For 18 months, Halena has prayed for a sponsor. Watch the moving moment when she hears she has a sponsor at last.
01 Mar, 2017
Eight-year-old Halena Asti Bora lives on a remote Indonesian island so lush and green it seems like a forgotten world. Each morning she wakes at dawn, sleepily tidying away the blankets that make up her bed on the floor. As the sun rises, she walks barefoot into the jungle with her parents to dig up her family’s meal for the day: cassava and sweet potato.
“This child is such a blessing from God,” says her mum, Marta. “She is good to us in so many ways.”
Fransiskus, Halena’s dad, and her mum make their living by farming the vegetables and bananas that grow in the land around their home. But it’s an anxious existence. The pay-off for the long days of intense labour is often very little, and the large debt attached to their home is always at the back of their minds.
“While we have a good standard of housing, we are burdened by a large debt and we are nowhere near paying off this debt,” says Marta. She tries to hide her fears over the family’s financial state from her children but sometimes the weight of it shows on her face. Halena, bright and inquisitive, always notices.
“When I worry, [Halena] Asti says, “Don’t stress, Mama.” She kisses me and says “Don’t worry, we will be okay.” Halena’s simple faith is a trait reflected in her parents. They look to God for their strength. “It’s difficult to provide for all of our children so we depend on God,” says Fransiskus.
Back at home, Halena dresses for the day in her school uniform and sets off with one of her sisters. She is excited: after school, she’ll visit her Compassion child development centre run by the local church.
“My favourite thing at the centre are the storybooks because I love to read,” she says with a smile.
Ms Naumi, Halena’s Compassion tutor, is impressed with her progress. “[She’s] a very bright child,” she says. “She can already read and write and is becoming quite creative.”
At the centre, Halena and her friends sing, play games, and make tiny windmills from reeds. The windmill spins and whirrs as she runs, laughing. But there’s one thing Halena can’t participate in. When Ms Naumi hands the letters from sponsors into her friend’s eager hands, their faces beaming, Halena sits, twisting her hands. “My heart feels sad because I don’t yet have a sponsor of my own,” she says quietly.
She has waited 18 months for a sponsor.
“Every time she says to me, “Why don’t I have a sponsor like all the other children? Mama, I always pray that I will get one.” I say to her, “Wait my child. God will provide,” says Marta. Halena already knows what she’d tell her sponsor. “I would write to them about my brothers and sisters and about God’s blessing in my life.”
Their dream is one echoed by Kornelis Yelu Dama, coordinator of the church-run Compassion centre. “I am believing that one day all of our children will receive sponsors as God stirs the hearts of his people to care for these children.”
One day, there is a knock on Halena’s door. It’s Kornelis; he’s grinning. He says he has something important to tell the family. Halena, Fransiskus and Marta sit in front of him, bemused.
“This morning there is cause for rejoicing,” he begins. “Because Asti, you have received a sponsor.”
For a moment, Halena sits in silence. Then the news hits her. She presses both palms to her face, scrubbing away the tears that have started to fall. She clutches the photo of her new sponsor, Renee, unable to tear her eyes from it. Fransiskus surreptitiously wipes his eyes, while Marta presses the photo to Halena’s forehead and then to her own, giving thanks to God.
Marta’s voice is full of emotion. “My child is so blessed to be included in the Compassion program. I feel so proud. Even though I don’t deserve this response, God has responded. I could never have dreamed we could finally receive a sponsor. I feel so proud and am moved to these tears.”
“The children feel so close to their sponsors,” explains Kornelis. “When they read their sponsors’ letters, they just feel extraordinary—more than you can imagine. You can think it’s a simple letter but it’s much more than that. The letters form a strong bond with the children.”
Later, Halena can’t keep the grin off her face.
She’s still clutching her sponsor’s letter. Finally, her wait is over.
Words by Zoe Noakes
You can end the wait for a longest-waiting child by becoming a sponsor today.