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How Can I Be Sure My Child Gets My Letters?

Yesterday Brook asked a great question on our Facebook wall:

“How can I be sure my child gets my letters? She doesn’t mention them…”

It’s an excellent question and one we want to address fully. (Throughout this post, you’ll notice several links with more information if you want to read more on a certain topic.)

First, it may help to know how we ship the letters to the children in our projects. We try to ensure your sponsored child receives your letters by shipping them to the country once per month. This means your individual letter isn’t floating somewhere in the international postal system, but is safely bundled with several other letters going to the same place.

Now, sometimes things hold up a package (such as items that don’t look like letters when a customs officer scans a box), but we work hard to eliminate anything that might delay a shipment. Because we carefully schedule our shipments, we can say with certainty that your letter has an excellent chance of arriving in country and arriving at your sponsored child’s project along with other sponsor letters.

It takes time to get a response from your sponsored child for several reasons. First, our shipping methods – while cost-effective – aren’t the fastest. And once a package arrives in country, the letters must be translated. This often happens at the country or regional office, as our staff there is usually more comfortable with English.

By the time your letter arrives at your child’s project, several weeks have passed. And this is where some cultural perspective is important:

Writing letters is not a common method of communication in your sponsored child’s area. This is in part because literacy rates in many of the countries in which we minister are quite low. In fact, your sponsored child may be one of the first in her family to receive an education.  

Due to the low literacy rates, very few adults have ever received a letter themselves, which means parents and teachers have little experience in writing them… thus, a letter may not be seen as a form of communication or extended conversation. Your sponsored child, even if he or she is older, may not realize your letter should be acknowledged or that you expect them to answer your questions.

Because writing a letter is such an unfamiliar process for many of the children in our projects, in the past we have encouraged the project to have a letter-writing party. This allowed our teachers and staff to oversee the process, offer suggestions, and help the younger children who cannot yet write for themselves.

The letter-writing parties were effective, but they often meant more time passed between your sponsored child receiving your letter and finally responding to it. Last year we suggested that project staff allow a child to immediately respond to your letter whenever possible.

So with all of that in mind, how can you encourage a response to your letters? The answer is simple: write on a regular basis – we recommend up to once a month. As your sponsorship continues and your relationship with your sponsored child deepens, your letters may eventually be seen as a conversation on paper, one eagerly anticipated and much treasured.

Please also know that even if your sponsored child does not mention your letters, they are deeply prized. Those who have gone on mission trips or sponsor tours will tell you how they’ve found their letters and every photo they’ve ever sent pinned to a home’s walls or lovingly kept in a special box, well-worn from frequent readings. Your words are one of the most powerful, tangible reminders that someone cares, so don’t stop!  

If you struggle to write letters to your sponsored child or would like more suggestions, the following blog posts have been a great encouragement to many:

How your sponsored child’s culture affects letter writing

How to ask for prayer requests

How to encourage your child to answer the questions you wrote in your last letter

How to get over the guilt for not writing more often

How the impact of your letters stretches far beyond your sponsored child

How to learn more about your sponsored child’s country

How to use your letters to encourage your child’s education 

Last but certainly not least, ask God to both give you the words your sponsored child needs to read and protect your letter on its long journey to her country. In each step along the way, your letter has the power to affect many lives with God's help. Trust in Him to provide, plant, and water the seeds needed to bring your child to a mature and life-giving faith.

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