In 2004, at the age of 19, I felt called by the Lord to sponsor a child through Compassion International. I had no idea where to start, so I hopped on the website and started looking for a child to sponsor. It wasn’t long before I came across little Heybi, a 9-year old child from Honduras. I instantly knew she was the one for me.
Fast forward. Heybi and I corresponded over the years. I got to watch her grow up through the occasional picture. She would tell me what she bought with the birthday money I sent her each year. I was elated when I received a letter saying they had moved into a real house. I felt like a proud mother each time I got a letter as she told me how well she was doing in school.
In fall 2011 I received an e-mail from Compassion about participating in a sponsor tour to go visit Heybi. At this point, Heybi was 16, so I knew this would be our last chance to visit her before she graduated out of the program. So my husband and I booked the trip for the following June.
Before I knew it, June had arrived. We flew into San Pedro Sula via Houston, arriving late at night where we were met at the airport by members from the Compassion team we were with. Although it was hard to see in the dark, I could tell that the country we were driving through was very different from what I was used to back in my comfortable home in the United States.
The next day, we met the rest of our tour group at breakfast as we sorted through all the supplies we had brought down with us to give to the children at the Child Development Centers we would be visiting.
Before I knew it, we were on the mini buses heading out of the city…but just barely. We were practically a mile from a McDonald’s when we pulled off onto a dirt road into the slums- houses made of sheets of metal with dirt floors. It wasn’t long before we were pulling up to Los Campeones del Rey child development center and were literally surrounded by dozens of children, carrying signs to welcome us. We spent the whole morning at the center, playing games and singing songs. We went into the neighborhoods to see where the children lived as the children proudly showed off their homes for us. It was an experience I will never forget.
The next day was the big day, the day we were to meet our sponsor children. The big event was to take place at a water park in San Pedro Sula, which was certainly a good place for it since this was summer in Honduras! I was nervous and fidgety as we rode the bus to the water park. Would she like me? How were my Spanish skills? What were we going to talk about the whole day? Before I knew it we were off the bus and staring at a huge group of sponsor children and their guests across a dusty lot, as we all waited for our names to be called to be paired up with our children. I’m pretty sure I was the last one to be called, so it seemed like the waiting took forever. But it was worth it.
Heybi and I were in tears the second we saw each other. To finally meet after 8 years of sponsorship was overwhelming and God-given. She said she even wore purple for me because she knew it was my favorite color. There are few moments in my life that are as special as the moment in which I first wrapped my arms around that dear girl. Once we found our translator, it was easier to communicate, because I had forgotten how quickly foreign language skills lapse if you don’t use them! Although I was able to wish her a happy birthday in Spanish, because she had just turned 17 two weeks prior.
We made our way into the water park. Heybi proudly told me she had just learned how to swim to previous summer, so she wanted to go into the deepest water she could find so she could show me. We went down a bunch of water slides, to the cheery alarm of her mother, and just generally got soaked and enjoyed each other’s company. Our translator was with us at all times so we could communicate.
Of course, I had brought along a decent number of gifts for Heybi. Inside a Jansport backpack, I had put toiletries for her and her family members, a sheet to use as a blanket (or tablecloth, or curtain…they can definitely be creative!), colored pencils and a drawing pad since Heybi likes to draw, a picture frame with our names on it, a Spanish/English Bible (I believe this may have been their first Bible) and a photo album she could put all of our pictures in. She was very excited about the picture frame. Heybi’s mother told me that Heybi had a picture of me on her mirror that she would say “Good morning, Laura” to every day.
Another story Heybi’s mother told me (through the translator) made me realize just how much sponsors matter to these children. Apparently, one night, they had to flee from Heybi’s father (I got the impression he was an alcoholic) in the middle of the night and had to leave very quickly. Heybi left many things behind, including clothes and toys. But she made sure she had every last letter and picture and gift that I had sent her. When I retold this story to our group members, one of them very poignantly said, “She couldn’t leave you behind.” I’ve never been so touched in my whole life as I was in that moment.
Before long, we had to say goodbye. We prayed together and then gave each other one last hug and boarded our separate buses. It was heartbreaking to have to leave, knowing I would never see her again.
Heybi is 21 years old now and has graduated from the sponsorship program, so I no longer hear from her. I wish there was a way to see how she is doing. I pray for her often and hope that she is doing well and she has everything she needs. I wonder if perhaps she is married and if she is working with computers like she wanted to. That magical day we spent together is long since over, but it’s one I very often relive in my mind, when the weather gets hot and humid and I think of Honduras and my beautiful sponsor child Heybi.
Te amo Heybi. Dios la bendiga.