It was only one day. Less even. Less than 24 hours spent with two girls he had never met but who already had stolen his heart.
Michael Huskey, a software consultant from Forth Worth, Texas, was among 22 people who traveled to Nicaragua for the country's first Compassion Sponsor Tour.
Huskey traveled 1,500 miles to meet Xochilt Saballos Bravo and Yubelka Solis, the two Nicaraguan girls he sponsors. They had most of their interaction on one glorious day. Though their get-together was fleeting, Huskey said the experience he had with the two girls would last a lifetime.
Overwhelmed by Love
The day was a typical one for June in Nicaragua. Huskey ventured out into the hot, humid morning and was promptly bathed in sunshine. He gathered at 7:30 a.m. with the other sponsors and Compassion staff at the country office in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua. Michael boarded a bus on his way to meet the two little girls he had traveled so far to see.
Hopping off the bus and scanning the crowd of nearly 90 children, sponsors and staff, Michael spotted the two girls whom he had only seen previously in photographs. The girls were strangers to each other. But Michael recognized them both.
Yubelka, the precocious one, ran up and threw her arms around Michael's neck and planted a kiss on each cheek. Xochilt, more reserved, hung back and waited quietly to show Michael her report card and graduation pictures from elementary school.
From that moment on, Michael had two shadows. When Michael walked, the girls scurried next to him. The day would be wonderful a boat ride on the Lago de Nicaragua (Lake of Nicaragua) and then dinner at a fancy restaurant. A normal outing for some but for Yulbeka and Xochilt it was an extraordinary time to spend with someone who cared about them. The two girls both come from homes headed by single moms. It was apparent in their interaction with Michael that they saw him as a father figure.
The Boat Ride
After the initial meeting, the three of them looked like an unusual band of triplets always together as they boarded the bus and sat together on the trip to the lake.
Virtually ignoring the beautiful boat ride on the largest freshwater lake in Central America, the two girls concentrated much of their energy on Michael. They asked him question after question.
"Do you have daughters?" they asked.
"No," Michael said. "I have two grown sons. But no daughters. You are the daughters I never had."
The trip continued, exposing many sponsors and children to a lot of firsts. For some children it was the first time they had been on such a ride. For some sponsors it was the first time they had seen Nicaragua's wildlife, its birds, thick greenery and the many islands that surround the lake.
And for Xochilt, Yubelka and Michael, it was the first time all three had felt such God-given love from someone they had just met.
Heading to the restaurant after the boat ride, little Yubelka began to fall asleep. Drowsily she looked up and gave Michael a huge smile.
"That smile made the whole trip worthwhile," he said. "I know why God has a special place in His heart for children."
All too quickly, the day was over. And days later, Michael boarded a plane to return to Forth Worth. On the plane, a slide show played in his mind memories of Yubelka and Xochilt on the playground, eating at the restaurant, giving them gifts memories of the one day he spent with "his girls."
It was this feeling that stayed with him and pushed him to realize that he had to visit all six countries where he had sponsored children, write each of his kids every month and tell the whole world family, friends and acquaintances about his two daughters.
The trip to Nicaragua was Michael's first sponsor tour but, he says, it won't be his last.