Saturday, January 19, 2008

Meet Maria, an Ecuadorian Princess

It's hard to believe that it's been 5 months since my amazing trip to Ecuador. What an awesome experience. I had the privilege to travel with my dear friends from Proverbs 31 Ministries and Compassion International. We got to tour Compassion Projects and go in the homes of many sponsored Ecuadorian families. What a culture shock that was. I promise I will never complain again about my lack of anything. When my kids complain that they have to share a room, I can tell them that atleast they don't share a room with 7 other people. At least we have solid walls around us and roofs above us. We have no exposed wires, we have running water, we don't have to milk a cow for calcium, and we have choices for meals. We have a closet full of clothes to choose from and our floors are not made of dirt. These amazing families in Ecuador survive on love, hard work, and the hope they have through Compassion and Jesus Christ. It was humbling to say the least. I fell in love with these people who were welcoming us into their homes and treating us like good friends. They shared their struggles and amazingly shared what little they had to offer to eat. One family even taught me how to make torillas from scratch over a iron skillet and fire.

Last summer, our family decided to sponsor a child in need through Compassion. I can honestly say, it is the best thing we did in 2007! Our child is named Maria Jose' Loor Valencia and knowing how we are making such a big difference in her life has been extremely rewarding. She is 8 years old. During my time in Ecuador, I was able to meet and spend about an hour with Maria Jose' and her sweet mother.

I was a little nervous about meeting Maria. Fortunately I had a translator (the beautiful and super sweet Veronica) and she was able to assist with communication. We met at the hotel where I was staying. Maria's pastor got a cab to bring her and her mom to meet me. When I walked in the room where they were, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I looked into the eyes of this beautiful little princess...this sweet child of God...and it was as if I'd known her my whole life. We both had tears in our eyes as we embraced. She called me, "Madrina", meaning Godmother. It's a title I treasure.

Maria's mother thanked me over and over again. You see, by sending $32 a month, Maria is able to receive assistance financially for clothes, food, supplies, school, after school programs, and she also is taught the Word of God and how Jesus loves her and her family so much. Maria's family is Christian, except for her father. Her mother asked that we pray for him, that he learn and accept the love of Christ in his life. She has seen how the Lord has blessed them and is often their only hope. She is also receiving hope through Compassion International. To learn more about Compassion and to get information on sponsoring a child, please visit our Compassion blog, There are many pictures there of our entire trip.

During the hour I spent with Maria, we talked about things many little girls like to talk about: dancing, dolls, basketball, fighting with siblings, chores around the house, dreams for the future (she wants to be a dance teacher someday), school (she makes good grades), friends (they like to pretend and draw), and Spongebob....yes that's right, Spongebob. All the kids there loved Spongebob! I don't know why, but that just cracked me up. On a side note here, my friend Rachel, while meeting with her sponsored child, showed him a picture of a starfish and asked if he knew what that was. He replied, "Si, Patrick!" (in case you don't know, Patrick is the starfish character in Spongebob Squarepants) Ha! Ok, back to Maria. We drew each other a picture and I painted her fingernails. We also blew bubbles. She was so beautiful. I so wanted to bring her home. And her mom too! I can't wait until one day when my whole family can go back and see her again. This is a relationship we hope to continue for as long as she needs us.

When it was time for Maria to leave, a piece of my heart went with her. To keep in touch, our family sends her letters and pictures. We send a little extra at Christmas and on her birthday. My friend, Lysa TerKeurst, gave us a great idea to help our family "kind of" experience and appreciate the life Maria lives. On the night we set aside for writing Maria, we have rice and beans. That's all. No one is allowed to fix themselves anything else or get a snack later. My kids do NOT like rice and beans at all! But I tell them, truly this is just about all Maria and her family do eat. Not much more. And they don't complain. They are thankful for what they have. So our rule is, no complaining. And if your tummy is growling later due to the fact you didn't want your rice and beans, well just think about that for a while. We need to not take our food or anything else for granted. We are so blessed.

I seriously hope you will check out the Compassion International Blog and I'd be happy to assist you in finding a child that you could sponsor and make a huge difference in his or her life for just $32 a month. It's a gift with many great rewards in return. Not only do you send financial support, but you also send hope. You begin a relationship. You may not be able to change the whole world, but you can change the world for one child.

Blessings...and say a prayer for my Maria tonight as you drift off to sleep in your cozy comfy bed. Sweet Dreams Friends,



Amy Carroll said...

Seeing the pictures and reading your post brought back so many memories. It made me smile and made my heart ache all at the same time. I was preparing a message today with a story about Ecuador in it. It is a piece of my life that I'm so grateful for. I have been experiencing some discontent about my house, and God keeps bringing pictures of the homes that we visited to my mind. Those homes make me remember my priorities. It doesn't really matter about your surroundings as long as they are filled with the Holy Spirit. How could it get better than that day at Rosa's making traditional (and yummy) hot chocolate?


Charlene Kidd said...

Thank you for posting about the trip. I cried as I remembered all the incredible times we had. I am going to look back at my pictures too. Thanks for the prompting.

Tom Emmons said...

Nice post! Did you know that Compassion International is sending a group of leading Christian bloggers to Uganda to see their work there? Please pray that hundreds will respond and sponsor childre from Africa. Check it ot at

Renee Swope said...

So glad you posted the beautiful photos and story about Ecuador. I hope I get to go sometime since I couldn't make that trip.

You have inspired me to start the family tradition of rice and beans. I have thought about it but we didn't do it yet. Maybe that needs to be one of our New Year's gift to Jesus and our sweet compassion child Meseret - who is now 16. We started sponsoring her when she was 6! Wow, time passes so fast.

Love you princess bride who had 10 bridesmaids!!

Kelly said...

Melissa I enjoyed your post. My husband Tim and I sponsor two girls through Compassion. One named Anna, who is 11 and lives in Tanzania. The other is Welella who is 16 and lives in Ethiopia. They are both orphans who live with other relatives. We get letters and pictures occasionally from them and we send extra for their birthdays too. One year we were able to send $100 extra to Anna's family..they bought materials to replace their roof, cooking oil, rice, etc...and Anna got some new clothes and shoes. I felt more happy giving them $100 so they could get those things they need then I ever would buying another new outfit at the mall!! I like your idea of rice and beans for dinner, on the night I write to the girls. It is nice to hear stories of people that actually visited their Compassion kids...