how stickers can change the world :: day 4

Some of you have asked the question, Why are you going to the Philippines when so many people in our own country need help? I am attempting to gently walk through the answers over at (in)courage today. And as a bonus at the end of that post, Tsh and I made a little video while on the bus this morning. And I babble and move my head a lot, so that’s fun.

When a friend asked me to get together with her after I got back from the Philippines, I made a joke about not having a concept of “after I get back.” Compassion owns me until June 4th, I said, and anything after that doesn’t exist.

I meant simply that I am at their disposal to keep my eyes open and to write what I see while I’m here. And also that the concept of life when I get back is … fuzzy. But keeping my eyes open is becoming more difficult by the day, and that’s not just because of jet lag. I wrote yesterday’s post with one eye shut, and I don’t mean figuratively. I was so emotionally exhausted from wading through the waters of poverty (and I don’t mean that figuratively either), that I could barely stay awake. I can’t be sure, but I have a feeling you might be feeling a bit of that, too.

I know it is hard to read these posts. It is certainly hard to write them. So let’s just take a collective moment and have a little light and easy cultural lesson, shall we?

Lesson complete.

We had some fun today. I think it’s important for you to see. These kids? Are fun!

We spent some time today with some older students who have graduated from the Child Sponsorship Development program. Now they have applied and been accepted into the Leadership Development Program where they are able to go to college for free.

Maann is 19 years old and is a student enrolled in the Leadership Development Program. She is not only beautiful, she is articulate, funny, and so intelligent. She has dreamed of becoming a directer at one of Compassion’s child development centers. And she will.

But the most beautiful part of that sentence is that she has dreamed.

From the time they are 12, children registered with Compassion begin to build a My Plan for Tomorrow book. Every year, they write what they dream to become and goals on how to get there. Today, I read one that said “I want to have zero waste in river” and another that said, “To have higher height.” It’s small, but it’s a start.

I sat with Maann on the way to lunch today and I asked her if her sponsor ever writes her letters. “Oh yes!” she said, “I have one in my purse!” She had one. In her purse.

She let me read it and I realized as I did I thought, I’m making this letter writing thing too hard. I currently sponsor 2 children with Compassion. Soon, I hope to sponsor more. But I am not so good with the letter writing. I write, but not as often as I want to. And part of that is because I feel like what I have to say is lame. As I read Maann’s letter (from her purse), I realized that the letter was not necessarily special because of what it said. It was special because it was written.

Maann shared her story with us today. She remembered when she was young and she used to ask God, Why do I have to be poor? I sat in that plastic chair and asked the same question with her, Why? Why does she have to be poor? But as her story continued, I kind of forgot about that question. Instead, I was mesmerized by her poise, her ability to stand in front of a group of strangers from the US and encourage, inspire, and tell her story.

Maann currently sponsors a child with three other students in her program. She hopes to sponsor one on her own one day. This is the neighborhood where Maann lives.

Her mother, father, sisters and brother live here together.

That room is the downstairs. Her parents sleep there on the floor near the table. And in back of the room, there is a ladder-like staircase leading to a platform where Maann and her sisters sleep. On that table, she spread out all the letters from her sponsors over the years. She holds their picture in her hands. Here, you can see for yourself.


Compassion International is in the business of releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. I have wrestled with that tagline while being here in Manila. But they are still in poverty, I say to myself. Meeting Maann changed all that for me. Compassion does not necessarily move children out of poverty. But what God is doing through Compassion is releasing children from poverty. One is a change in circumstance. The other is a change in perspective.

Because of sponsors like you, children who are born into poverty . . .

. . . no longer have to be slave to it.

Maann still lives in poverty. But she does not live impoverished.

She lives full. She lives joyful. She lives. And she lives because someone said it was possible. Someone chose to believe in her, to invest in her, and to send her stickers. And now she wants to do the same for someone else. What about you?



  1. says

    My passion is inspiring sponsors to write letters. My blog is full of tips and letter writing ideas and examples of goodies you can send along. I’m one of those sponsors who finds a lot of joy in writing to our nine CI kids and I like sending out theme letters with topics and coordinating enclosures.

    But, in April I posted something I think all sponsors need to know.
    One formerly sponsored young man shared one of his favorite letters from his sponsor. It was seven simple lines.

    No coordinated theme and Bible verse and stickers and coloring sheets. Seven lines of love and encouragement.

    Sometimes, we do make it more complicated than it needs to be.

    Just send love. Send compassion. Send encouragement. Send inspiration. Even if it is a quick email of seven lines. Send it. It will be appreciated.

  2. says

    Oh Emily – and here I thought I would be immune to Compassion stories, having traveled and told them myself. And yet..and yet…hearing them in your words and through your eyes…but more importantly through the eyes of the children who have somehow managed to metabolize Compassion and grow into versions of themselves that inspire us as we sit in our comfortable homes – that- that is what makes me realize one can never be immune from what the Holy Spirit is doing and more importantly, how He is doing it –

    “And a little child shall lead them…” yes, today, it was Maan for me.

    Thank you.

  3. says

    I cried reading and watching this. You gals are so blessed to be over there. So blessed. Thank you for sharing it with us, over here. Give the next family you visit a hug from me. Please? The thing I see when I read your posts is this: Hope.

    Wealth cannot make anyone happy. But love can.

  4. Elizabeth says

    I am so glad and excited to see these pictures and read these posts! We have sponsored a child in the Phillipines through Compassion International, Kemuel, for many years. It has truly been amazing and a blessing to see him grow up through the years, and to hear about his challenges and successes along the way. I can’t help but look for his face (which I think I would recognize) in the pictures you post, though I know you probably won’t meet him, since I’m sure there are many sponsored children there.

    My prayer is that he is supported through his transition to adulthood, he is almost grown now- would love to hear more via you or other bloggers about older teens/young adults as they move out of the program and into adulthood!

  5. says

    what a beautiful gift to know this sweet girl. and what a gift we have to be able to come alongside their lives. may we learn from them and begin to be changed as we step into life with them.

  6. says

    Wow! What a beautiful girl who gets to see her worth and value, not in her circumstances, but through her Jesus. That is what Compassion does..absolutely amazing stuff!

  7. says

    my compassion child is four and sometimes i feel like i don’t know what to write to a child that age. i do write, though probably not often enough.

    what did the female bathroom look like?

  8. Dad says

    “To have higher height.”

    “Why do I have to be poor?”

    You’re killing me.

    I think we’ll do that My Plan for Tomorrow book idea at grandycamp.

    You’re doing wonderful. Miss you.


  9. Rachel says

    Emily- this has been such a blessing to me. Seeing how sponsorship really helps these children is amazing.
    Often we feel so blessed living in the US. We think if people have a nice house, nice cars, a good education then they are rich, but if they do not know Christ they have nothing, and these children who know Christ are far richer.
    Thank you so much for sharing everything.

  10. says

    WOW, Emily! This totally blew me away…

    “Compassion International is in the business of releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. I have wrestled with that tagline while being here in Manila. But they are still in poverty, I say to myself. Meeting Maann changed all that for me. Compassion does not necessarily move children out of poverty. But what God is doing through Compassion is releasing children from poverty. One is a change in circumstance. The other is a change in perspective.”

    I have never thought of it that way before (oh, I need italics…) and I work at Compassion.

    This is fabulous. So glad you’re on this trip.

  11. says

    Emily, I have cried through each of your posts on your trip. We sponsor three children through Compassion, but your posts have made them so real. I have read other bloggers on their trips with Compassion, but none have spoken to me as yours have. I have no words to really explain what I am feeling, I am just so thankful that you made this trip and have shared with us. Two things I have taken away 1. the children are not moved out of poverty, but from poverty. 2. “Just be sure what you’re feeling isn’t guilt. Don’t feel guilty for what you have, thinking you have everything and they have nothing. It isn’t the case. She’s right. And I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better. Because I was there. I can’t explain it but I also can’t deny it. They have more difficult lives than I will ever know. And some of them die from Malaria or measles or other preventable diseases. But if they meet Jesus, at least they will not die from despair.” What an awesome God, and an awesome servant He has is you. Thank you Emily!

  12. says

    Emily, I will never, ever forget the first letter I received from Maria, a girl in Colombia whoma I sponsored briefly (because she left the program to go to college – yay!). She told me that she’d been in the Compassion program for many years and had three sponsors during that time – and that I was the first sponsor who’d written to her. It took me a long time to stop crying so I could write back to her. So, write whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t matter what you write. Don’t worry about that. Just write.

  13. says

    It’s not hard to read this stuff, Emily. It’s liberating. You are helping to show us that we are able to love and help. That is some seriously good news.

    Also, I love this: I realized that the letter was not necessarily special because of what it said. It was special because it was written.

    Like you, I just don’t write often enough. I make work of love. Thanks for this reminder.

  14. says

    I have started to love and dread your posts from the Philippines, not because what you have to say isn’t beautiful to me, it is just that I sob the whole time due to thankfulness and the beauty of what Compassion is doing. I haven’t stopped thinking about the children in poverty and their homes since. So weighty to know what to do for them, what to give up, what to sacrifice! But there is so much comfort in knowing that the Lord Jesus has already at work, and as we adopt a compassion child, It really does make a difference!!! its not just another crooked organization, but we can trust it completely. your trip has really made it real for me. thank you.

  15. Cheri says

    Releasing from poverty…… love it. How often have I heard and said it and now understand it even more because of your story and your perspective. We are the body of Christ and we need each other to work as one. Thank you for your words story and inspiration. Even though I have met some of the children I sponsor and went on trips these stories stir my emotions and energize me to continue to advocate for them. Thanks for renewing my spirit, I pray that the Spirit will renew your energy~

  16. Claire Hill says

    Emily, how does Compassion “get” the children into the program that, in turn, people sponsor? The money must go to the organization that in turn provides services for them? What services do they provide? Is this different from country to country? In what ways do they teach the children about Christ? Is Compassion there in their area all year, or do they stop by?

    I could probably find this out by reading the Compassion website but I thought I would let you know that I, and perhaps others, have only a small understanding of what they do.

    Thanks for doing this. I can say that, having been on two mission trips with my church, that this will change the way you look at life back home. Blessings. Claire

    • says

      Claire, this post may help you understand how children are picked for the program:

      The sponsorship dollars run the programs which provide, at the basic level, educational services, medical services, mentoring etc. These may look different in different areas. Educational services may mean: paying for tuition, providing uniforms and school supplies, tutoring and so on. Health services include check-ups vaccinations, hygene lessons etc. The kids go to church and have Bible studies, do skits, go to VBS and camps if available, things like that.

      Compassion works through the local church. They are there year round. I would suggest checking out the Compassion website for sure. Lots of great info there.

      This recent post by Shaun Groves is also a great one to explain the program:

    • says

      Sure, Claire. I’ve not been going into super detail just because I’m just now learning all the ins and outs myself. On my next post, I will hare with you some valuable links to have all of your questions answered.

      I can tell you that every place we’ve visited is a church. Those photos of us having fun up there are in a church, as Compassion works exclusively through the local church. So if, for example, there is no evangelical church in a certain area, then that area won’t have a Compassion center. That’s the first step. The local church.

      More to come…

  17. says

    The part that really has me so close to tears is reading the words, “Maann currently sponsors a child with three other students in her program. She hopes to sponsor one on her own one day. This is the neighborhood where Maann lives.”

    And seeing where she lives.
    She sponsors.

    Wow. We have 2 sweet girls we sponsor, one in Albania and one in Haiti, and I’m asking myself, “Can we squeeze in one more?”

    Um, yeah. I think we can do that.
    When I see what Maann is able to squeeze in, I think we can do that.

    Thanks for persevering.
    Thanks for writing.
    Thanks for letting Him pour out through your words.

    • says

      Thanks, Emily…I have had on my heart something related to what you shared lately and your posts have been encouraging. I really appreciate you’re doing. I wrote about something similar mentioning this and Compassion today.
      I appreciated your words and really helps us see what is happening there. Keep us posted please! -Julie

  18. says

    She treasures letters from a sponsor that stopped sponsoring her in 5th grade. And you can hear in her voice that’s she’s sad she hasn’t letters from her new sponsor. That shows the importance of letters to the children, that’s for sure. Definitely convicting to my heart to make sure we write our sponsored children more often!

    • Jennie Hitchins says

      Hi, just to let you know, it has been our privilege to be Maanns sponsors through the LDP programme (that’s one of our many letters and a photo of the three of us together when we visited almost two years ago now). The value of a letter can never be underestimated – it doesn’t have to be brilliantly composed, it just needs to communicate love and encouragement :0)

  19. says

    I just don’t have words because yours have been perfect. How you touch my heart Emily. We ache wanting to give more and more to the two we sponsor, but you’ve put it into perspective. Thank you.

  20. Tamalin says

    Emily…we currently sponsor three children from Compassion and one of them lives in the Phillipines. As I read your blog and see your photos my ‘vision’ of what poverty looks like has been changed drastically. This may sound silly but I ‘knew’ they were poor but I didn’t really understand what that looked like until now. Our family treasures our letters from our sponsor children. We received one from our girl in the Philllipines just yesterday and it never ceases to amaze me that I somehow feel like I am getting more out of sponsoring her than she is from us. I cannot describe what a blessing it is to receive a letter from across the globe and know that our family’s small contribution is reaching another family and that their love is reaching us. Thank you for writing so tenderly about this experience. You have blessed me as well.

  21. Heidi says

    I started sponsoring a child in February and have kept putting off writing a letter. After reading today’s post, my letter is going in the mail today. Thanks for the encouragement. My sponsored child lives in the Phillipines.

  22. says

    Ha! love the urnial…lol I hear you loud and clear on the letter writing…I also make way too much out of it and worry about what to say/ask/tell. I fear I’m being too trivial if I don’t tell enough or ask enough and so I don’t write at all. I’m going to do better and the way to do that is to think of them first. Thanks once again for the gentle reminder 😉

  23. says

    You just explained that tagline better than I’ve read it anywhere else so far. Maann is lovely. Thank you for sharing her story, your story on your trip, Compassion’s story. Praying for the families, the kids, resources available… praying for so many things!

  24. says

    Having traveled in the developing world, it really is so difficult to comprehend daily life in the conditions that so many endure for a lifetime. What a powerful reminder to us that while we may not be able to change our circumstances, we don’t have to remain slaves to those circumstances; Maan’s joy and commitment to better the world make her shine! Knowing that she has found a way to sponsor a child should convict us all to do the same. Brilliantly written; a page of lovely, for sure.

  25. says

    Oh friend – I know you are so out of your element, or so you would say, but as I see that photo with your arms above your head playing some fun game, I see you for you are…completely IN your element, bringing such joy to those children. Through this week, I marvel that all the joy Compassion will bring. Not just for the day, but for generations.

  26. Stephanie T. Green says

    Wow, great post! I’m already a Compassion sponsor and have been reading along with you and the other bloggers but I haven’t commented much. I’m already convinced of how great the work is that Compassion is doing. But I just had to share with you that this post really blew me away. You helped me to see Compassion in a new light. And even BETTER one that I already see it in. I didn’t know that was possible. Great job, Emily!

  27. Jennie Hitchins says

    That’s our girl!

    Wow, today we received a letter from our beautiful LDP student Maann telling us she’d been featured in your trip and to go take a look…

    Maann is truly, truly amazing, we love her very much and it is a huge honour to be her sponsors.

    When we started our Compassion journey we thought it was all about stepping up and helping to release a child from poverty in the name of Jesus – we had no idea how richly we would be blessed ourselves by becoming sponsors.

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