I recently posted my story of meeting my sponsored kids in India, when traveling with India Gospel League. It got me thinking – what qualities are important to me when it comes to child sponsorship? I narrowed my list down to five:
1. I can trust the leadership.
Since sponsoring a child often happens half-a-world away, I have to be able to know and trust the leadership of the organization. Most of my news regarding the program and its success (and also its financial accountability) will be provided to me from afar, so I can’t personally verify the details. That means I have to trust the people involved in the process.
2. The atmosphere and teaching is Bible-centered.
There are many “do-good” groups out there that really only focus on physical needs, without much more than a nod to Christian values. I see the world differently – that the real, root need of every human being is to have a vibrant, personal relationship with God, through the gospel. So to me, it is vitally important that I can see the group, the teachers, the houseparents, and the administrators really living out a solid commitment to the Bible.
3. The kids are treated as family.
Many of us have an image of an “orphanage” from days gone by, where kids are herded around and allowed to run wild. Obviously this isn’t the ideal! To me it is important that whether the child is technically an orphan or not, they receive care that is akin to parental care (some sponsored children are not orphans, but they come from villages that are so destitute that they simply cannot be adequately cared for by their parents). It seems like the more recent trend is for children to be cared for in family-style living homes, which is a great development.
4. Basic emotional, physical and spiritual needs are provided for.
Child sponsorship is an act of Christian compassion, but it is also an act of parental provision. What children on the the other side of the world need are the same things that my children here in North America need: love, attention, food, sleep, medical care, encouragement, affirmation, approval, discipline, role-models, education, church, prayer time, fun, physical exercise, life lessons – you get the picture!
5. I can communicate with the child personally.
I am willing to accept that some children might be in a scenario where visits or letters are not realistic. But for the most part, as a child sponsor, I want to be a part of that child’s life. I appreciate being able to write letters back and forth, send gifts, and on rare occasion, arrange for visits. I also love receiving update pictures, if nothing else, to post as reminders to pray for them.
Since 2009, I’ve been a sponsor of children through India Gospel League, which represents all of the five qualities above with excellence. Since initially getting involved as a pastor and child-sponsor, I’ve increased my involvement with IGL – last year I actually went to India and collected stories from the region about God’s work there, which were released in the book “Commissioned: How God is Changing Lives, Transforming Nations, and Involving You” (IGL, 2014). (The topic of the book has to do with the church-planting aspects of the ministry, more than child sponsorship. However, these two are closely related, since IGL’s children’s ministry works directly through local churches and pastors.)
If you are interested in sponsoring a child with India Gospel League, there are many profiles of unsponsored children available here.