we are a family
We Are a Family | A story of child sponsorship
In 2005, my wife, Keila and I moved to Tennessee after I had been serving as a missionary for five years in Puerto Rico. Through my home church, I was introduced to El Ayudante and invited to go to Nicaragua on a mission trip. As a pastor with a missionary heart, we searched for an opportunity to go and serve in any way that we could. Keila and I both went and discovered that our hearts were excited about what was happening in Nicaragua and determined that we would continue to invest in the people and communities that El Ayudante was serving.
However, El Ayudante does more than just serve in the communities around Leon. They also have children who are so precious to God that are entrusted to the love and care of the Hogar Cristiano Nicaragüense (HCN, currently the FEC or Family Enrichment Center). Keila and I met and fell in love with three girls in specific: Ivania, Chilo & Diana. Having no children of our own at that point we began to ponder sponsorship and investing in these girls in some way. We opted to join some friends in sponsoring Ivania fully, yet treating all three as equals.
After my third or fourth trip and having spent many hours, days, weeks and months praying for and communicating with Ivania she gave me a note as I left the campus in Leon to return to the states. In that note she expressed her love and gratitude for me and shared with me that even though she did not have a healthy relationship with her biological father, she saw me as her father. This humbled not only me, but my wife as well. You see – at this point she was pregnant with our son Jeshua. It was in these moments that we realized that our family was not welcoming our first child, but our fourth! It was also in these moments that we realized that we were not sponsoring a child we saw a couple times a year, instead we were investing in our daughters’ futures and this would continue for a lifetime.
In 2010, I was relocated to pastor a church in Florida. Keila and I had a young son; she was going quit her work to return to school for her Master’s degree as a result our financial resources were reduced significantly. However we made sacrifices in other areas of our lives rather than reduce the amount of our sponsorship commitment. The reason behind this sacrifice can be summed up in one simple word “Family”. We are a family, a Tennessee native husband/father, a Puerto Rican wife/mother, a blessing of a son in Jeshua, and three amazing young ladies in Nicaragua.
Earlier this year Keila, Jeshua and I took a long overdue trip to Leon on a mission trip and took the opportunity to finally have some family portraits done. After all, we are family and we should have a picture with all of us together. The really cool thing is that in addition to the six of us, those friends of ours that we joined in sponsoring Ivania were able to come a few days later – so we have a real “Brady Bunch” type of family picture to show for it and immense love for a very non-traditional family which Jesus smiles at (Matthew 12:48-50).
Our lives would not be as rich in spirit if it were not for all four of our kids… Our sacrifice brings not honor to our lives, but Glory to God alone as God has walked with all of us through the years and we are better for it!
– Benjamin Stilwell