Letters from Evelin and Family Photos!

Since visiting Evelin, she has been writing very frequently! I love it, and I love how she still mentions our time together. It means so much to me that it meant so much to her. I can’t wait until I’m able to travel back to Guatemala to visit again in a future year, because this girl and her country absolutely have my heart!

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The first letter was about her medical checkup. It was held at the project and her mother took her. She received talks about how to wash her hands and how to brush her teeth. The letter also had a second page attached so more could be written 🙂 All together, it says “Hello Dear Alisa, Evelin is very excited about writing to you. She loved having met you in person. Evelin wants you to take good care of yourself. She loves you very much! She thanks you for the very nice card, she loved it! What is your grandmother’s name? To answer the questions that you asked, 1. The weather is hot and sometimes it is cold. 2. She has been to the ocean once. 3. Her grandmother is doing very well and in good health. 4. She wants the children from other countries to know that Guatemala is beautiful. 5. Evelin would advise children her age to behave very well. Evelin has learned math and she thinks that other children should also learn it.”

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The second letter uses the template My Community. A common job in Evelin’s community is teacher, they harvest fruits and vegetables, and they have a specific market day. Cars are used and most houses are made of adobe. It says “Dear Sponsor Alisa, Hello! Evelin thanks you for the letter and the pictures. She wants you to know that her house is surrounded by flowers and some trees. She says goodbye and wishes you a beautiful day! Evelin”

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The last letter was after an inquiry for a gift that I had sent 6 months prior and hadn’t received photos from. I was thrilled to get two photos of her and her family, and to get a glimpse of their house. I got to meet her mom on our visit day, so it was really cool to see what her dad and siblings look like. I knew her siblings names and ages and was able to send gifts for them too, and now I get to put faces with the names.

“Dear Sponsor Alisa, How are you? Evelin hopes you are very well. She wants to thank you for the nice gift you sent in May. She could buy food supplies for her family, clothes for her, nice leggings, a dress, and a blouse she liked a lot. She wants you to know that classes at school are over. She is on vacation now. She will return to school at the end of January next year. In the meantime, she likes to play a lot. She enjoys playing. She has time for getting ready for her next school cycle. She loves you so much and she wants you to know that she always thinks about you. She sends you hugs. Please pray for her studies. Do you like hot weather? Are you ok? She wants to thank you for her gifts and your love.

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The line “She loves you so much and she wants you to know that she always thinks about you” just melts my heart…

Letter from Evelin About our Day Together!

My first letter from Evelin since my visit to Guatemala to meet her had been in translation for almost a month, and it was a challenging wait. But I was so excited when it finally came through! I also have another letter from her in translation, which I will hopefully get to read soon too. It was well worth the wait, though, because she talked all about our day together at the zoo and it was wonderfully sweet! I think back to how much I prayed about which child from Guatemala to sponsor and which country to visit this summer. Each step of the way, God brought me to this special girl. I think about how it was an instant connection when we saw each other. I’m not exaggerating when I say I couldn’t possibly love her any more than I do.

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Evelin is 8 and lives in Guatemala.

“Hello Dear Friend, Evelin is writing to thank you for visiting her. She thinks that it is a great blessing to have you here, in her country, and being able to meet you, because she was not expecting such a great surprise. May God bless you for your great love. Evelin wants to thank you for your gift which was a doll and a coloring book. She really liked the stickers as well as the map of where you live, the notepad and the crayons. She also wants to thank you for the English book and the prayer book, because she is using them in her backpack. She wants to tell you that you look very pretty and she really likes your hair. She wants to thank you for taking her to the zoo with you. She really liked the elephant and the giraffe that she fed. It made her very happy. She is especially grateful for having spent time with you. She thanks you for all of the love that you have given her and she says that she loves you very much. She asks you to pray for her family so that God will bless them and will watch over them. She wants to know what is the name of your dad, your mom, and your brother? She wants to thank you for your beautiful gifts and for your love.”

 

My heart is so full and I am a very blessed sponsor!

Letter from the Country Director of Guatemala

This week I’m sharing the Country Director letter from Guatemala. This one is especially near and dear to my heart, since I just traveled there in July, falling in love with the country and all Compassion is doing there. I will forever support and be an advocate for Compassion Guatemala, and I feel I’ll be back to visit one day, too. I hope so! I sponsor Evelin and Ingrid in GU.

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“Dear Alisa, My name is José Carlos Prem, and I have been the country director of Guatemala for eight years. I am a chemical engineer, and I also graduated from the Central American Theological Seminary.

Compassion started working in Guatemala after a terrible earthquake in 1976, and it was officially registered in 1989. We currently have almost 200 church partners that are helping us release more than 53,000 children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

I want to express how very grateful I am for your thoughtful sensitivity in ministering to Evelin and Ingrid in Guatemala. I feel certain that your contributions represent a decision you did not make quickly or lightly, and I want you to know how much it means to Evelin and Ingrid. I am able to see firsthand the work of Compassion in the most impoverished communities around the country. I see how our children speak and show the love of Jesus to their families and those around them. I have also seen how a timely intervention can save a child’s life.

I like to ask our children what they like best about attending a child development center. Many say that they get to play; some say that they like to hear Bible stories. But one child told me his favorite thing was getting a plate of food and being able to ask for a second one if he was still hungry.

This child was able to see God’s love through a plate of food, or in this case, two plates of food. Hunger is just one of the many problems our children and their families have to overcome daily. It is an overwhelming reality, but we decided to focus on five of our most urgent needs: violence, child abuse, malnutrition, parents’ unemployment, and poor access to health care.

Official statistics show that in our country, one out of two children under five has chronic malnutrition. Guatemala is the fifth most violent country in the world, and there are more than 3,500 reports of child abuse every year. More than half our population lives in poverty, and there is only one doctor for every 5,000 people. These facts are devastating and may discourage people, but for us they are a reminder that there are still many things we can do to continue the work that Jesus started here on earth.

In developmental work, resources are not always enough to meet the needs. That is why we are working with strategic alliances. Some of these alliances are providing purified water to distant communities and offering vocational training, counseling, pastor training, and youth discipleship.

Thanks to sponsors, all our efforts become more meaningful to these children. They know that somewhere in the world there is someone who cares about them. Letters are especially important in fostering this bond. As children grow, they understand how important a sponsor is to their lives. I met a little girl who lost both of her parents. When her sponsor found out, she decided to become a motherly figure and a role model for her little sponsored girl. In two years, the girl received dozens of letters, and she told me she felt the love of a mother through her sponsor’s words. It makes our children feel special and loved when they know someone took time to think of them and write them. Please write your child as often as possible.

Please pray for our future plans as we move toward growth in the ministry. In the last four years, we have grown from 30,000 to more than 53,000 children, and in the coming years, we are expecting even bigger growth.

Thank you for following God’s direction and for expressing, through your sponsorship, your devotion to Evelin and Ingrid.

Thankfully, José Carlos Prem”

 

Those 5 most urgent needs that he discusses are very much hallmarks of what they focus on. They represent each one with a different color in order to help remember them better. During our tour, we focused on and learned more about a different social problem, as our leader called them, each day. Each day, the leaders and translators would all wear the color of that problem, to further drive home the point and help link it with memory. We also received a multi-colored hacky sack ball among our gifts from the country office, which has each of these 5 colors on it. It’s a great reminder now, being home, of the social problems whenever I look at it. In addition to being the fifth most violent country in the world, Guatemala also has the fifth highest rate of malnutrition in the world (and the four above it are all from Africa). I was surprised to hear that, as well as many other statistics, but it shows just how important Compassion’s work in this country is- and they are doing an amazing job!

Guatemala Day 6- Meeting Evelin!

The day that all of us who had sponsored children in Guatemala had been waiting the longest for, Child Fun Day, started a little rough. When I went to shower that morning, the water was scalding hot, and I couldn’t get it to cool down. After fully shutting off the hot water and only leaving on the cold water, I discovered that nothing was coming out. Not one drop. There was no cold water. Now, I can take a cold shower and survive. Sure, it’s unpleasant, but it’s doable. But there’s no way to take a shower in water as scalding as that hot water was. The sink, by the way, was the same. I started getting nervous. I left the cold water tab on so I could hear if it came on, and I started making sure everything in Evelin’s backpack of gifts was together and my bag was ready for the day. Meanwhile, the clock ticked on, but I was still okay on time. Thankfully, since the zoo we were going to was very close to the hotel, we were going to be leaving 45 minutes later than usual.

Finally, after I was about ready to give up, a sputtering started coming from the cold water. I hopped in the shower immediately, and got about a 3 minute shower of sputtering water until the cold disappeared completely again. I quickly shut the water back off, but not before turning the handle in the wrong direction and getting a face blast of really hot water. Oh well, 3 minutes was enough to feel cleaner, thankfully. Down at breakfast, everyone else looked as out of sorts as I felt, too. We learned that a pipe had burst. One family in our group even had “rain” coming from their ceiling that morning as the leak must have been right above them! Like we said, any other day, we’d all take not showering in stride, but on the day that you’re meeting your sponsored child and a family member? You do want to look decent for them.

With that all behind us and prayers said for the hotel staff, David and Emily, our Guatemalan leaders, gave each us a different color balloon before we boarded the bus. Our sponsored child (or children) would be holding that same color balloon, so that we could find each other easily. I thought it was a nice idea that really helped avoid any chaos at the busy zoo entrance. I was given a red balloon, and by now the nervous excitement was really kicking in.

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We drove to the La Aurora Zoo, a very nice zoo in Guatemala City. There were a lot of field trips going on that day, and we walked through groups and groups of kids before we finally found our Compassion people. Suddenly, there was Evelin with her red balloon. She ran up to me as soon as I got close and gave me a big hug. “Nice to meet you!” she said, in English, with a huge smile. “Mucho gusto!” I replied. Our translator for the day, Andrea, told me she had been practicing that while waiting for me to arrive. Any bit of nervousness I may have had was completely erased immediately. Clearly, she definitely knew who I was and was happy to see me, as she couldn’t stop smiling. Her mother, Rafaela, was with her, who was very happy too, as was her project director, Sergio, from GU930, where she attends. I told her I liked her shirt, a pink Frozen one. She asked me who my favorite princess is. I smiled at such a typical 8 year old girl question. Her favorite, by the way, is Elsa. Her mom later shared that the shirt was purchased with gift money I had sent, which made me very happy. I pulled out a small scrapbook I had made to show her some pictures as we waited to get in. Since Evelin only lived 45 minutes away, I asked if she had ever been there before. Yes, this was her 3rd time, they replied. Great, she could show me around, I said! We talked for a little while and looked at the photos and then it was time to enter the zoo.

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Just inside the first entrance, there was a huge gorilla statue. Evelin giggled and whispered to her mom, who just smiled back at her. Andrea told me she was telling Rafaela that the gorilla looked like her mom when she is angry. I loved the sense of humor of this beautiful little girl! And her relationship with her mom, where they could joke with each other, reminded me of my own relationship with my mother.

Evelin had asked me what my favorite animal was. The elephants, I replied. Hers were the giraffes, which were right inside the entrance. At this zoo, you could also pay 10Q (about $1.50) to go up a ramp to feed them. Naturally we had to do this. Evelin had never gotten to feed the giraffes before, and she was very excited. She had no fear as the giraffe, Pula, used her big tongue to lick up the food.

These were actually the first pictures I got, because I was so focused on being present with her. We saw the elephants next. Sergio is a huge animal lover, and sometimes we would even be ready to move on and have to wait for him! He was having a great time. He also took a lot of photos, and I was told they would be given to the family.

Evelin took my hand pretty much from when we entered, and continued to hold it the entire day as we walked around. She’d look up at me and smile with a huge grin about every minute or so. I just loved this girl so much, and there was no place on earth that I’d rather be than holding her hand that day. When we saw the panthers, she commented on how they weren’t pink 😉 She also liked seeing the baboons, because they reminded her of the Lion King. Each time we saw a new animal, Evelin would proudly tell me how many of the animal there were in English. This is a smart girl. I already knew, as her Compassion reports say she is above average in school, but seeing it in person, I can definitely tell. She told me she wants to be a teacher like me. I know she can accomplish that or anything else she decides to do. Her mom said that maybe she can learn English, still being young. I commented that it is said that it’s easier for kids to learn another language. I was extra glad, at this point, that I had found a bilingual book to include with her gifts.

When we came upon the fish pond, which Evelin was eager to see, she told me I would be “delighted by the fish!”. We let her feed them, too, which she loved.

Before lunch, we also came across an enclosed area you could enter, which had lots of large birds, like parrots, along with free roaming lemurs! I had never been that close to a lemur before. Some people, including Sergio, touched them. Evelin and I were a little more cautious.

It was then time for lunch. They had ordered ahead from Pollo Campero, a big fast food restaurant in Guatemala, and we all found tables in the food court area. Since the meal was fried chicken, our ever awesome Guatemalan leaders had ordered me a special order of grilled chicken to eat. I never had to worry about not having something to eat the entire trip, due to my celiac disease and inability to eat gluten, thanks to them being so on top of it. Granted, almost all of my meals did consist of grilled chicken and vegetables, but that was fine with me.

During lunch, I was asked all kinds of questions. They all wanted to know everything about me. Sergio also asked us all questions around the table like “Who is your favorite woman from the Bible?” and “What man from the Bible would you marry?” Like I said, he definitely had fun! I also got to hear a lot more about Evelin’s project and the things they do there. One of the things that they’re big on is having pets, since Sergio is such an animal lover. They have several pets, including a guinea pig, fish, and birds, and it teaches the kids responsibility and respect for animals. They’re also teaching the kids badminton there. They celebrate all birthdays out at either McDonalds or Pizza Hut. There was lots more, too. It was great to hear more about her experience, especially after having seen other projects that week. They told me next time I visit I should come visit their project, and I said I would love to. I watched as Evelin and her mom carefully boxed up their leftovers and placed them back in the bag to bring with them. In the US, we don’t think about throwing away what we can’t eat. But that was another meal for them or for her siblings back home. Other sponsors later shared that their kids did the same.

After lunch, Evelin wanted to go back and see more animals. We did for awhile, but the sun was becoming more prolific, and you could tell she was slowing down. She had been sick the day before and was worried she wouldn’t be able to come. They said she woke up feeling better this day. I had to wonder, though, if she had just said she was feeling better, when really she wasn’t. I’m sure that’s what I would have done if I were her, too. She started getting a headache in the afternoon, and then her forehead started to feel warm, like a low-grade fever. We sat in the shade for awhile and took a break. Honestly, I was glad for the rest, too. Andrea went to find Emily, one of our leaders, to see if they had some medicine. They did, of course, because they were prepared for anything, and brought back Children’s Tylenol for her to take, with plenty extra to bring home and last probably the next two days. An important gesture, because after going on home visits, I’m pretty sure that’s something most families can’t keep on hand at home.

By the time she had a little rest and took the tylenol, it was about time to give gifts. When Evelin heard this, she perked right up, and was ready to go to the picnic area we were meeting to do it. Watching her open her backpack full of gifts was pure happiness for me to see how happy and excited she was. Our tour leader, who was watching for a little while, said she forgot all about that headache and that just when she thought Evelin’s smile couldn’t get any bigger, it somehow would with each new thing she pulled out! I think her favorite was an Elena of Avalor doll, and seeing her eyes light up at it was just priceless. With each item, she would thank me and hug me. This girl is so so sweet.

I was also able to get a few gifts for the family in there (a flat sheet, bowls, and cooking utensils) along with a gift for each of her siblings. I was thrilled to get a letter about a  month before the trip that listed her siblings’ names and ages, so that I could buy gifts for them. They’re not registered with Compassion, and they’re both older. Her sister, Darlin, who is 15, usually helps Evelin write her letters, so I know that she must often take her or pick her up from the project. I got her a necklace and her brother Erick, who is 12, a fidget spinner. Rafaela said that he had been asking for one, which made me happy! They are becoming very popular in Guatemala too. She said that the older siblings would be very excited because they weren’t expecting anything.

Among some of the other things I got her were a tiara, a book of Bible stories in Spanish, a bilingual book, a sparkly cross bracelet, a jump rope, a pink Chicago shirt, a blanket, coloring pages, a notebook, crayola twistables, princess chapsticks, headbands and hair accessories, and I’m sure more that I’m forgetting.

This girl is so very special to me. I chose her for sponsorship about a year ago knowing that I would be traveling to Guatemala and meeting her. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, and it actually took several days and lots of prayers. But then I saw Evelin, and God told me she was the one. And clearly He knew what He was doing, because I couldn’t be any more in love with this girl if I tried, and she gave so much love to me in return. We were paired together for a reason, and now share a bond that is even so much deeper than sponsorship. As I mentioned in an earlier post, less than 1% of sponsored children get to meet their sponsors. With how many tours and individual visits there are, it’s kind of hard to fathom when you think about it. But for Evelin, I am forever grateful that I got to be there in person to tell her how loved and special she is, and to hug her and hold her hand. She’ll grow up knowing and remembering this, and that is such a blessing.

Andrea captured a video of her giving a message to me, which I adore. If only I had thought to record one of the times she sang for me…

She was so excited to be able to bring her new backpack to school the next day. Her mom said she was going to be in a contest for queen of the school, after this day, and I already knew she would win because I brought her the tiara. We prayed some more together, and I asked Rafaela if she had any prayer requests. She said that many members of her family don’t go to church and don’t know God and asked if I would pray for them. Of course I will. Clearly, this is a Godly family, and I am so thankful that Evelin is being raised knowing Him and valuing her relationship with Him.

We all gathered together for a large group picture. As heavy as that backpack full of gifts was, Evelin eagerly put it on her back as we walked over.

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Then it was time for the hardest part: saying goodbye. We took one last picture together as we hugged and I told her again how much I loved her. She told me the same and her mother thanked me and told me they were praying for me, along with my prayers for them.

I couldn’t have asked for an absolutely more perfect day. And the thing is, if you asked any other sponsor there, I’ll bet they would have said they same thing. Each sponsor and child matched together so perfectly- it was just amazing to witness their joy during the day, too! Child Fun Day clearly is a very very special day.

After all of the excitement, we made a stop at a nearby market to do some shopping. I was able to buy a few gifts, along with a scarf and a necklace for myself. The market was very pretty, and we were pretty much the only people there. The translators bopped around to help us out, but my limited Spanish includes enough to help me get by in this situation. I was also pretty proud of myself for the prices I got through bartering, which we were told we had to do. We then made one more quick stop at a mall to go into a grocery store to purchase some coffee- something all of us wanted. I’m not a coffee drinker myself, I was buying it as a gift for my parents, so I listened to the coffee experts when selecting which bags to get. Apparently they did a good job choosing, because now that I’m home and my parents have been drinking the coffee, they’ve told me multiple times how great it is!

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inside the very nice mall

We had dinner at the hotel that evening and I went to bed tired but still on quite a high from the day. I thought about Evelin, back at home, and I’m pretty sure she felt the same way!

Click here to read Guatemala Day 7- A Day Full of Heat and Hugs

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Almost time for Guatemala

In just 3 days, I will be stepping foot in Guatemala. A place that has been on my mind and in prayers so much lately, especially near the end. I’ve even had dreams about it most nights, although in reality, I can only eagerly imagine what my actual experience will be.

At times, most times, I feel no nerves at all. I just feel in my heart a sense that this feels so right, so natural. Now that it’s been closer, though, I have moments of nervousness. But I’m sure that’s normal. Nervousness about traveling. Nervousness about taking this journey with complete strangers. Nervousness about meeting my sponsored child and the unspoken pressure of that day. Nervousness that my family and friends won’t react with the same enthusiasm or passion that I’ll have to the stories of the Guatemalan people when I return. But God put this trip in my path. He also put Evelin in my path. And the people that I’ll be traveling with are no coincidence either. And He did all of this for very important reasons. Lives will be touched. I’m sure mine will, along with, I believe, at least some of the people I meet in Guatemala. And if my journey also convinces one other person to change a life by sponsoring a child, you bet I’ll be thanking God for that being a part of his reasons, too.

My bags are packed. Gifts are lovingly placed inside, picked out carefully, for Evelin and her family. Things for the centers we’ll visit that now still sit in packages inside of a suitcase will soon be in the hands of smiling, laughing, wonderful Guatemalan children. And I’m so blessed that I’ve been lead to this moment.

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Letters from Evelin Adali

In just 6(!) days, I’ll be arriving in Guatemala where I’ll get to meet this beautiful girl in person and walk around the zoo with her. I think about it often, what it’ll be like, but I don’t have any real expectations. I just want her to know how loved and special she is.

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Evelin Adali is 8 and lives in Guatemala

The first letter uses the My Hobbies and Pets template. One of Evelin’s hobbies is to play with friends and she shares her hobbies with her family. She has a pet dog named Perla, and her favorite thing to do with her dog is go for walks. The letter says: “Dear sponsor Alisa, Adali greets you with love; she wishes blessings in your life. She tells you that the name of her dog is Perla. Her sister Darlin is 15 and her brother Erick is 12 years old. What is your pet? What is your favorite pastime? She asks that you pray for all her family. She says goodbye with lots of love and hugs, written by her sister.”

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The second letter uses the My Dreams template. Evelin would like to learn more about God, she would like to study, and she would like to help her family and her community. She would like to be a teacher (a smile whenever I hear this), and she would like to learn how to ride a bicycle. The letter says “Dear sponsor Alisa, Evelin Adali is sending you greetings and lots of hugs and kisses. She hopes that you are well. One day she would like to travel to the United States. She asks you to pray for her family. She says goodbye and sends you a warm hug. Evelin, Written by her sister, Darlin”

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I was really glad to know the ages of her siblings. I had asked, so I’d know for gifts for them. Her sister writes almost all of her letters, so I got her a necklace, and I got her brother a fidget spinner.

I just love 8 year old girl pictures 🙂

Letters from Evelin

I’ve received 2 letters from Evelin so far since I’ve started sponsoring her. I have another one on the way, but right now it says it “has a problem” so hopefully it won’t take too long to come through. I study every word on her letters even more so, as I’ll be visiting Evelin in just 71 days!

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Evelin is 8 and lives in Guatemala.

Her introduction letter used the “Getting to Know Me Better” template. Evelin’s sister wrote this letter for her. I learned the names of her parents and siblings, where in the country that she lives, and that her eyes are brown. She wants me to pray for her family. “Dear sponsor Alisa, Evelin greets you and she is thankful for your sponsorship. She likes to play with dolls. Her favorite doll is the Cinderella. Your child is in first grade and she would like to know how the place where you live is. She sends you hugs. She thanks you for your correspondence for her. Thank you for your love.”

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Her second letter used the “My Family” template. Again it mentions her siblings’ names, and says that she spends the most time with her sister. She lives with her parents, siblings, and uncle. Her food is prepared by her mother. Evelin likes to help the family by washing dishes. She likes going out and having a meal with her family. Her faith background is Evangelic. She asks for prayers for her sick grandmother. This time, her mother wrote the letter for her. “Dear Sponsor, Evelin greets you with a big hug. She thanks you for her sponsorship and for selecting her. She likes to spend time with her family. She likes to seek God. She enjoys going to the Child Development Center where she learns many new things. She wishes that our Lord bless you and that the coming year be of great blessing in your life.”

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The family drawing is super cute! I really like that her family members write for her, because they know her best, and it helps me build a relationship with her whole family. They seem very close, and I can’t wait to meet her mother too and share God’s love with her when I meet Evelin!