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God's Home column: Somewhere in Chile, a happy, healthy teenager thrives

4:53 PM, Jan. 9, 2013  |  Comments
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Old Guy received some life-changing news last Saturday.

It seems that Alexis, the child whom Still-Young Bride and I have sponsored for nearly 10 years, now has moved from Bolivia, where he had lived all his life, to Chile. This move was precipitated by, I believe, his parents having found work in that country.

I received notification of Alexis' move through a letter sent by the sponsorship coordinators at Compassion International in Colorado Springs, Colo. Their letter did not mention that Alexis had moved to Chile, but I already knew that he had moved there. For you see, another letter had arrived last Saturday, and I had opened that one first.

That first letter was from Alexis, and it had been translated from Spanish into English (as had every letter I received from Alexis during the past decade) by those good folks at Compassion International. In that letter, Alexis told me that, "My dad is (now) in Chile, and I travel to Chile sometimes. My mom is working there with my dad." So you see, I could guess that Alexis would be bound for Chile at some point in the future. That point occurred when I opened the other letter a few minutes later.

Compassion International explained that my sponsored child had moved "away from the area in which Compassion works. Therefore, he is unable to continue participating in our sponsorship program."

Even though I had just read Alexis' letter a few minutes earlier, this news saddened me. I called Compassion International (as they had requested I do in their letter to me) to find a bit of closure on this sponsorship. They informed me that because Alexis had moved without warning (to where they did not know), there was just no way they could translate and send a final letter to him from me in return. I let them know that Alexis had moved to Chile to be with his parents. Still, there was no way to know exactly where in Chile Alexis had moved. That made me even sadder.

During the years, I had watched - no, I had helped - Alexis grow from a dour, undernourished 7-year-old boy into a happy, full-of-life Christian adolescent of 16. Through letters he sent and photos sent by Compassion International, I was able to follow Alexis' physical and spiritual progress all these years. And for a man without children of his own, this relationship, however distant, meant quite a lot to me.

No, I wasn't obsessed with communicating with my overseas child as was the character played by Jack Nicholson in the movie "About Schmidt." On the contrary, I confess that I didn't respond to Alexis' every letter. Even though I am a writer, I somehow didn't quite know what to share with him each time he wrote, or how to relate to his world.

But, in truth, I can see that the subject matter was right in front of me all the time. It came every time I opened his letter and read his opening statement, which always said, "Greetings with the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ." And every one of his letters ended with, "I say bye in Jesus' name." Besides my financial support, that was the link we both shared. I simply didn't share that link with him as often as I could have.

What softened this separation for me were the last words Alexis wrote in what would become his last letter to me. He closed the letter as usual by saying, "I say bye in Jesus' name." Then he added, "I pray for you every day that I come here to our CDI Student Center. God has changed my life. I am happy. Bye! - Alexis"

God, indeed, has changed his life. And Alexis has changed my life, through God.

Isn't that amazing?

■■■

Old Guy's weight last column: 229 pounds. This week: 227 pounds. Total loss since Feb. 19, 2012: 5 pounds. (Treadmill time!)

Steve Raap's bi-weekly column is named for the unofficial motto of the town of Rome. Steve's public weight loss attempt will continue until his 180-pound goal is reached. You can email Steve at raap@wctc.net.

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