Honduras Day 3: Tablon Fun Day

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(If you want to see yesterday’s posts, click here to see the home visits for Maria, Yeyson & Greysi, and Cristian).

What I love about how Manna 4 Lempira structures the sponsor visit week is how much time you get with your sponsored children! Because they are such a small organization, along with many thanks to hard work from Sowers 4 Pastors staff, you get to do home visits with each of your children along with bringing them to a fun day, equalling TWO days together! This is something that isn’t possible with the larger organizations. Not to mention how nicely it is spread out with fun days, as I have children divided among different churches, so I was able to spend time with them in smaller groups throughout the week and not feel too overwhelmed.

When we arrived at the pool, located in Gracias and just about a 5 minute drive away, the kids were there waiting for us! It was fun to see them again, ready to go, and get to pass out swimsuits and start blowing up pool toys.

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I spent the entire day with them in the water, just enjoying these 4 precious children and the time I had with them. (I ended up with a really severe sunburn on my wrist, but that’s another story… and worth it). So pictures were taken kind of sporadically, every so often when I’d be out of the water and I’d grab my phone to snap a few. I wanted to preserve the memories, but I also really wanted to be in the moment.

Greysi and I bonded very quickly. 3 year olds are my jam; it’s what I do for a career and I love ’em. But I’m incredibly in love with this 3 year old in particular, and I think the pictures will make it evident. This little girl adored the pool, most specifically the shallowest one with the small slide. She never wanted to get out, whether it was to go to another pool, to eat lunch, or to get dressed.

Greysi is fearless. Her mom had come along, but I realized quickly that I couldn’t let this little one leave my sight. Since her favorite pool was obviously different than older kids, who also wanted my attention, I’d have to carry her over to the others with me for as long as I could keep her there. Eventually, though, she’d always end up scurrying back to the pool she adored. I’d ask her if she’d want to go to the other side, and she’d always say no, at which point we’d playfully argue back and forth, giggling as I carried her. My limited Spanish got me through more with the kiddos, especially the younger they were!

Is she not adorable? Soon into the day, she began saying “mi niña!” (or “my girl!”) when she wanted me. I was her niña, and she eagerly soaked up all of that attention in our time together.

At lunch, she was the first one to finish, and she was getting antsy, so I pulled out my phone to entertain her 🙂

Nope, not shy at all, this one!

It was also fun to watch Yeyson and Greysi together and seeing him be a sweet big brother. I love joy that sponsoring siblings has brought!

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I always thought Yeyson seemed like a gentle, sweet boy before I met him, and I can say he definitely is! I loved playing with him and watching his huge smile all day as he had so much fun.

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Yeyson and Cristian being such good friends was also an unexpected but awesome benefit! They are a few years apart, but as cousins who are neighbors, they understandably are very close. Let me tell you, both of these boys are FISH. They were excellent swimmers, with no problems in water way above their head. They were even doing flips into the pool to impress me! I got to spend a lot of time playing with the beach ball with them, which they loved. True soccer players as they are, these boys were headering and kicking the ball every chance they got! 🙂 I had a blast keeping up with them!

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At one point, they wanted to go see the animals there. Yeyson was braver than I was, even touching Lola the monkey’s hand.

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And speaking of brave, there was the time when Cristian had climbed on top of the cave by one of the pools, and then proceeded to jump off of it…

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This kid has such a great smile, and he definitely had a great day. I loved when he would lay on one of the rafts or inner tubes in the deep pool, sometimes the only one in there, with hands behind his head just relaxing and smiling away!

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Maria was the most unsure about swimming, I’m assuming because of her location up in La Azomada. But she got more comfortable as the day went on, and she even came in the deeper pool with me for a little while, as she held onto me. 🙂 She had a couple younger cousins who were also there, and I think they helped with her comfort level some, too.

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She did change back into her clothes before the day was done, but I get how a day like that could be very overwhelming and tiring if it’s such a completely different experience, especially for a quieter personality like hers. I know she had a great time, and I wanted her to be comfortable and happy, which she was. She got to spend some time after she changed talking to Yeyson and Greysi’s mom as they sat together in the shade. I don’t know what they talked about, of course, but it was sweet to watch them together!

The kids and any family members that came with them all got huge meals of fried chicken and french fries, but they ate those meals up! A meal like that is a real treat for them, as is every part of a day like this, and it was just so special to be able to provide that to them! I got the meal each swim day that was gluten free, the beef, and it was delicious, too.

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At the end of the day, popsicles were purchased for all the kids, which they gobbled up! I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of Maria with hers, as she was sitting farther away. Greysi sat right next to me and dripped purple all over both of us, but I wouldn’t trade those drips for anything!

Saying goodbye was the hardest part, without a doubt, but we all left there with full hearts and lots of wonderful memories! This picture, with all of the kids wearing shirts I gave them just the day before, happy and tired from a full day, makes me so happy ❤

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That evening, after we had all gotten a chance to shower back at the hotel, we went out for dinner to a local restaurant called Asados Anahí, where we got TONS of meat and plantains! It was delicious, and even though there were a lot of us, we didn’t even finish close to all of the food. We were able to box it up, though, and bring it to family of a former sponsored child of some of the team!

 

Click here to see Day 4:

Brayan’s Home Visit

Valery’s Home Visit

Ludvi’s Home Visit

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Honduras Day 2: Cristian’s Home Visit

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It was only a year in the spring since I sponsored Cristian, but it feels like so much longer. It was so good to see that smile in person that I fell in love with in his photos. I’ve put extra time in worrying and praying for Cristian after my Deilin and his older brother left the program because they were no longer in school to work, among many other children. I wrote to Cristian, and my other older children, sharing my hopes that they would finish school and how it would create so many more opportunities in life for them. Every time a round of photos come through, I’m relieved to see his smile and know he’s still attending school and the church the program.

Here he is leading us down to his home:

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And a look inside:

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Cristian’s family was a delight. In his Christmas letter, he had written how his mom was expecting a baby. It was so exciting to arrive and see healthy baby Lesly in person! She slept through our whole visit, but his mom said she has blue eyes. Cristian looks just like his mom, who was just as smiley as he is. His younger sister was also there, and his dad and older brother were working. I had noticed Cristian’s kinder diploma hanging on the wall and commented on it. They took it down to show it to me up close, and even showed me his siblings’ too. Later, Cristian asked me to take a picture of his 🙂 Clearly they are very proud!

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Speaking of proud, imagine how proud I was when Cristian’s mom told me he is on the honor roll in school! Not only that, but when I asked him what he wants to be when he grows up, he told me he wants to be a lawyer! This is the boy who has always said he wanted to be a mason, like his dad, and to hear that he is dreaming bigger made my heart so happy. I want all of my kids to believe that they can accomplish anything, and it’s something I try to instill in them over and over. Because believing you can do something is often the biggest hurdle. Now, he may still leave school after he finishes 6th grade next year, a common time to stop (I think there was even a brief mention of the possibility, although I didn’t want to ask). And if that happens, I’m sure he can still have a happy and fulfilled life, but I do continue to pray for his future.

As we were sitting and talking, enjoying cold drinks that his mom had brought for us, I noticed he had brought out a set of small legos I sent him previously, which he had made into a pyramid. He said how he really liked making things out of them, and his brother helped him think of things, like the pyramid, too. Time after time, it never got old to see things that I had previously sent the children with or on them. You never have to doubt the legitimacy of Manna 4 Lempira as an organization or the fact that everything is going straight to these children!

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After our home visits, we had a little time back at the hotel. This would be the longest day of home visits, because of the 3 separate churches, and it was a very hot day, too. We ordered pizza for dinner from a local pizza place. It apparently does taste different, but since I cannot eat gluten, I ordered from the hotel restaurant instead.

That evening, we attended a church service at the Guanas church, the second one we visited earlier in the day. We were late, but they hadn’t started yet. Hondurans very much run on “Honduran time”, and it’s something you have to adjust to early on! The service was a children’s service, which they do once a month. The children do everything, from the songs, to the Bible readings, to the preaching. It was cool to see how excited they were for their turns up in front, and how their families were there supporting them!

I made friends with these two little sisters, who quite enjoyed waving to me and getting the attention of me waving back and smiling at them 🙂

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Enjoying the calm of sitting above Gracias in the restaurant at night:

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Click here to see the previous Day 2 posts:

Maria’s Home Visit

Yeyson and Greysi’s Home Visit

Or here to continue on to Day 3: Tablon Fun Day!

Honduras Day 2: Yeyson and Greysi’s Home Visit

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Click here to read the first part of Day 2, Maria’s home visit

After we finished in La Azomada in El Tablon, we traveled a little further down the mountain to Guanas, the second church. I don’t have any sponsored children at this church, but a couple of the other sponsors did. While they went on their home visits, the rest of us watched the kids rehearse for their service that we would be attending that evening. It was fun to see the happy and smiling kids singing and dancing, and I recognized many of them from photos over time that have been posted by Manna and shared by their sponsors.

Next, we traveled down to the last stop, the main church of El Tablon. This was the first church that children were registered from, and it is closest to the main road. I have 3 children here, and the first two are my set of siblings, Yeyson and Greysi. I sponsored these two together a little under a year ago, and it’s been great getting to support and know the whole family. They came walking up with Cristian, my other sponsored child from the main church, and I only found out at that moment that they were cousins and the boys were very close! I have sponsored Cristian longer, and I had no idea when I sponsored the other two that they were related, but it turned out to be awesome! They live nearby each other and not far away, so we walked.

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the road down to their homes

The boys were a little shyer at first, as Maria had been. It’s a little intimidating meeting for the first time, which is why I love that with this trip, we get two days together. It’s funny that going into this day, I had assumed Greysi would be shy. But as I got to know this little delight, she turned out to be anything but! She came right up to hug me, and once we arrived at their house, she first timidly peeked in the bag of gifts I gave her, but then eagerly started playing with the toys.

It’s cultural to not want to open gifts in front of the giver there, so many children saved the bag of gifts for later or opened them in another room during the visit if they couldn’t wait 🙂 I did get to see a few children open and go through their gifts though, and it was so much fun. With backpacks, you use their photos and letters as clues, hoping they liked it, trying to discern what their favorite things were and what to send again. I thought about how just a couple days before, those gifts had all been sprawled out in my bedroom as I worked to sort through and then pack them all, and now they were coming to life through the vivid imagination of an adorable 3 year old. I got to see the toys and gifts through her eyes.

She adored the Barbie doll, which was obviously her favorite. She also loved the two ponies with their long mane. I watched as she carefully undressed and redressed the doll, combed her and the ponies’ hair, put the doll on the stuffed deer to ride, used the reversible sequin bracelet as a small blanket for them, and more, and I wanted to preserve that moment in time forever.

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Yeyson, who had put his bag away when I gave it to him, pulled it out after a little while of his sister playing with hers. He was so cautious with everything. He tried out the harmonica, briefly in front of us, but then later I heard him just outside the house playing it again 🙂 He took out the kite to try, although there was no wind that day, and carefully put it back away when he was done. He put on the bracelet right away, and played a lot with the fidget spinner, knowing just what to do with it. I remember last year when I brought one to Evelin’s brother in Guatemala and her mother had told me he had been wanting one. They’re definitely popular in Central America, too! Sitting there in the cool of their home, a strong contrast to the unrelenting heat that day, sipping on juice that their mother brought us, watching the kids play, I couldn’t imagine being any happier, and I could have sat there for hours more.

Their mother was also so kind and grateful. Their father is not in the picture, I don’t know why, but she has remarried now. She told me that when Greysi was born, they both almost didn’t make it. It’s such a blessing seeing how healthy they all are now!

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Both kids were wearing things I had sent them in their backpacks, which made me so happy to see. Their mother said it was a way to show their appreciation. Aren’t they a sweet family?

As much as I didn’t want to leave, I was also excited to get to visit Cristian. He came over, and he and Yeyson walked me a little way down to his house.

Click here to continue on to Cristian’s home visit.

Bringing Gifts to my Sponsored Children

I leave for Honduras tomorrow!!

Long before I was ready to pack for this trip, the thought of it just stressed me out. I can tell you now, actually having been going through it, that the act of packing is no less stressful. It’s funny to me now that I was worried about packing all of the gifts for one child and for centers when I went to Guatemala. This time I had to pack gifts for 13 children, plus small family gifts for each of their families!

I did have a blast shopping for all of them, though. There are some things that are consistent for every child. Each one is getting two shirts, a bathing suit, and a stuffed animal (I figure any age loves a stuffed animal to hug, right?) I went through and assembled each bag, took pictures of its contents, and then disassembled everything to pack it as tight as possible. The pictures will help me to reassemble everything when I get to Honduras! Here is what I packed for each child, starting with the boys:

Brayan, age 5:

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a purple shirt (his favorite color), a striped shirt, a pair of swimming trunks, a toy train, a blue superhero cape, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a stuffed goat, a fidget spinner, and a paw print bag (these are the same ones my students got at our school picnic, which I figure the kids will get a kick out of)

Diego, age 6:

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a dinosaur shirt (he’s a dinosaur fan), a Chicago Bears shirt, swimming trunks, a large toy car, a blue superhero cape, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a stuffed dinosaur that makes noise, a fidget spinner, and a paw print bag

Yeyson, age 9:

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a blue shirt (his favorite color), a Rainforest Cafe from Downtown Disney shirt, swimming trunks, a stuffed dog, a harmonica, an Angry Birds kite, a fidget spinner, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a paw print bag

Junior, age 10:

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a Rainforest Cafe from Downtown Disney shirt, a future rocket scientist shirt, swimming trunks, dominoes, a harmonica, a stuffed horse, a fidget spinner, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a paw print bag

Cristian, age 12:

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a Rainforest Cafe from Downtown Disney shirt, an Old Navy shirt, swimming trunks, a stuffed dog, glow in the dark stars with removable putty, a bag of marbles, a fidget spinner, a Jesus loves me bracelet, dominoes, and a paw print bag

And now onto the girls… Angie, age 3 (and the youngest of all my children):

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a pink bathing suit, a kitten shirt, a yellow floral shirt, a stuffed cow, a mermaid doll, two ponies, a reversible sequin bracelet, a Shimmer and Shine doll with a locket keychain, and a summer tote bag

Greysi, age 3:

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a pink bathing suit, a red and white striped shirt, a rainbow shirt, a stuffed deer, a Shimmer and Shine doll and locket keychain, two ponies and hair accessories, a barbie, a reversible sequin bracelet, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a summer tote bag

Valery, will be 4 by the time I meet her:

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A stars bathing suit, a blue and white daisy shirt, a planets and sun shirt, a stuffed rainbow tiger, a reversible sequin bracelet, a barbie, a Shimmer and Shine doll and locket keychain, a mermaid doll and some little fish friends (when she mentioned in her latest letter that the animal she wanted to see in person was a mermaid, I had to find something related to give her), a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a paisley tote bag

Helen, age 8:

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a rainbow bathing suit, a Frozen shirt, a chambray and lace shirt, a stuffed pegasus, a Minion journal with a lock and keys and extra stickers (more on the back, too) and a pen (I loved these sets from Walmart!), a turquoise choker, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a barbie, a flamingo tote bag

Jenny, age 8:

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a pink bathing suit, a white tribal shirt, an Olaf Frozen shirt, a stuffed horse (she has a real horse at home), a Frozen journal with a lock and keys and a pen and extra stickers, a turquoise choker, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a barbie, and a flamingo tote bag

Ludvi, age 10 (as of yesterday!):

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a tropical bathing suit, a chambray and lace shirt, a blue floral shirt, a journal set of 3 notebooks of different sizes, a turquoise choker, a set of 5 rolls of washi tape, a barbie, a stuffed unicorn, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a pink striped purse

Heidy, age 12:

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a mermaid bathing suit, a black shirt with an attached necklace, a tribal fringe shirt, a stuffed dog, a brown choker, a set of 5 rolls of washi tape, a set of 3 pouches/cosmetic bags of different sizes, a journal set of 3 notebooks of different sizes, a Jesus loves me bracelet, embroidery floss to make friendship bracelets with instructions, a black Old Navy purse

Maria, age 13 (my oldest Manna child):

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a pink tie-dye bathing suit, a polka dot chambray shirt, a coral draped tank top, a pineapple “pura vida” journal, a set of 3 pouches/cosmetic bags of different sizes, a stuffed penguin, a brown choker, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a set of 5 rolls of washi tape, a thirty-one bag (really excited about that find)

Then there were the family gifts, which I needed 12 of, because Yeyson and Greysi are the same family, so they only need one family gift between them. I’m giving each family a set of 4 plastic cups, a bamboo wooden spoon or spatula, and a dish towel.

I’ll be assembling them once I get in Honduras, and they’ll look something like this:

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I also made tags for each child’s bag, but I forgot to attach them before I packed the bags, oops! So they’re packed, along with more ribbon, to attach in Honduras:

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When you look at each of the individual pictures, it doesn’t seem like much, but when you put it all together, it really is!! This is a glimpse at what only part of my suitcase looks like:

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Yeah, yikes! Here’s hoping my bag doesn’t weigh over the weight limit… I can’t wait to give these gifts to my beloved children and most importantly spend time with them!

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Letters from Cristian

I could feel even extra love in both of these latest mailings from Cristian, both of which times he sent two letters! I love how at 12 years old, he still enjoys writing to me. Cristian is another child I’ll be meeting at the El Tablon church!

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“Hello dear Sponsor! In this letter, I tell you that I am happy to have a sponsor from the US. I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas. Here in Honduras, I am well with all my family, safe and sound. From the first day that you sent me the photos, I felt happy to see all your family. I like the flowers you made. They make me happy. Also the trees. My siblings are Milton, Angie, and my mama is expecting a baby. I pray to God that it is well and living. My papa had a motorcycle accident, but thanks to God, he is okay. He didn’t get hit too hard. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”

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“Dear Alisa, I am happy to write to you. I hope that you are well and happy with your family. I am well here. i hope to learn more about you through your letters. I have two siblings. My parents are Ada Luz and Jose. I like to play soccer. I love to write. My favorite color is red. I wish I had a soccer ball. God will bless you for the things that you have done for me. With a lot of love, Cristian. Happy day to you and your family!”

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This letter was written before he received his backpack, so it makes me so happy to think of him opening it to see the soccer ball he wanted! Also, isn’t this a great picture?

“I am very grateful for the help you give me and for the backpack and the supplies. I hope that you continue well with your family and children because God is the only God who protects us wherever we go. He protects my family and your family wherever we go because He is the only One who takes care of us. I love you very much, Alisa. Thanks for the gift you have given me. I am very grateful for all that you have done for me and my sister, Sofia. I love you very much, Alisa. May God bless you all the days of the year. TKM”

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“May God bless you all the days. I always think about you. Thanks for the things you sent me. I am happy because you sent me a ball. May God bless you and your family. I love you very much!”

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“Holy Week is important for me because we can enjoy it with our family. During my vacation, my families likes to go to the river and the church. I play soccer and swim with my friends. The typical Easter meal is tamalones (ticucos). Easter traditions in my country are dancing. My favorite part of Easter is to go to the river and be with my family. I dedicate this verse to you: Romans 3:23- I love you Alisa. Hello Alisa! I feel happy for the cross you sent me. I love it and I feel happy. I liked the photos that you sent me. They are very nice. In the United States the stickers are very nice. I like the drawing that you sent and I read the other things that you sent. All that you sent is very pretty. I would like to learn to make it. I love you Alisa. My mom was a girl called Lesli. The eyes are blue. With love, Cristian. This bird is a toucan.”

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Isn’t he a great artist? Cristian’s so sweet and appreciative. I know he and his brother work hard at home, so I can’t wait to see him having fun with the other kids at the fun day!

Photo Friday: New Photos of my Manna El Tablon Children

As of today, it’s only 22 days until I arrive in Honduras with Manna 4 Lempira and soon after meet these wonderful faces! Here are my sponsored children from the El Tablon church that I will be meeting.

Maria, 13, in the year and a half that I have sponsored her, still wants to be a doctor. I love her big aspirations and her smart mind. She is from the most impoverished area of this community.

Cristian, 12, had his older brother leave school and therefore the program to help the family work. I’m always praying he can stick with school. In his second photo he is wearing the cross necklace I sent all of them!

Yeyson, 9, seems like such a nice kid, and I can’t wait to meet him and his little sister Greysi below.

Greysi, 3, is the little sister of Yeyson and looks so stinking cute in this photo trying not to smile.

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New Photos of Maria, Cristian, Yeyson, and Greysi!

El Tablon is the feeding center with Manna for Lempira that I have the most sponsored children with. I am so tempted to sponsor another one or two specific children there that are calling to my heart, but since visiting Honduras with Manna may now be a very real possibility this summer, I’m conflicted about whether it may be too many children at one center…

Maria is 12 and my oldest Manna child. With each new profile she still says she wants to be a doctor, and I really think she can do it.

I love how it looks like she’s laughing about something. I just love this girl!

Every time that I see new photos of Cristian means that he’s still in school, which is such a huge relief to me. His older brother stopped attending school to work, so I’m always worried that there’s that possibility with him. And I lost one of my other children, Deilin, because she stopped attending school. Going to school is a requirement to stay enrolled in the Manna program. I recently wrote to Cristian (and all of my older kids), about how many more opportunities are available as a result of staying in school, encouraging them to do so. I want the best life possible for him and each of them.

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11 year old Cristian is growing up fast and I think he looks even older than he is in this photo!

Yeyson and Greysi are the set of siblings that I sponsor. I couldn’t bare to only choose one, as I fell in love with both of them. 9 year old Yeyson always looks so kind and gentle.

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The extra photo of him with the huge smile after receiving his backpack makes me SO happy! The letters for the children at Yeyson and Greysi’s church had to be distributed on a separate day, which means I got to see a photo of him wearing one of the shirts I sent him (the green one). It looks great!

And then there’s 3 year old Greysi, the little sister of Yeyson. This girl is absolutely precious.

In the photo of her with the letter, she is wearing a dress I sent her! I just love seeing this on her and fitting her well, because I was so excited when I found it while backpack shopping!