Melisa Macias has long believed that God holds her future in His hands. Her Compassion sponsorship only reinforced that belief.
For Melisa, God's words to Jeremiah hold special meaning:
"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" (Jeremiah 1:5).
More than 20 years ago, when Melisa's mother learned she was pregnant, she and her husband immediately went to a clinic to terminate the pregnancy. They were barely out of their teens and had no money, no way of caring for a child.
But as they stood in the dusty waiting room, Melisa's father had second thoughts. He didn't know why. He just knew they couldn't do this. So they kept the baby. For just as Jeremiah says, God already knew this girl. And He had other plans for her.
God's Plan Begins
Despite her parents' change of heart, Melisa was born into an unpredictable, often violent home. Her childhood was filled with verbal abuse and bitterness. She became shy and skittish, afraid that the least little mistake would result in shouts from parents.
At night, she put her fingers in her ears, trying to block out the fighting. When Melisa was 8, her father left, leaving her mother angrier and more unpredictable than ever. After he left, Melisa's grandmother stepped in.
She began taking her granddaughter to the Sanctity Road Mission Church, a Compassion partner church that ran the El Shaday Student Center (EC-378) in Portoviejo. Melisa was soon registered at the center. After a lifetime of being told she wasn't good enough, Melisa finally found the encouragement and love she had longed for.
"I had almost lost all self-confidence by the time I entered the program," says Melisa. "But everyone at the center offered wonderful support to me. My self-esteem increased bit by bit. The people the pastor, my Sunday school teacher and the tutors gave me the confidence to believe in myself. They taught me that God had a special purpose for my life."
"Someone Believed in Me"
While the relationships at the student center were vital to Melisa's growth, she was especially touched by her relationship with her sponsor, Carrie.
"Since I was very, very little I kept each and every letter from Carrie. They are a real treasure to me," says Melisa. "I always thought no one cared for me, but having my sponsor's support brought strength to my life. I knew someone believed in me without even knowing me in person."
Seeds of Hope
Today, 22-year-old Melisa is enrolled in Compassion's Leadership Development Program, which pays for her college tuition. She is majoring in business management and marketing, and on weekends she returns home to lead the youth group at her church.
She also helps minister to the mothers and infants enrolled in the Child Survival Program at her church. Melisa says that she sometimes sees in these frightened mothers what her life could have been like were it not for Compassion.
"God came into my life because of Compassion," says Melisa. "Without this ministry, I would probably be living with someone without being married. I would have gotten pregnant as a teenager. I would just like to thank Compassion for giving a hand to youngsters.
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