We flew home from Guatemala and Compassion International late Sunday afternoon.

On Monday this arrived for me in the mail.

And then today, another one.

The first dated July 17th and the other August 18th. One for the email I sent him and one for the birthday card, stickers and drawings from my kids.

I mention this because I know so many of you, like me, have doubted the impact of letters. Whether they are ever received or what benefit a five-year-old could possibly get from a letter written in a language he doesn’t understand from a woman he’s never met. How long does it take and is the news I send today even relevant by the time he reads it?

And then I watched the Compassion staff in Guatemala unpack a box of letter after letter after letter after letter.

I saw where they sort the correspondence – cubbies for countries from all over the world.

Sponsors from all over the world.

I had to touch them with my own incredulous fingers – all those words of encouragement, years of faithfully constructed friendships – and for the first time I felt the full weight of a letter that can’t be measured by a postage stamp.

Delivered lovingly, carefully, regularly to places without a zip code.

So when Thomas’ two letters arrived this week from a remote coastal region of Ghana I held them in my hands and knew I was touching the long chain of people who had made possible the delivery of his precious words to my doorstep on a muggy afternoon in Virginia.

I read his letter, his love for cars and rice and stew and my eyes blurred with thoughts of Maynar, Josue, and Daniel whose sponsors had started investing words in them from this same young age as my Thomas all the way through to their university years. It terrifies me to wonder if I will be able to run that whole long race as faithfully as their sponsors did.

But then I read what he wrote.

I read what a five-year-old living in an HIV infected area in Ghana asked his volunteer teacher to write to me and I felt the iron enter my soul; I will not fail you Thomas.

Message for my Sponsor: is that he loves you soo much and may God bless you for what you’ve been doing for him.

But it was his prayer request that gutted me. Because I have the unique vantage point of two letters that arrived side-by-side even though they were written a month apart. And in both, a five-year-old’s prayer request to his thirty-six year old, highly educated, American sponsor is the stuff of Kings and legend. And it puts me to shame:

Prayer request from child: Is that God should also protect his family and himself and also give him wisdom.

Prayer request from child: For wisdom, good health, and God’s protection

I will follow this child and his example back to the Christ that connects us. And I will jealously make his prayer request my own and beg the God that entrusted this sacred friendship to me, to help me live up to it.

And I trust that He will, because Thomas has prayed it,

Prayer for my Sponsor: That God should protect and guide you in whatever you do, and bless it.

Amen and amen.