By Ellie Magera (a senior in high school)
“Overwhelming joy filled me as she leapt into my arms. She was giving me a crushing hug which was the best welcome I could have imagined. Christela was in my arms again. She remembered me! She felt the same bond that I did! She felt the same joy I felt!
Pictured: Christela and Ellie
Meet Christela, my sponsor child. She is 7 years old and has the most beautiful smile in the world. Last year on my first trip to Haiti we were visiting a school in Luly when, by the grace of God, I first spotted her. I knew the instant I first held her that I wanted to sponsor this precious little girl. Over the past year I had been sent updated photos of her and prayed for her every night before bed. I frequently thought of her, hoping she was healthy and safe. I had so many questions about the details of her daily life. I had no idea what her home life was like: if she had a father who was at home providing for her, the physical condition of her home, the number of brothers and sisters, and so many more. One of my main goals for my return trip to Haiti was to see Christela and to meet her family.
In the weeks leading up to my trip, I gathered gifts to give to Christela. I found a Rapunzel Barbie doll that I was super excited to give her! I gathered outfits to give her from the closets full of frilly girl clothes in my home, a Disney coloring book, and some colorful bows that I used to proudly wear. I was ecstatic to see her again. On our first day in the town of Luly, Haiti, we gathered a group of children over to us and showed them photos of the many children with active sponsors we hoped to find throughout the week. We needed help finding where they lived. We learned that Christela did not live directly where we were working but that we would go try to find her tomorrow. Tomorrow turned into Tuesday and then into Wednesday. As night fell on Wednesday, I felt stressed and was struggling to stay positive. We had spent the previous days productively putting on Vacation Bible Schools in different towns, finding new children that were in need of a sponsor and delivering gifts to children already blessed with a sponsor.
Pictured: Vacation Bible School
At the beginning of the week I was fine and just kept thinking ‘It’s ok, I will see her tomorrow’ but by Wednesday night Christela had not been located and our Haitian team members weren’t optimistic about the chance of a connection during the remainder of our stay in Haiti. I tried to remind myself that everything we had done during the trip was amazing, but I wanted to see Christela with all my heart.
On Thursday morning, our Haitian team member, Reggie, left home at 5:00 am in a last ditch effort to locate Christela. With a servant’s heart and a photo of Christela in hand, his exhaustive search was a success! He found her and I couldn’t have been happier! After Reggie came back and shared the great news, we headed straight to her home to see her. As we walked up to Christela’s home, I saw her mother and two of her older siblings in the front yard. I looked around for Christela, when all of a sudden I heard running behind me and I turned around just in time for Christela to jump into my arms. In my life, I have never felt such immense joy as I did in that moment and I experienced a glimpse into what a parent’s love for their child must feel like. God has filled my heart with so much love for this little girl it is hard to even describe. We stood there for what felt like forever soaking up that moment of elation.
Pictured: Christela and Ellie with Christela’s mom and sister
Over the next thirty minutes, I cherished getting to know Christela’s family. Her father Noel was 47 years old and worked as a fisherman to provide for his family. This was such a blessing to learn that Christela had a father in her life who was faithful to her and her mother. We also learned that Christela was one of six children including three girls and three boys. Christela was the youngest and we met Jimmy her 19 year-old, 9th grade brother who wanted to be a backhoe operator and Cladie her 14 year-old sister in 8th grade. When we asked her family how we could pray for them, Christela’s mother, Claudia, asked if we could pray for the family’s walk with Christ to be faithful. This was very eye opening to hear their family didn’t ask for us to pray about money, food, health, clean water or any other basic life necessity that can be scarce in Haiti. Claudia’s request to pray for their walk with God was both beautiful and inspiring. As an American, when I am not on a mission trip, I find it very easy for my prayers to turn into a wish list. In stark contrast, Christela had a family with no electricity, running water, or windows and yet just wanted me to pray that they would stay faithful to God’s wishes. This was a major wakeup call for me as I know that I could not last a day in Haiti on my own and my problems suddenly seemed so miniscule. I sincerely requested that Claudia and Christela pray for me to walk faithfully with God just as I would pray the same prayer for them. A huge smile crossed Claudia’s face and she promised that she and Christela would pray for me in this way.
Pictured: Ellie’s dad and sister with Christela
The rest of the trip was a blur. In less than 24 hours, I was comfortably seated in a jet plane traveling back to Miami as the flight attendant politely asked if she could provide me with a beverage. However, the image of Christela’s joyful smile was the only thing I could think of and my heart was warmed by the image. I can’t share enough how much sponsoring Christela has meant to me. This opportunity has better taught me how to selflessly love others. While I am the one blessing Christela with money for school tuition, a doll, clothes, a coloring book, and my prayers, she has returned the joy to me tenfold. I’m overjoyed that I am able to continue providing for her. I also experienced the joy other children received on this trip when their sponsor sent them a photo, letter, and bag of goodies when they could not make the trip to Haiti.
Now that I am home, I have a renewed goal to more fervently pray for Christela and her family. It is my great privilege to provide school tuition to Christela to ensure she can continue to afford her education. I’m excited to send care packages for Christela and her family with people performing future World Wide Village mission trips to Luly. I challenge anyone who is reading this post to consider sponsoring a child. You will never regret providing food and education for a beautiful Haitian child and it might just change your life like it has mine.