Honduras Day 5: Mercedes Fun Day

ADVENTURE-5

Click here to see Day 4’s home visits for Brayan, Valery, and Ludvi(I’ve been having issues with WordPress in my browser, which caused me to not be able to write for awhile. And then I started a new job and have things have been busy and stressful for awhile. So sorry for the HUGE delay in posts!!)

Because of when my trip started, the team who was there for Week 1 did home visits and a fun day for Quelacasque before I arrived. I had the option of coming 2 days earlier for these, but I wanted to arrive when others were, and everyone else coming for Week 2 was all arriving on Saturday. I preferred not to be alone coming into the airport, which turned out to be a good thing, considering how long it took us to find the Sowers people. Also, experiencing the at least 4 hour ride one way, I’m glad that no one had to make a special round trip just for me. I have one child in Quelacasque, Jenny, and even though I wouldn’t be able to visit her home, she was still going to be able to come along to one of the other fun days. That turned out to be the Mercedes day, and a couple other kids from Quelacasque who were newly sponsored by another team member came along, too!

I woke up very early in the morning of day 5 and realized just how swollen my sunburned wrist had become. It had been bothering me quite a bit the day before in terms of pain, and it seemed to be getting worse. Ouch!

I was very excited to meet Jenny for the first time, and the Quelacasque kids were at the pool waiting for us while the Mercedes kids hadn’t arrived yet, which allowed me to spend a little time with just her first. She was such a sweetheart from the start.

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Not too long after, the Mercedes children arrived. I met up with Ludvi and her brother, Valery and her mom, and Brayan and his sister and passed out swimsuits to everyone and blew up the pool toys again. Like the first fun day, I spent the day primarily being in the moment with the kids enjoying our time together. Every so often I’d get out and take pictures quickly, and then rejoin them again.

Valery had a great time, and so did her mom. Her mom was great and attentive with her the whole time, and I could see her enjoying herself too. I was glad when I saw her go down the large water slide near the end.

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One of her friends from school was also there, as she’s sponsored by another sponsor as part of our team, and they had fun playing together.

Brayan was still shy with me again, but he ADORED the water. So I had a blast just watching him play and have fun all day. This is the child that only received one smiling photo of in all the photo updates over the 2+ years I had been sponsoring him, so to see him smile so often, in person, was such a special and wonderful treat!!

His sister, Lourdes, was a great big sister looking out for him, but she also still got to have fun with some of her friends that were there!

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Ludvi reminded me of Maria on the previous fun day, as she was also the most unsure of the water, staying in the shallow area, and ended up changing back into her clothes before the day was done. Ludvi also comes from an area that is even more so in need and higher up in the mountains, like Maria, so it’s very understandable for a day like this to be overwhelming and tiring, especially if it’s a completely new experience. Her smile was undeniable, though!

I got some alone time with her too, when we took a walk down the bridge. She was fascinated by the fish in the water, and started saying how her father used to have fish ponds. I knew that she was being raised by her mother, but she shared with me that her father had passed away a few years ago, due to an accident at work. It sounds like the family moved to their current home in Ollada after he passed, probably because it was what they could afford. With one parent and 9 children living in rural Honduras, Ludvi’s needs are so great, to a point it can be hard for us living in countries like the US to comprehend. But to see her, and her brother, just be kids for the day, having a special day of fun and love with a big meal is something that I know was even extra special for them.

Here, Ludvi is wearing a top and a necklace I gave her the day before, along with her birthday Tiara. It was her birthday just days before I met her, as with Valery, so I gave both them a birthday card and a tiara along with their gifts. She wore that tiara all day after she changed back into her clothes like the princess she is ❤ Even though she’s not smiling in these photos, as smiling for pictures is not a part of growing up for Ludvi like it is for many of us, she was smiling a lot in person.

And then there was Jenny, the biggest fish in the water of the day! I was worried if Jenny would be shy not really knowing anyone, since she was coming along for the Mercedes fun day, but it turns out I didn’t have to worry at all. She has such a fun, curious, adventurous personality! The sweet girl is just full of life and an absolute joy to be around!

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I also got some nice alone time with Jenny as we walked along the bridge and into the greenhouse. She picked flowers for me, made a flower mosaic in the sand, told me which flowers she liked and which ones she didn’t, and even fearlessly walked right up to the geese! 🙂

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I had put the flowers she gave me for my hair in the outside pocket of my backpack. When flying home, I forgot to take them out, but somehow they made it fine through security, and I’m glad to still have them.

It also warmed my heart to see Ludvi and Jenny interacting together and making friends. They are right around the same age, but never would have met otherwise, as they don’t live near each other. I had brought pipe cleaners and beads in my backpack, a hit when I was in Guatemala last year, and I was very glad I had them. I brought them out after Ludvi had changed, for something for her to do, and she and Jenny really enjoyed it. One of the other sponsors also used some with her little girl who was injured and couldn’t play much. And what I didn’t expect was how much fun a few of the younger moms who joined us would have, too! Ludvi’s mom and another mom had a blast making bracelets and pipe cleaner flowers, which I showed them how to make. I loved seeing their joy with the crafting!!

In the second picture, both girls are standing next to each other, and you can see how much taller Jenny, who is actually a little over a year younger than Ludvi, is. Ludvi is especially tiny for a 10 year old, which typically goes hand-in-hand with nutrition in countries like Honduras.

I absolutely love this picture, taken by another sponsor. I could feel how Ludvi needed extra love and attention that day, and I tried to never leave her for long, while also giving  attention to all my kids. But this picture perfectly sums up the unspoken joy and bond that was created between us this day, and I look at it with a full heart, knowing God used me to make His daughter feel extra loved.

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At one point, we all went to see the animals.

Jenny, in per pipe cleaner creation that perfectly complemented her free-spirit, was curious as always.

Valery, her mom, and Ludvi preferred to watch from a distance.

And Brayan’s sister Lourdes kindly helped him reach.

Lunch was a huge treat for everyone who attended again! Ludvi brought along the purse that I had brought her gifts in the day before, and everything was handled with such care. I later saw the very carefully wrapped leftovers of hers and her brother’s, leaving nothing to waste, to bring back home to the rest of the family.

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At the end of the day, we got popsicles for all of the kids again!

Saying goodbye was the hardest part again, although by this point in the trip, I was convinced that I was going to do whatever I could to attend again next year. Valery’s mom told me how hard it was for her to say goodbye, and that she felt like she was saying goodbye to and leaving a family member. And Jenny’s goodbye’s were the hardest. She was the last to leave, since the small group from Quelacasque had to be transported back separately, and she said goodbye to me about 4 times before she actually left. Each time her hugs got tighter and longer, to the point where I was holding back tears by the last one, because it’s just amazing how quickly and strongly a bond between a sponsor and child can form, and how much love is felt on both ends ❤

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I left with another full heart and an armful of bracelets!

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Click here to see the previous posts:

Day 1: Arriving

Day 2: Maria’s Home Visit

Day 2: Yeyson and Greysi’s Home Visit

Day 2: Cristian’s Home Visit

Day 3: El Tablon Fun Day

Day 4: Brayan’s Home Visit

Day 4: Valery’s Home Visit

Day 4: Ludvi’s Home Visit

Click here to continue on to Day 6: Helen’s Home Visit

Honduras Day 4: Ludvi’s Home Visit

ADVENTURE-4

Click here for the previous post, Valery’s home visit.

My third child that I was supposed to visit, Ludvi, wasn’t at the church, because somehow along the way she got left off of the list of children whose sponsors were visiting. But another sponsor had teen girls there that day who lived nearby Ludvi and knew where her home was, so they said they could show us. Ludvi lives in the small, very in need community of Ollada in Mercedes. I had known a little about Ollada before the trip: basically that it is an area of very high poverty and the children have a very long walk to get to the church. But experiencing it for myself was a completely different story…

I piled into the back of the Land Cruiser with 4 children and one staff member while my translator and another staff member, who was a driver, got in the front. I was told early on in the trip how the Land Cruiser was the worst ride, probably because it has just two long benches that face each other for everyone to slide around on. I also mentioned earlier how Mercedes has the bumpiest roads. Now I’ll mention that the drive to Ollada has the worst and bumpiest roads in Mercedes! So you can start to imagine what this trip was like.

As we were bumping along, my knuckles white with my grips on the bench, getting air time over the biggest bumps and getting actually stuck on the biggest hills, tires spinning, I had a little time to also register just how long of a drive this was. And if it was a long drive, it’s SOO much longer of a walk- a walk that these kids are making. That Ludvi is making. The kids in the Land Cruiser with us were having a great time, laughing and smiling, as they obviously aren’t used to being transported home like this. I noticed that they didn’t need to hang on as tightly as I did either. I’ll blame it on my higher center of gravity 😉

Finally, the girls told us we had arrived. We got out of the vehicle, and I was relieved to be on the ground. Then they directed us down a very very steep hill. The girls were sweet, a hill like this being commonplace to them, and they stayed close by as we went down. I was bound and determined not to fall and hurt myself this trip, especially as I’m entering the home of one of my sponsored children, so I took it very slow, holding onto tree branches or the barbed wire in between the barbs whenever I could. That starts to paint a picture…

As we arrived and introduced ourselves, Ludvi’s mom called for her. When she came out, I noticed how tiny she was for a girl who had just turned 10. Yes, everyone in Honduras and Central America as a whole are smaller than in the US, and malnutrition is a real and common cause of this, but she was remarkably petite standing there, with her sweet smile, just like in her photos. Her mother graciously invited me into their very small home, even though we came unannounced. There were children everywhere! Ludvi has 9 siblings, but not all of the children there at the time where her siblings; some were neighbors. Not even all of us could fit inside the main hall of the home, but they put chairs out for my translator and me and everyone stood around us. Ludvi’s toddler brother playfully smiled at me and touched my leg throughout our visit. Her mother was holding a sweet child with cerebral palsy, who I believe is a cousin of Ludvi’s.

In talking with Ludvi and her mom during the visit, what stood out to me the most was how much Ludvi’s education meant to both of them. I realized that she was another child who would not be able to be attending school if it wasn’t for being registered in the Manna 4 Lempira program and receiving the backpack with school supplies and school shoes. Her mom asked if I would continue supporting her in school, and I said absolutely I would. She wants to be a teacher, and I was happy to tell her that I’m there to support her in that and any goals she has. She thanked me many times during our two days together for the school supplies. It’s something that most kids here in the US take for granted. Many even dread going shopping for them. And here, they meant everything to this beautiful girl.

We got some more time to talk, but we didn’t stay as long as some of the other home visits, because we did come unannounced and her poor mother had a lot going on with a lot of kids. I knew that she didn’t have a father, and I found out that he died. It wasn’t until the next day at the pool that I would find out more details. God bless this beautiful woman raising her 10 sweet children on her own.

Before we left, we asked about taking a photo, as always. There was actually not enough space outside of the home for all of us to stand. So we went down another, smaller hill, while my translator stayed up above to take the pictures. I realized that this lack of space meant lack of opportunities for the children to play outside the house.

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The first picture started out serious, but quickly the smiles evolved!

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Thankfully, the walk back up the very very steep hill was easier than the walk down. You may think this is where my adventure in Ollada ended, but actually, it was far from over. Because, due to a miscommunication among the Sowers staff, I actually ended up spending another at least 2 hours parked in the Land Cruiser in Ollada with several of the children. When we first parked, the girls and the boy who had ridden up with us curiously climbed back in. As time went on, though, more and more siblings and neighbors started joining. What resulted was 2 precious hours that I wouldn’t trade for the world in the back of a hot vehicle with children whose language I barely could speak any of. But smiles and laughs are universal, and we shared a lot of those. I got out my phone, and they each wanted their picture taken.

 

Then they took the reigns on my phone, even learning how to play some of the games. Their favorite app was snapchat, though! I wish I could have taken video of them experiencing it for the first time! There was so much laughing coming from the back of that Land Cruiser up in the hills of Ollada that afternoon.

 

By the end, they figured out how to save some of their snapchat pictures.

 

Finally, the staff figured out no one was coming to meet us, and it was time to go. Looking at these kids, it’s easy to see the need. This is the most needy community I saw in my time in Honduras, and it’s probably the most needy that Manna serves. But I got to see way past all that, to the smiles and personalities and hearts that are so big! And for that, I wouldn’t have had the day happen any other way.

Driving out of Mercedes in the rain:

 

 

Click here to continue on to the Mercedes Fun Day.

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 Ludvi

Next up from the Mercedes church is beautiful Ludvi. I’ll be just missing her birthday (it’s this Thursday), so she’ll be 10 by the time I visit her.

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“Hello! How are you? I hope that you are well, dear sponsor. I am happy because I am going to fulfill another year of life. Thanks to God, who gives me strength to move forward. I would like to be able to walk in the church someday and see you. God is wonderful. God makes many beautiful things for the world. I really like to play ball and cars. I spend time playing with my friends. I am about to get out of school. My teacher is good with me. For that, I love her very much. Her name is Mayra. She is a good teacher. I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas with your dear family. A greeting and many hugs through the long distance. Thanks for everything. I love you in the love of God. With much love and affection for you, Ludvi”

I get a little bit of chills as I reread how she’d like to be able to walk into the church and see me, because it’s going to be happening so soon!!

“Hello! How are you? I am very well, and I am very proud that you are my sponsor. I am very grateful for all that you gave me; the notebooks, the pens, and the erasers. I love you. I liked the corn crafts. I colored them. I like the play doh. Thanks for everything. God bless you! I really like the backpack. My family is very happy. I really like the little monkey. It is pretty. I am 9 years old. My birthday is June 21. Thanks for everything. God bless you!”

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“My favorite animal is the rabbit. I like it because it is pretty. I also like dogs, ducks, and chickens. I would like to see a monkey in person. I have animals in my house to take care of. I am very grateful for the gifts you have sent me; the books and the toys that were inside. They are very useful for my studies. My mama and I are so grateful. I do not have a papa, but with the help of God and you, I am moving forward with my studies. Thank you! God bless you!”

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She is so sweet, isn’t she? With 9 siblings and a single mother, I am sure that the support of Manna 4 Lempira and the backpacks and shoes provided are what are keeping her in school, and I’m so grateful for that and to get to contribute to it!

Photo Friday: New Photos of My Manna Mercedes Children

We recently received new photos of our Manna 4 Lempira children receiving the letters we sent them and new Bibles. I’m going to break them down by church, starting with Mercedes. It’s hard to believe that in just 29 days, I’ll be arriving in Honduras and seeing these children very soon! I still have some more shopping and lots of packing to do, but I’m so excited to meet them and spend time with them in person!

Brayan, 5, usually always has the same serious face in all of his photos (except one). But this time he attempted a smile! 🙂 He’s also wearing a shirt I sent him, which is very big, but at least he’ll grow into it.

Ludvi, 9, seems to be wise beyond her years and I love the peaceful look on her face with the natural background outside.

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Velery, 3, has her hair is blowing across her face, but she has the most adorable curly hair. I have a feeling she’s going to be a big personality.

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Angie, 3, is my newest Manna child. The Mercedes fun day is definitely going to be my busiest day with 3 little ones!

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New Photos of Brayan, Ludvi, and Velery!

Last month, the Manna 4 Lempira team visited Honduras to distribute backpacks, shoes, and letters to the children. All of the photos are now posted, and it’s such a joy to see these children with the items I lovingly picked out and packed for them!! I’m going to post the pictures by center, so first up is my children who attend the Mercedes feeding center.

Here is Brayan, who is still sticking with the grumpy photo face… It’s his signature! 🙂

Brayan just turned 5 this month, and I will have sponsored him for 2 years this spring!

Next is Ludvi, who I started sponsoring over the summer when my previous child, Deilin, left the program. She is 9 years old.

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I just love how she’s beaming with the gift of her backpack!! Ludvi lives with her unemployed mother and 9 siblings, so she has very little. I was so excited to treat her and give her special things to call her own!

And finally is little Velery, who is one of my more recently sponsored Manna children. I fell in love with her spunk in her photos and video, and she’s still letting it shine through!

Velery is 3 and she just couldn’t be any cuter! Those curls are precious, and I love the dress. She seems to be happy with her baby doll!

Letters from Ludvi

This was my first time hearing from sweet Ludvi, who I sponsored in the summer after Deylin left the program, and she sent me not one but two letters! Ludvi comes from a very impoverished area, and she has one of the farthest walks to get to the Manna center. She’s also the only one of ten children in her family currently enrolled, and she wants to be a preacher when she grows up. Her commitment is extremely inspiring to me!

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Ludvi is 9 and lives in the Mercedes community of Lempira, Honduras.

First letter: “I greet you in the blessed name of Jesus. i am very happy to be here. I send you many greetings. I have been praying for you with a lot of love and affection. I hope that you are well. Blessings for my sponsor. God bless you! I love you. I love you very much. I have been praying for you. Hell dear sponsor. I am very happy. I love you. I miss you.”

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Second letter: “Hello! How are you? I greet you affectionately, wishing that you are well, wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year full of many blessings. I thank you for the nice gift that you have sent me. It is a great blessing for me. Thank you! God bless you!”

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My heart just melts from that first letter…