Welcoming a Special Child

In Honduras, the Hall family shared with us their plans to move their family from the US to Honduras by January. It was something they had thought and prayed a lot about, and something that couldn’t feel more right to them. Seeing them there, in their element, I could definitely see why. The Halls are remarkable people with huge hearts, and they have 3 smart, fun, loving kids as well! It was special to get to be there as they made steps to begin this huge new chapter in their lives.

One of the decisions that they made was that they really want to be there for all the children in moving there, which means not sponsoring only certain children. I know this had to be an incredibly hard decision to make, because even though they will continue seeing their sponsored children regularly, releasing them into the hands of other sponsors is still a big deal. Not long after arriving back home, the Halls made their upcoming move to Honduras an announcement through the Manna 4 Lempira and their personal pages. Soon after that, their children became available for sponsorship. It was noted that priority would be given to those who already sponsored siblings/family members of any of these children.

So of course in Honduras, the fact that Brayan and Ayumi (Junior’s brother and nephew both sponsored by the Halls) were going to be needing new sponsors soon was in the back of my mind. I guess I figured it would happen a little farther into the future. When the announcement came about them being available for sponsorship, I felt a HUGE pull. And I immediately started praying. A lot. I knew I needed to make a decision quickly, and I knew I needed God’s help in making it. At the time, I was between teaching jobs and technically unemployed. As much as I WANTED to sponsor both of them, it didn’t feel financially responsible to. So then I had to decide and pray some more. I loved both of these boys dearly when I met them. However, I did spend more time with Ayumi. He and Junior are only 15 days apart in age. They’re in the same class, they live together, and are as close as close can be. Every time I would try to picture someone sponsoring Ayumi, I kept feeling strongly that that someone had to be me. I couldn’t get the way he so freely and lovingly gave me so many hugs the day at the pool, despite a very difficult early life, out of my head.

And so finally I knew what I had to do. I sponsored Ayumi, and committed to advocating for Brayan.

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Here are some pictures of him over the years.

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Eventually, I got a Facebook message that couldn’t make me any happier! Another sponsor from our team had decided to sponsor Brayan. And not just any sponsor. She sponsors the other Brayan from the group the day at the pool, the 4th boy in this photo that she took!

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It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly, and it’s just further evidence of God’s hand in it all along. It still makes me smile to think that Brayan has a fantastic sponsor, and one who shares just as much love for these boys as I do!!

Honduras Day 7: Betania Fun Day

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Click here to view yesterday’s post, Day 6: Diego’s Home Visit.

Waking up this morning was definitely bittersweet, as we would be saying goodbye to Hotel Guancascos and Gracias. It was our last fun day, and Sowers 4 Pastors team decided it would be best to have us packed and loaded up before we got to the pool, so that we could leave straight from there. After I finished up the last of my packing, I spent the rest of the morning taking everything in one last time.

 

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I think since this was was the smallest group for a fun day, it was definitely our calmest group of the week. It was nice to end the week this way, because as excited as we were to spend time with these children, we were also a bit exhausted and some were sick. I wasn’t sick, but it was a fantastic, quieter last pool day. Unfortunately for the Betania children, though, we had far less pool toys than we had the other days. This is due to a combination of some getting broken due to “big kids” (aka translators) using them on the slides and also some getting mysteriously taken by another group at the pool. We salvaged what we could, and thankfully the kids didn’t really know the difference.

The only downside was that my translator had an exam that day, so she couldn’t be there. I had gotten spoiled by her always being around to help translate on pool days, because she was excellent, so I was on my own with my limited Spanish this day, going to get other nearby translators at times I really needed help.

Helen was the loudest child at the pool that day 😉 But her enthusiasm and excitement were so fun to watch and take part in. Here are some of her poses for me. Shy is not in this girl’s vocabulary!

 

Helen’s cousin and one of her closest friends, Amy, is sponsored by one of the other sponsors visiting, so they had a great time playing together.

 

We took a girls walk down the bridge when I went with Helen, Amy, and Heydi. Even without a translator, it was fun spending a little girl time together enjoying the gorgeous views, the fish, and the flowers.

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Quite the opposite of Helen, Heydi is definitely on the quiet end. But she is such a sweet, loving, easygoing girl. She loved just floating and relaxing in the water, and we got to spend awhile playing catch together, in addition to the time I got to spend together in one of the smaller pools with all my kids.

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She even went down the big slide at one point!

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Diego was as adorable as always. I mean just look at this smile…

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He definitely wasn’t scared of the water, showing off his swimming for me and even going underwater!

 

 

And Junior was just smiles from start to finish! I was a little worried about him going in, if his vision would be off and then with his burns, but Brayan and Ayumi, his brother and nephew, looked out for him the entire time too, along with all the sponsors helping me out with keeping a closer eye on him, because he was everywhere! He is such a joyful kid.

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One of the other sponsors was great with the boys, and they ate it up!

 

I had already pretty much fallen in love with Ayumi from the day before on home visits, but if I hadn’t, I completely did on this day. He kept coming up to me throughout the day and giving me spontaneous hugs. I knew enough about his life to know he’s had an especially difficult one, but he was so happy this day and it was incredibly easy to bond with him, too!

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Here are Junior and Ayumi jumping in together.

 

Speaking of the boys, I couldn’t stop talking about how impressed I was with them. Seriously. The group of Junior, Brayan, Ayumi, and another Bryan sponsored by another team member, impressed me all day long. They were so respectful, helpful, and polite. I got to see a lot of kids over the week at the pool, and kids in Honduras act just like kids in the US or anywhere. Boys will be boys. And while these boys knew how to have fun, they were conscientious, never obnoxious, grateful, loving and affectionate, and they even gladly helped me deflate the inflatable toys at the end of the day. All in all, something about this group of boys was exceptional ❤

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Instead of popsicles, today, they decided to do a mid-morning snack of baleadas. Baleadas are a traditional Honduran dish, consisting of a folded over flour tortilla containing beans, cheese, and crema. The kiddos gobbled them up!

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After swimming was done and everyone got changed, we hung out and took a few pictures before it was time to leave.

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Again, with my limited Spanish, I showed them pictures of my family and cat and parts of my life that I had on my phone. Thankfully another translator came around and helped translate our goodbyes, maybe the hardest ones yet, since there were no more days this trip to look forward to seeing more children.

While waiting for the cars to load, some of the kids got some last minute playing on the playground. Here are Junior and Ayumi on the seesaw.

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And Helen on the swings with an expression of pure joy…

 

We left straight from the pool, feeling a little gross, to begin our 5 hour drive to San Pedro Sula, where we’d spend the night. By this point, after another full day in the sun, my sunburn was even worse and incredibly painful. At one rest stop, I got a bottled water mostly so I could put the cold bottle on it. I also had trouble keeping my eyes open as we once again bumped along in the large van for all those hours.

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Finally we arrived in San Pedro Sula. For dinner, we went to Pizza Hut, a frequent visit of Manna teams. However, this wasn’t any kind of Pizza Hut you’d see in the States. It was a nice, sit-down restaurant. Several team members commented that it had the best wi-fi we’d experienced all trip. We sat on a large, leather bench and waited to be seated. We agreed to sit in the kids area, since we had several kids in our group. Yes, this Pizza Hut had a kids area and a play place! A big one! The menu also contained many more items than just the pizzas, pasta, and wings we’re used to here. One thing they didn’t have, though, that I’m used to here, is gluten free pizza. Not that I needed a whole pizza just for me, anyway. I got the salad bar. And wow, it was a great one and FRESH. The pineapples on it, still stand out to me as being delicious and wonderfully fresh, not the canned pineapples we’re used to here in salad bars.

The hotel room was huge, and my room was very high up. Although it didn’t have the charm and upkeep of Hotel Guancascos, but it was fine and a nice, safe place to stay for the night.

 

A view of San Pedro Sula at night:

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And then a funny thing happened a little after I got into bed. Fireworks started going off right outside the hotel! They weren’t on my side, so I couldn’t see them, but other team members staying on the other side of the hotel even had sparks land on their balconies :O Here is a short video I took of the noise. It was just something you could only laugh about!!

 

 

Click here to continue on to Day 8: Leaving Honduras.

Honduras Day 6: Junior’s Home Visit

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Click here to see yesterday’s post, Day 6: Heydi’s home visit.

After Heydi’s home visit, it was time to visit Junior’s home. The Hall family, who has sponsored Junior’s brother and nephew, had just done their home visit at the house before me. As I had mentioned a few days before my trip, I found out days before I left for Honduras that Junior and his family had gotten in a bad truck accident the month before. Miraculously, they were all okay, but Junior was one of the worst injured, and has lasting effects with his vision. After hearing the news, I was really grateful for the timing of my visit to be able to offer some extra love and encouragement to him and his family after the accident.

I was welcomed into the home by Junior’s mother and other family members like I had been a part of their family my whole life. It was an incredible and special feeling, and one that I won’t forget. His mother was so happy and so loving towards me, and I still marvel in the bond that sponsorship creates across the distance, even before visiting. I always tell my new sponsored and correspondent children when I start writing to them that we are family now and I love them already, and I mean it. I start loving and praying for all of them immediately. Having the privilege to meet several of my sponsored children, I can say that the feelings are definitely reciprocal.

I was humbled by the generosity and love of this family as I learned more about the accident. They were on their way home from one of the older daughters’ weddings, all riding in the back of a truck. About 20 people in the back of a truck is a common sight in Central America. The truck was trying to pass a motorcycle, also common, and ended up flipping and rolling with the passengers loosely in the back. It truly is a miracle that they all are okay to tell about it, and this is a family of very strong faith. It’s their faith that got them through in the aftermath. We talked about how God is protecting them and has big plans for their family. Junior told me about his dreams for the future, which include being a firefighter.

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Junior was in the hospital for a week after the accident for head trauma. He does still have lasting effects in the burns on the side of his face and his eye being crossed, but it could be SO much worse. It made me so happy to see Junior, the perpetually smiling boy in all of the photos, still smiling in person. He is the one, along with his family, who was praying for my arrival to Honduras before my trip was even a reality, and he is very special ❤

Along with Junior, it was very easy to fall in love with his older brother Brayan and his nephew, who is actually the same age, Ayumi. Both boys were kind, thoughtful, and eager to share love, just like Junior.

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Junior and Ayumi are less than a month apart, and attend the same class at school. Since their school is a very short walk away, they asked if they could take me there. Of course I said yes! The class even went to visit Junior when he was in the hospital, which I thought was very sweet.

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As far as schools in the area go, it was one of the nicer ones. My translator asked and confirmed that it was a school that received money from the government, as some do. I asked how they decide which schools receive the money, if it goes to ones who need it most, and she said sometimes, but that’s not always the case. Here, though, this is a community that’s clearly benefiting from it.

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The classroom actually has 5th and 2nd grades in it together. Junior and Ayumi are in 5th grade. When we came, all the students were learning math together. As a teacher, I’m impressed by these teachers who can teach such different ages simultaneously. The teacher was very sweet, stopping class for our visit, and the kids were happy and well-behaved. Junior ate up all the attention he got for bringing me, and he was loving every bit of it 🙂 Walking through the school as the only gringo there, I did get quite a bit of attention!

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Back at the house, I spent a little more time with the family before I said goodbye. We all got a very good and refreshing sweet rice milk drink, and I got to meet a few other members of the family as well. Meeting them was a pleasure, and I can’t wait to visit them again!

Click here to continue on to Day 6: Diego’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 Junior

Junior and Heidy, two of my kiddos from Mi Betania, another church through Manna 4 Lempira, are two that I can always count on for long letters, extra letters, and incredible sweetness. Not that I don’t get those things from the others, also, but I get it consistently every time with these two.

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Junior is 10

“This moment is wonderful to take this pen and paper in my hands to tell you that my family and I are well here in Honduras and that you re well with your dear family. I thank God for the privilege He gives me to write you another letter. It is to tell you that I finished my vacation week. Monday, the 17th of the same month, I returned to classes. I tell you that in this Holy Week, I did not swim in the river. One day I went to see my aunt, my father’s sister. One day I went to visit my mother’s sisters. I walked with my sisters and my three nephews/nieces. My favorite games are soccer, marbles, and to walk in the neighborhood. I love to see you and your students in the photo. I would rejoice for you to come visit so I can meet you so we can shake hands and I could give you my hug. My mother and I are praying for you. I pray a lot for you that God blesses you each day. May God protect on your trip to our country, Honduras. Receive this letter with much appreciation. Receive hugs and kisses through the distance. May God bless you today, tomorrow, and always.”

He didn’t know I was coming to visit when he wrote this, obviously, so to hear him say that he was already praying for my visit there is still pretty incredible for me to think of. Junior always tells me he wants me to come visit, but to hear him specifically say he’s praying for protection on my trip, which he had no clue about, shows me I’m clearly on the right path with this trip.

“I greet you with much love and affection, hoping that God keeps you well. Well, after this short greeting, I continue. I tell you that it is already almost Christmas. We make tamales, bread, and pork. We set off firecrackers on the 31st. We blow up a doll with firecrackers. I would like to know how you celebrate Christmas in your country. It is also near the time of coffee harvest where we can earn money to help our parents. We enjoy cutting coffee. I go with my brother and my father. My mother takes care of my niece. Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year! May God shower you with many blessings. With much love and affection, Junior”

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“Hello my dear sponsor! I am happy for your wonderful gift. i am grateful to God and to you for the gift you sent me. Thanks a lot! May God continue blessing the lives of you and your family. I hope that you receive this short letter. My family and I are very well. My parents, siblings, nephews, and I have been very well. I am on my vacations, but I return to classes on February 15. I am going to 5th grade. I will enjoy my backpack, my notebooks and my shoes. I tell you that I go to the field to cut coffee because we are in coffee season. Thanks to God He is giving us health and intelligence to cut gallons. We earn money to buy sweets and cookies and to take them to school. I hope to meet you, dear Alisa, so that I can put my arms around you and give you many hugs. My mama also says that she wants to meet you. I am now going to say goodbye. May God continue blessing Betania. We will receive you with open arms. These are my few words. Receive many hugs and kisses through the distance. I love you very much. I miss you.”

“My favorite animal is the elephant. I like them because they have big trunks. I also like lions, tigers, and dogs. I would like to see a lion in person. I only have a dog at home. I love you very much. I ask God to continue pouring blessing on your life and the lives of all your family. I also ask your prayers for me. I am very grateful for everything you have given me because all of it is useful. Thanks a lot! TKM (te quiero mucho)- I love you very much”

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Just yesterday I learned (as some of the team is already in Honduras and visiting the churches), that Junior experienced a bad truck accident in May and he’s still recovering. Manna 4 Lempira is such a blessing, because they’re getting him in to see a specialist next month. The doctors at the hospital think he will continue to recover. I was shocked and devastated to hear the news, but so thankful that he is alive and that it could have been so much worse. I’m so eager to go give him hugs and encouragement in whatever condition he’s in, and I can’t help but think, again, that the timing of my trip isn’t an accident.

Photo Friday: New Photos of my Manna Betania and Quelacasque Children

15 days until I arrive in Honduras with Manna 4 Lempira! It’s exciting how close it is! I leave tomorrow for another trip, and then when I get back I get to start packing to go see these awesome kids. I hope everything fits!

Heidy, 12, was my first sponsored Manna child, so she’s very special to me. In the over 2 years that I’ve sponsored her, I’ve watched her grow and blossom into a more confident young lady. She still has the kindest heart. In both of these pictures, which were taken on separate days, she is wearing a dress I sent her.

Junior, 10, has never stopped smiling in the 2 years I’ve “known” him. He is such a joyful personality and I can’t wait to see it in person! He is looking so much more grown up in these latest photos.

Diego, 6, is the one out of all of my Manna children that I’ve seen the least photos of and gotten the least letters from. I’m hoping getting to meet him and his family in person will strengthen their attendance at church and the program. I didn’t receive a photo of him this time.

Jenny, 8, is my only Quelacasque child. I won’t be there for the church visit and fun day for Quelacasque, unfortunately, but thankfully she still will get to join along on one of the other fun days so that we still get to meet each other. I haven’t sponsored her for very long, yet, but sometimes she looks like she bears a burden. I’m so happy to see her big smile here!

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Photo Friday: New Photos of Heidy, Junior, and Diego!

The next new Manna 4 Lempira photos I’m sharing are of my children who attend the Mi Betania feeding center in rural Honduras.

First is Junior, who I’ve had as a correspondent for over a  year and a half, and I have never seen this boy without a smile. He is just amazing!

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I was blessed with some extra photos of my 9 year old Junior. I love getting to see him open his backpack! Two of the other boys in his very large family happen to be sponsored by the family who runs the Manna program. I didn’t know this until after I chose him, and it has often meant extra photos, which I happily treasure!

Next is beautiful Heidy, my first Manna child. This newly 12 year old girl has my heart.

Her confidence in that smile and pose mean the world to me. Last year, the barbie doll was definitely her favorite of the things I sent her. This year I picked out an Anna from Frozen barbie, because I know she is an Anna fan!

And then there’s Diego, a more recently sponsored child and one I actually have the fewest pictures of. I was so eager to see new pictures of him, and these certainly did not disappoint!

Diego is 5 and so stinkin’ cute. I hope he loves the soccer ball. He had been waiting a long time for a sponsor when I chose him, so to see him with my letter and the backpack I sent him makes me very happy. Plus he’s wearing yellow and a dinosaur! Clearly we’re meant to be connected! 🙂