If you’ve been to a concert of mine you’ve probably heard this story. My sponsored child, Yanci, changed the direction of my life in 2005. That was the year I went on a trip with Compassion International to El Salvador, to meet my little girl.
Large families were wedged into one-room, corrugated metal shacks. Children competed with dogs picking through trash heaps for food. I was told Yanci’s neighborhood was too dangerous for me to visit, so she was brought to my hotel with a translator.
I discovered that because of Compassion International, Yanci’s life was completely different from the life of her peers. As a sponsored child, Yanci went to school, had plenty of food and learned about God in the context of her own language and culture. She had a glimmer of hope for the future, despite the fear and sadness that clouded her family.
You see, Yanci’s father was the “muscle” in the local gang. He not only abused alcohol, he was physically and verbally abusive to his family. Through a translator, I learned that my little Yanci would stand between her dad and her mom, or her dad and her younger sister, in an attempt to take the brunt of the abuse. She wanted to save her mom and sister from her father’s wrath. This broke me to my core.
I realized extreme poverty is not only about lack of “enough.” It makes children highly vulnerable to external forces that are a function of impoverished communities. In Yanci’s neighborhood, the gang culture was rampant. Children were enlisted into gangs. Some were even required to service gang members. They were powerless; their lives were unspeakable.
But sponsorship gives children a solid line of defense against victimization. By making sure children have enough, they are less vulnerable to the darkness and desperation that surrounds them. Equally important, sponsored children are under the care and supervision of their local church. That means local church workers who love these children can stand up on their behalf when they see intervention is required.
Because of sponsorship, Yanci was not only saved spiritually, she was saved from the gang. But her father was now the one who needed to be saved.
Read more to learn about the journey of Yanci’s father.