rebelling against low expectations

How Being a Pen Pal Changed My Life


“I would love to meet you and it would be a day I would not forget.” These precious words came from halfway across the world. From a village made of mud and sticks. From a young girl who has impacted my life forever.

I refolded the piece of paper and gazed at the picture of the dark-skinned young girl smiling up at me.

She comes from an underprivileged family in Uganda and is part of a program called Compassion International, an organization dedicated to discipling children for Christ and providing for them and their families, many of whom have no fixed source of income and work as day laborers.

Ever since my parents visited Uganda, they have had a heart for the wonderful Ugandan people. Each time my parents had a child, they sponsored a child of the same age in Africa –three in Uganda and one in Tanzania.

Besides supporting our sponsored children with money, we have the privilege of writing letters to them. This special relationship between my sponsored child and me has changed my life in many ways.

Here is why this treasured relationship is so special to me and how you can change the life of a child in need of basic supplies and the Gospel.

A Relationship Like This Makes One Aware of How Blessed We Are

Every time we send a special extra gift of money on a birthday or on Christmas, my sponsored child –we’ll call her Sarah –has written back immediately, detailing exactly what she bought and how she and her family used it.

Even the simplest things, such as hygiene products or candy have brought great joy to Sarah’s life. Things we in the States take for granted so often, like a bar of soap or a blanket, are treasures to her.

This relationship has shown me how privileged we are to live in places where we don’t have to worry about which child is going to be fed that day.

We have nicely furnished homes with televisions, appliances, and dozens and dozens of books. Things these children never would dare dream about having.

Through the letters between Sarah and I, I’ve realized that taking these things for granted isn’t just dismissive. It’s selfish.

The ugly monster of guilt has tried to creep in, tempting me to feel guilty about my good situation. Maybe you’ve experienced that feeling too? The important thing to remember is that God put us where we are for a reason. We don’t have any reason to feel guilty about our situation. God doesn’t want us to.

But God does want us to think about how blessed we are and be grateful. For example, education in Africa is a complete luxury, yet we often complain about it. God wants us to be aware of His blessings to us, and most of all praise Him for all He has done!

On the Compassion International website, it is very clear that pictures are much appreciated but pictures of your house, car, or any other “luxury” are strictly prohibited. These kinds of pictures convey to the child that all their sponsor cares about is displaying their wealth. When these children live in primitive huts, they wouldn’t understand our three-story houses and flashy cars.

Most of all, this relationship has shown me how selfless Sarah is. During the many years I’ve had her as a pen pal and sister in Christ, I’ve never once heard her complain.

This is how Christ wants us to live: selfless and focused on the One who gave us all we have. We can all learn a valuable lesson on selflessness from these impoverished but contended children.

A Relationship Like This Requires Faith

I glance at the picture I’m holding, observing the dusty sandals on Sarah’s feet and her tattered dress. Aside from pictures and letters, that’s really all I know about this person we give money to every month and pray for almost every day.

The only thing I know besides that is that one day I’ll be able to meet Sarah in person.

Until then, this special relationship really requires faith and not sight. Hebrews 11:1, ESV, states that “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This verse perfectly wraps up what kind of faith is expected of me for this relationship.

I have to shape what I think Sarah’s character is like in my head since I have never met her. The fact is, however, that the relationship requires equal faith in her that this strange mzungu from America actually loves her and prays for her and cares about her wellbeing.

Until the day we meet, whether on earth or in Heaven, we both have to live by faith.

A Relationship Like This Reminds a Child That They Actually Matter

One of Compassion International’s main goals is to remind children that they matter.

That they can make a difference. That somebody truly loves them.

Compassion does this by introducing children to the Gospel of Christ and telling them that they are somebody special. Young, impoverished children sometimes feel they have no future but to grow up, get a family, and scrape by the skin of their teeth to provide for their family. They believe the lies of the cultural norm that say they cannot be anyone but an impoverished person with no chance for higher education.

The sponsor plays a huge role in combating those lies, encouraging their sponsor child through letters telling them they are loved and prayed for. This simple act means the world to these precious children.

Sometimes the children don’t have anyone to love them, and that’s where we can come in.

Psalm 36:5, ESV, says, “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the clouds.”

Will we not share this love with others who’ve never felt it?

We are blessed enough to have everything we need. Will we refuse to share it with those who have none?

Will you join me in doing hard things for God’s glory? If you feel God pressing on your heart to bring a child out of darkness and into Eternal Light, go to

You can impact the life of a child by helping them realize they are special and loved. You can speak up for these children who have no way to speak up for themselves.

Let God surprise you in how you can do hard things to change somebody else’s life for God’s glory.

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About the author

Caitlyn Koser

Caitlyn Koser is a young homeschooled writer who lives in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. She loves Jesus, good books, and good friends. She loves reading and writing historical- and non-fiction. When not reading, writing, or making long cliche-replacement lists, she is usually outside in God's creation or quizzing her siblings on science trivia questions.


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By Caitlyn Koser
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