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Finding Wilson

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The original bathroom is the white plastic sheeting in the background.

The original bathroom is the white plastic sheeting in the background.

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Wilson standing outside of his home. Notice the spaces between the slats on his door.

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This is the area where Rosa had her “outdoor kitchen”, which was basically an area surrounded by plastic sheeting. Not safe.

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Wilson with all of the things his family gift was able to buy. So happy God took our gift and made it go above and beyond all that we thought or imagined!

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Let the construction begin. Notice Wilson on the scaffolding ready to help!

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This photo is a little blurry, but it is the finished kitchen area.

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Wilson and Rosa standing in the doorway of their beautiful new bathroom area…complete with toilet, sink, shower and tile on the floor!

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Wilson and Rosa in front of their home with the new doors hung and much more able to keep them safe and warm.

In February of 2012, my son, Noah, and I had the wonderful privilege of traveling to Ecuador with Compassion to meet Noah’s sponsored child, Ismael.  During that trip, we experienced a day which the Compassion staff called “A Day in the Life”.  On that day we were split up into small family units and were given the opportunity to spend the day with an Ecuadorian Compassion family.  We were to work alongside them doing whatever jobs they asked of us.  Noah and I, along with our family group, went to Rosa’s house.

Rosa is a widow.  She has three sons that we met, along with a daughter and another son.  The three boys that we met were Bryan, Edison and Wilson.  Bryan and Edison were both sponsored children through Compassion.  Wilson was in school but was not a part of Compassion’s ministry directly.  We had a wonderful day with Rosa and her sons.  She asked us to help her pick grass to feed her guinea pigs which she was beginning to raise in order to sell at the market.  We also were asked to help weed her cornfield which sat on the side of the mountain that her home was built upon.  The view from Rosa’s house was breathtaking , but it was her sweet, gentle spirit and her generous hospitality that affected our family group the most.  This was a woman with close to nothing, by our faulty American standards, yet she was willing to share from her heart the food picked from her fields.  She inspired all of us.

It wasn’t only Rosa, but also her sons that inspired us to follow God’s plan and call for our lives.  Each one of them had a dream.  Each one of them loved the Lord their God.  When asked what they do in their spare time, these boys looked at us and said, “We pray.”  The one thing these boys lacked was a good relationship with their sponsors.  When they asked us why their sponsors don’t write letters to them, we felt at a loss for words.  We encouraged them the best way we could.  That was the first moment that God spoke to my heart about continuing a relationship with this family somehow.

While we were there, I had to use the bathroom.  Rosa’s bathroom was a concrete slab with a large hole cut out in the middle of it.  This slab was surrounded by 4 wooden stakes that were holding up a piece of ripped plastic sheeting for privacy.  I was not appalled or offended at all about using Rosa’s bathroom.  More than anything, I was concerned for her and her family’s safety.

When we returned home, I immediately contacted Compassion to find out if Bryan or Edison were available for the Correspondence program.  This was one way I could keep in contact with this beautiful family.  To my dismay, the answer was “no”.  I was so disappointed, but decided that the best thing I could do for them was to pray for them.  So I added them into our list of Compassion children and included them in my prayers as if they were ours.  It was during one of these prayer times that God spoke clearly to me about what He wanted me to do for Rosa and her family.

While I was praying for them, I had what I can only describe as panic attack.  It was a feeling of fear and dread for the safety of this family while they were using the bathroom.  All I could picture was one of them falling into the hole.  This was God’s way of telling me that I had to “Do Something.”  I came home and told my family about this experience and said that we had to do something for Rosa.  We had to build her a bathroom.  We would raise money somehow and we would get her a safe bathroom.  My family was on board with this plan.  My next step was to contact the other members of our “family unit” (Barbara & BJ Elkins and Sam & Grace Fillingane) from the trip and see if they would also help us.  Because of the impact that Rosa and her sons had on us while in Ecuador, their answer was a pretty quick, “YES!”

I contacted Compassion to find out how much this project would take.  They went through the process they had to in order to find out and eventually the answer came back.  Let me say that the amount we were told was not small, but it also didn’t seem insurmountable.  With God’s help we could do this.

So in the late spring of 2012, we all began the process of raising money for Rosa.  It was a slow process, one that wasn’t actually completed until June of 2013!  People were very generous and willing to help with such a worthy endeavor.  We were blessed.  Barbara suggested that I contact Compassion once more in order to find out if the cost had gone up since the first estimate, because it seemed that costs were rising everywhere.   So I did.  And when the answer came back it was a higher estimate.  We had a couple more hundred dollars to raise.  Disappointing, frustrating, but not impossible.  We were now well into August and wanted this project taken care of SOON!!  By mid-September, we were  done!

I was attending an Advocate Conference at the end of September, so I decided to hand-deliver the checks to Diana Torgerson so I could explain the situation and she could get the checks into the right hands.  When I shared the story with both her and Rick Schluep, they looked at me, and Diana said, “I don’t think this is going to work.”  I could hardly believe my ears!  She explained that only a person who has a sponsorship connection with a child can give a financial gift to the family.  Though this made sense, I was disappointed!  She said she would check into it to make sure, but that she was pretty sure that this was the policy.  I left dejected.  Had all of this time and effort been spent for nothing?  I was frustrated.  Why had I been led to believe, from the person who checked into the quote for me, that this was going to work?  I felt like a liar and a cheat.  Like someone who had raised money by using a “sad story”…for nothing.

After the conference, Diana checked into the policy regarding gifts, and she was correct in the information she told me.  Now there was a decision to make.  Did we want to give the money to Compassion as a general gift, or perhaps to the WaSH Fund?  I knew that I would not be able to keep that money that was raised.  It HAD to be used for something related to Compassion and bathrooms!  I contacted Barbara and Grace, our family unit friends.  What did they want to do with the share of money they had contributed?  One of them chose to let me make the decision as to where her share went, while the other one decided to have her share returned so she could use it for her other Compassion children.  Thus began the process of returning and redirecting funds.  Also, this is where God began to move!  He had been moving all along, but I just hadn’t seen His hand because of my frustration.

Toward the end of October, my husband, Greg, and I volunteered to work at the Compassion table at a Matthew West concert in Appleton, Wisconsin.  There were two tables set up at this concert.  My husband and I went to the “table less traveled” (at the time this was to my dismay…I wanted to be where all the action would be!!).  As is the custom for me, because I have traveled to Ecuador twice, I looked at the packets of children from Ecuador, just to see if perhaps I had visited their CDC.  I picked up a packet with a cute little boy on it and said, “Oh, he’s cute.  Wilson.  I wonder where…WILSON???!!!”  I turned the packet over to find out which project he was from and I could hardly believe my eyes!  THIS WAS WILSON!  THIS WAS ROSA’S SON!  I quickly opened the packet to read his “story” and everything that was written completely lined up with the home that we visited!  Seriously, God??!!  There was no doubt in my mind that this little boy had just found his sponsor! Not so fast, Teri…

My husband was very excited that I had found Wilson, and could hardly believe it himself, but he was not so sure that we had the means to sponsor him at that time.  Decisions like this are always made together in our family.  This was going to be a tough one because we both felt strongly about our respective “sides”.  How would God work this one out without one of us being disappointed or upset?  Greg agreed to let me take the packet home with us, but under the guidelines that I would find a sponsor for Wilson…one other than us.  I am not proud to say that I agreed, but all along knew, and planned, that, one way or another, Wilson would be a part of OUR Compassion family.

When we got home, I immediately checked out the project number with all of the emails I had been sending regarding the bathroom.  Check.  I went through all of the pictures of the time we had spent at Wilson’s house to verify that this was indeed Wilson.  Check.  He was even wearing the same sweater that he was that day when he returned home from school!  Noah came home and found the packet on the table and said, “Hey, this is Wilson!”  Check.  Though I was sure that I was holding Rosa’s son’s packet in my hand, I had to be completely positive.  I sent an email to Diana and asked her to do a check into the family of the boy in this packet, to see if they were indeed brothers.  It was at this time, that Diana had the wisdom to hold all of the checks that had been sent to Compassion, because she just knew that God was up to something big!  Though the one check had already been returned to one of my friends, the other ones were now on hold from being given to the WaSH Fund.

The verification came back.  Indeed, I had found Wilson!  And I had found him just in time!  I had found him when there was a sizeable gift waiting to be given to his family because of a prayer and a panic attack that had happened over a year before!  I had found him when my mother had just “lost” her Compassion child and was looking for another one to sponsor…but she really didn’t want to write letters!  (So, she is his financial sponsor, and I am his correspondent sponsor and both Greg and I are happy with this arrangement!)  I had found him just when my friend who had asked for her portion of the money to be returned informed me that she decided to destroy that check and the funds were still in my account!    I had found him just when God wanted me to!

I had worked many events in that time period between my second trip to Ecuador and the Matthew West concert.  I had seen many child packets and looked at every Ecuador packet I had come across.  But it was at just the right time that God placed Wilson’s packet into my hands.  How many people had looked at his packet and placed it back on the table?  I will never know.   All I know is that finding Wilson was one of the biggest faith builders I had ever experienced up until that point.  God knows exactly what He’s doing.

In hindsight:  if I had been told right from the start that giving a gift to a child that was not connected to me through sponsorship was against policy, none of this would have ever happened.  I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God wanted my family to be connected with Rosa’s family from the day Noah & I spent with them until eternity.  Why?  I don’t know…but God does!  And, I’m okay with that!

As Child Advocates, we are never sure what God is going to ask us to do.  I can’t say I have always been the most obedient when He speaks to me.  But I am glad I listened this time!  Finding Wilson…what a good and perfect gift from above!

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It is now October of 2014…almost one year from the date I first found Wilson on that Compassion table in Appleton.  The funds have been given to his family, and we have received photos back of the finished project!  This is truly an Ephesians 3:20 project!  “Now unto Him who is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than we would even dare to ask or imagine, to Him be the glory both now and forevermore.”  Wilson’s family was not only able to build a safe bathroom, complete with toilet, sink, shower and tile floor, but also a safe kitchen!  Their original kitchen was also surrounded by plastic sheeting, and Rosa cooked over an open fire!  They were also able to get new doors for their home…doors that are solid and able to keep them safe from predators and warmer at night.  They were able to get a few groceries and clothing and shoes for the entire family.  And, from the pictures, it is evident that Wilson was helping in the process of the building project…what a great learning experience for him!

This story has almost gone full-circle.  The best part will be when I am able to travel back there, hopefully with Barbara, BJ, Sam and Grace, and see firsthand the fruits of our labor of love.  I am not sure when that will happen, but God knows.  And I am content to wait for His timing.  He has proven to me that He has the market on “perfect timing”!

Teri Gerdes