Jane Sutton-Redner, the editorial director of our World Vision Magazine, first met Jhon in Peru – the "singer of his neighborhood" – when he was 6, back in 1997. She quickly arranged to sponsor him.
Jhon is 24 now, and Jane had the opportunity to visit him again last month! See the difference her relationship has made in his life, and the dream that came true for him that she hadn't even wished for.
Adults tend to graft their own dreams onto their children. For example, I hope that my 8-year-old son will be a famous writer someday.
But I never assigned such hopes to my first sponsored child, Jhon Quispe Gozme, who lives in Huanta, Peru. I knew from the get-go that his life would be an uphill struggle. There was his family’s poverty, which deepened after they fled their Andean village from the onslaught of a terrorist group called the Shining Path. In Huanta where they settled, baby Jhon was run over by a motorbike, and later he toppled off a wall – both accidents causing permanent damage to his brain, eyesight, and left arm.
I learned all this when I met Jhon in 1997, while I was working on a story for World Vision magazine. The sweet 6-year-old boy beguiled me with his singing – he was known at that time as el cantor de Accoscca, the singer of his neighborhood. Soon after, I arranged to be his sponsor, hoping that that could make his life just a little bit better.
For 13 years, I watched the boy in the photographs grow, encouraged that he always appeared basically healthy. How far he could go in school wasn't clear, but I hoped that my support could continue either way, and it did. Eventually Jhon reached the sponsorship cut-off age, and I thanked God for the long relationship I’d had with him as I started sponsoring another child.
Then last month something wonderful happened: I had the opportunity to go back to Huanta for World Vision magazine. My first order of business was to visit Jhon, now a young man of 24. There he was, a taller, bespectacled version of the little boy who had stolen my heart. I was giddy as I gave him the Seattle Sounders scarf I’d selected after trips to three malls to find just the right one.
Jhon and his mother, Maria, updated me about their lives. Jhon was not able to go to high school because he has epileptic seizures, and he likely won’t ever hold a job. His father, Silverio, was upstairs sleeping off a night of drinking. Maria was tearful with worry about this, perhaps literally worried sick – she described a condition that sounded like ulcers.
But little by little, I saw the goodness in Jhon’s life. His family loves him. Maria says a younger brother promised to “give Jhon everything” when he grows up and gets a job. Jhon loves them, too. He has a knack for remembering dates, so he keeps track of all family birthdays – no small job, with 11 siblings.
Maybe I fit into that loving circle as well. When I asked him what makes him happy, he says, “I’m happy because you are beside me.”
I found out what else makes him happy. “I go to church Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays,” he said. He worships at a Pentecostal church called Heaven Clinic. Jhon showed me his Bible in a brown zippered case and read aloud from his favorite Scripture, the story of Noah, holding the pages up close to his eyes so he could see the words.
Then el cantor de Accoscca sang a song about Jesus as his best friend, with lyrics that translate: “You will come back again, that’s why I won’t cry anymore. You saved me, so I sing.”
I realized that my dreams for Jhon were too small, limited by his physical condition. As his sponsor, I hoped for “better,” not “best.” But happily, what I didn’t wish for came true. This young man has a close relationship with the Lord of the universe! His pains and trials might persist, but they won’t prevail.
Now my prayer for all the children in my life is for a different kind of success, not by my standards, but God’s.
Share big dreams this Christmas for a full life with a child in need! Transform a life today and sponsor a child in Peru.