From Pennsylvania to Pachacamac

Written by: Amy Jo Smith

She was standing on the gazebo bench in the slightly stirring breeze eating a juicy, yellow mango as I entered the gate. She called over to me, ready with one of her big squeezy hugs…this time slightly-sticky with mango.

“Maya!* Mira! I have something for you!” And I held up the big orange envelope.

“Ohh!” She inhaled with an excited breath. “Para mi?”

We took a seat on the bench so she could fully enjoy the contents of the envelope at the same time as her mango treat. I took out the letter and began to read the Spanish side, translated with care so that Maya could understand every word.

My excitement joined in with Maya’s…how fun to be on the other end of a sponsor letter…after writing them from my own desk for so many years. Sometimes finding it hard to sit down and write…not being able to see the response on the receiving end. And wondering…do the letters really connect??

But just a few months ago I had been encouraged as I listened to a graduate who had come through a sponsored program, passionately encouraging sponsors to write to their children. He shared how some children cried when others received a letter and they didn’t… how the letters made a deep impact on him. He shared how he had read them, looked at the photos inside, and how they had kept a glimmer of hope alive in his heart. The hope that there was a world outside his…that someday it might be possible to leave the slum in Kenya where he lived, to pursue a different life. And now he was studying in university…and along with his wife and children, writing their own sponsor letters to 5 or 6 children, passionate about bringing them the same Hope he experienced.

And here in Pachacamac, as a volunteer with Kids Alive, I have had the privilege of getting an inside view into the joy and encouragement that letters bring to the children at the Juniper Tree Children’s Home.

Words really can be life-giving.

For the last few weeks I have spent many hours in the sultry summer heat pulling up my translating helps online…and wishing that I had a better grasp of the Spanish language! Wanting to convey just what the sponsors, or “padrinos” as they call them, want to say to the children they are investing in. I now have a deeper appreciation for the hands that have carefully translated each of my letters over the years. For the consistency of the Kids Alive staff here in Peru who take time out of the pressing needs to carefully translate each card, each letter, each encouragement to the children in their care.

Each reminder that they are loved, that they are prayed for. Each motivation to keep working hard in their studies, to share their dreams and what they are hoping for.

And the smile on Maya’s face at the thought of what was inside that orange envelope was all the payment I needed!

We started to read together, and the words jumped off the page and became a conversation. I pulled out a photo of the sponsor family and another excited breath escaped Maya… “Oh!” she squealed, holding it to her heart with delight written all over her face. We looked together at the names on the back and the ages of their four children.

“My sons love to eat fruit,” I read. “What do you like to eat?”

“Pollo,” Maya said. (It’s true…rotisserie chicken is her all time favorite!)

“And mangoes too?” I said. She nodded, still nibbling on the juicy fruit.

“They also love to play on the swings,” her padrinos continued. And Maya was delighted to pull out a simple drawing their son had made just for her, of a swing hanging from a tree. How did they know that the swing was Maya’s favorite place on the Juniper Tree playground? Every moment she could pull someone over, she would sit back and beg for a push. “Harder!” she would say, enjoying the freedom of being suspended in space.

The conversation continued, words conveying love and care and prayers over the miles…extending hearts beyond the boundaries of borders and language and culture, right into the gazebo of the Juniper Tree Children’s Home.

But that was not all. Maya pulled out the gifts, a coloring book, pencils, a pencil sharpener….it was almost too much to take in! She was overjoyed. She collected the letter, the photo, the gifts, calling as she went to share her excitement with her sisters from the ‘Green House’.

And as the breeze stirred the hot air in the Juniper Tree compound, my heart stirred with thankfulness. Thankfulness for Maya, for her beautiful smile, and her big hugs. Thankful that on this hot summer day, I was privileged to be a small link in bringing love all the way from generous hearts in Pennsylvania to Pachacamac, Peru.

I was reminded recently of some of the last words my Dad shared with me in his time here on earth, as he talked about Love and its true Source. It wasn’t easy for him to form the words, making each one sink deep into my heart. “From God, to me, to you…to others.”

Love comes from God…. He invites us to receive it…and to pass it on…

To others…I think it’s time for a trip to the post office. There are 2 girls who are long overdue for a letter from their sponsor!

* Not her real name

Amy Jo Smith is a kindergarten teacher from Ottowa, Ontario. She recently spent two months volunteering with Kids Alive in Lima, helping in a variety of ways at both the Oasis Care Center and the Juniper Tree Children’s Home.

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