Whenever I go on a mission trip with Food for the Hungry (FH), most of the people I meet are surprised to learn that I live in America.
When I say I’m a U.S. citizen, they chuckle or give me a confused look. I can understand why.
I grew up in a small city in the central region of the Philippines. Where I grew up, everyone said that Americans were tall, white people, with blue eyes and blond hair. I also understood that whenever we needed help of any kind, the Americans were the first to respond.
So here I am in a developing country on a mission trip – brown-skinned, with black hair and black eyes, standing tall at 5’2″, hobnobbing with Americans, talking to them in their language. The people I visit in FH communities don’t understand how I can be a U.S. citizen and not look like what they think an American should look like…then I tell them my story.
There was a time when I was in their shoes. I grew up as a sponsored child. Child sponsorship helped me to stay in school, so I could pursue my dreams of becoming a news reporter in Manila, and then in the United States.
Achieving my dreams took a lot of hard work and many prayers, but I love to share my journey’s story with others to inspire them. Teens and young adults often come to me with curious smiles and serious questions. “How did you get to America?” “Were you also poor?” “How can I be like you?”
I love it when God connects me with a sponsored child who has a dream. I love to tell that boy or girl that I grew up in a loving home but that my parents didn’t have much. That I was a dreamer just like them; I wanted to finish school, get a job and help my family.
That God loved me so much He handpicked a generous American family to help me and my siblings go to school. And not just any school, but a place that taught students how to know and love God.
I tell them they can overcome physical and spiritual poverty and bless others. I remind them to pray for FH daily and to thank God for the kindness of their sponsors.
Whenever I go on a mission trip, I see a vision of healthy children pursuing their potential, growing in their relationship with God, and helping those in need.
I hope one day they will be able tell others about their amazing journey in pursuing their dreams, too.
Blog by Rez Gopez-Sindac, a writer covering faith and development. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.