Romans 15 to us in the biggest city she’d never seen after a 7 hour drive to meet me.  A few hours in a lifetime pooled up like slow honey inside me and I was mush. My heart grew a guest room that day.


Compassion International is “releasing children from poverty in Jesus name”.  They do it by partnering with the local church in certain countries to advocate for children in the setting of their schools, homes and sacred communities.

Sponsorship consists of sending a small donation monthly (or having it taken out automatically) which is used to make sure Claudine has her school fees paid, supplemental food, medical supervision, and biblical teaching every week.  The Compassion kids in town all congregate at their church for a fun, food, and teaching day each week, so they have community in addition to their other benefits.  Having a Compassion Host Church in town is also a huge draw for families in the region, so it strengthens the local church. <3  Our relationship with Claudine also shows her she is prayed for and loved by someone outside her family, and exposed to another world through our letters.  For this one child, we are changing the story.

But her story isn’t the only one that’s changing.  I’ve come to re-see my own story through her eyes.

2012, Kigali, Rwanda
2012, Kigali, Rwanda, photo by Elyse Messick

Last year I got to hear Melissa Russell, the Senior Vice President of Global Advancement for International Justice Mission (IJM), tell an audience a story that skated so dangerously close to true for me, that I crumbled when she put it into words.  No, I was not trafficked as a child like the women and children rescued from captivity by IJM teams every day.  Freeing trafficked children and returning them to their families is the most radical act of rescue imaginable to me.  Melissa says people ask her all the time why she keeps on working tirelessly to combat global evils that seem insatiable and unquenchable.  Why that mission at this time in this world, and why her, specifically?  To them she says it’s really very simple.

Because I was once a child alone in the dark for whom no one was coming.  And Jesus came for me.

Ugly cry! Worth it. Photo by Elyse Messick.  With Rowdy Smith and Mark Pellingra, Church Relations Director, Northeast Region for Compassion International

I can relate.  I, too, was that lost little girl until the Prince of Peace marked me found.  I still remember the darkness.  Maybe Claudine remembers it too.  We are sisters now and forever in a family whose head is a Mighty Savior, a Good Father, a Chain Breaker, and a Steadfast Lover.  Because of him, my story was changed.  But that’s a story for another day.



You can change the story for a child in poverty through child sponsorship, too.  Ask me anything.  Or follow this link for more information on Compassion International.  Change the story for a child trapped in poverty – and change your own story forever.


One Comment

  • Lori

    What a sweet story of God’s constant, unwavering, love made tangible. He is the good shepherd, the secret of strength and peace held deep when fear bullies and tries to cut us from His flock, like a wolf. Beautiful Claudine!

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