Here in the United States, young teenage girls are kept busy with cheerleading, soccer, music lessons, and other activities.

The cultural expectation is for them to work hard and then go off to college or trade school.

In Guatemala, however, teenage girls help raise their siblings and face the dangers of rape and burglary every single day. They’re forced to walk the streets to school or to ride public transportation—both of which are very dangerous. They sleep in the same bed with at least one other sibling and sometimes two.

The cultural expectation for girls in Guatemala is to marry at the age of 14 and then begin having children, which satisfies the fathers of low-income families. It’s one less mouth to feed.

I have a huge heart for young girls, so this just breaks my heart.

I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Guatemala last week with a team from Compassion International and a special group of women from LifeWay. I have been sponsoring at least one child for the last six years. Recently, I decided to sponsor another child in Guatemala and had one of the most meaningful afternoons of my life meeting her and her young mother.

Yosmery (her given name is Yeily Yosmery Noemi Navas Lopez) will soon be eight years old. She is the most precious, playful little girl and stole my heart with just her smile. She’s had multiple hip surgeries, forcing her to be in full body casts for three months after each surgery. Yosemery knows what it means to struggle.

Lifeway Trip

Photo Credit: Paul Sherar

Lifeway Trip

Photo Credit: Paul Sherar

We also had the neat opportunity to meet with several young women who have excelled against all odds.

Cindy is part of the Leadership Development Program (LDP) with Compassion, along with 150 young adults from all over Guatemala. Cindy told us about the requirements for getting into the program as well as the benefits of being sponsored. She is studying business and wants to one day have her own.

Lifeway Trip

Photo Credit: Paul Sherar

Lifeway Trip

Photo Credit: Paul Sherar

Cindy told us that one of the biggest benefits of sponsorship was the love and care she received from other women. She explained that her mom couldn’t show her love because she was so young when Cindy was little. Cindy had to learn how to care for herself, but she also learned—because of Compassion—about Jesus.

At another Child Development Center, we met with a group of young women who were giving back to the center where they had once been sponsored children. These sweet girls had unique challenges because of different circumstances, but they were still paying it forward.

Lifeway Trip

Photo Credit: Paul Sherar

They work with Compassion children by teaching them about music and baking.  We had the honor of praying over these girls while encouraging them to keep growing in the Lord.

Lifeway Trip

Photo Credit: Paul Sherar

Lifeway Trip

Photo Credit: Paul Sherar

My prayer for Yosmery—and all the girls we met—is that the Lord would continue to use Compassion as a catalyst to help these young women achieve their dreams.

Lifeway Trip

Photo Credit: Paul Sherar

Lifeway Trip

Photo Credit: Paul Sherar

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As I’ve told everyone since we returned: If you are not sponsoring a child now, please prayerfully consider doing so. It changes a life of a child, their future, and the hope of an eternal home where there is no danger, hunger, or pain.

Faith Whatley is the director of adult ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources. She and her husband, Jimmy, have two grown children, an amazing daughter-in-law, and live in Nashville, Tenn.

Click here to learn more about Compassion International and how you, too, can get involved with what God is doing in the lives of children all around the globe.

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