“Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” – Matthew 25:37-40
One chilly evening in 2008, I went to Mass in an unfamiliar city. I was out of town on business and the only way I’d get to Sunday Mass was to attend an evening Mass at my destination. I worry a little when I have to attend Mass at different parish than the one I usually attend; mainly, I’m concerned about having to listen to some of this claptrap. Little did I know that attending that Mass would change my life.
That weekend, a priest from the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging gave the homily. He spoke about how CFCA had been founded by lay Catholics who wanted to make a difference and how CFCA improved the lives of children and elderly people all over the world. He spoke of how CFCA didn’t merely provide handouts, they gave families a hand up – providing both education for the kids and job training for the parents. Kids aren’t booted out of the program at a certain age; they can stay in until they graduate from college, trade school, or whatever their educational goal is. And he pointed out that CFCA didn’t just help children, they helped elderly people too. In developing countries, there’s no such thing as Social Security or Medicare, and the elderly often have to fend for themselves.
I thought about all the blessings I have and I thought about the verse above. After I returned from my trip, I signed up to sponsor an elderly woman in India. Indira* and I exchanged letters and over the next few months we became friends. I wrote her about my job, my husband, and the snow at Christmas, and she wrote me about her children and grandchildren.
After about a year of sponsorship, I received a letter saying that Indira had passed away. I miss her, but my sponsorship journey is far from over. Along with the letter, I received a postcard from CFCA asking if I’d like to continue my sponsorship and if so, return the card and check whether I’d like a child, a teenager, or an elderly person. A few weeks later, I received information about my next sponsored elderly, Rajesh*.
A little over two years later, I’m still sponsoring Rajesh and I look forward to his letters greatly. I didn’t stop with him, however; after I paid off my student loans, I picked up Margaret*, a college student in the Philippines. I love hearing about how Margaret is doing in school and what her brothers and sisters are doing. Rajesh is a gardener like me and I like hearing about all the things he grows. I’ve enjoyed sponsoring Margaret and Rajesh so much I recently added a 3rd sponsorship: Darweshi*, a teenager in Kenya.
Reflecting on my CFCA experience, I knew that I would be a blessing to the people I sponsored, but I didn’t think they’d be such a blessing to me. Rajesh, Margaret, and Darweshi aren’t just random people; they are a part of my family. Getting a letter from one of them is the highlight of my week. I pray for them and I know that they pray for me, and I hope that Indira is in heaven praying for all of us. Becoming a sponsor is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made; if you experience it yourself, you’ll understand why.
“Love can build a bridge between your heart and mine. Love can build a bridge, don’t you think it’s time?” – The Judds
*All names have been changed.