El pollo bailar

I am sitting in my hotel room mentally going over the events of the day and I have tears rolling down my cheeks. I’ll be honest, it’s not the first time it’s happened today.

On the flight to Miami, I listened to my iPod most of the way. The song “Captivate Us” by Watermark came on and as I listened to the lyrics I felt like I was seeing a glimpse into my week as I listened to Christy Nockels sing, “Captivate us, Lord Jesus, set our eyes on you. Devastate us with your presence falling down”.

In that moment, I prayed that God would devastate me with His presence on this trip. As much as I imagined that I wouldn’t walk away from a trip like this unchanged, a small part of me was worried that I might. What if it turns out that I’m dead inside?

Today was one of the most heartbreaking, yet joyous days I have ever experienced. We left this morning and headed to one of the Dominican’s Batey communities. These are basically Compassion projects in the midst of sugar plantations owned by large corporations. We were told that most of the residents are Haitian refugees who were lured to the DR with the promise of a better life, which hasn’t been the case. Instead they find themselves barely surviving in a country that doesn’t even recognize them as citizens. They aren’t necessarily slaves, but they aren’t free either.

As we drove into the Batey community, we were surrounded by fields full of sugar cane on every side, which gradually led to a small village where we could hear the excitement of the children before we even got off the bus.

We divided into groups and began to visit a few classrooms that are part of the Compassion project. The first class I went to was filled with kids ages 3-5 and my heart melted onto the floor right on the spot. They sang a few songs for us and we reciprocated by teaching them The Chicken Dance or as I preferred to call it in my limited Spanish vocabulary “El Pollo Bailar”.


Y’all will be glad to know that El Pollo Bailar is every bit the hit in the Dominican Republic that it is in America and that my rhythm is equally limited overseas. There are some things that cross all cultural boundaries.

After a few classroom visits, I was taken to a small classroom to meet my sponsored child named Ana Anjelica. Although I’ve sponsored a child in Uganda since the last Compassion trip, I just began to sponsor Ana prior to this trip. I was prepared that she might be a little solemn because her profile picture was so serious.


I approached Ana and with the help of a translator explained that I was her new sponsor and was so excited to meet her. I had brought a backpack filled with various things that I felt certain a six-year-old girl would like, but as I pulled them out she never cracked a smile. She was polite and answered questions that I asked through the translator but no smile, even when I pulled out my surefire ace in the hole, also known as a Ballerina Barbie.


Honestly, it would have been great if she’d jumped up and down with excitement, but I understood why she didn’t. I have no concept of what her day-to-day life is like or what it involves.

After we met, a group of us went to her house for a home visit. Her home was the worst one I’ve been in since the trip began. There weren’t even sheets used for partitions, but rather long pieces of paper from a Beauty Rest mattress ad. I introduced myself to her mother whose nickname was Chica.




Ana immediately disappeared behind one of the Beauty Rest partitions and about that time her grandmother showed up at the house. We began to talk with them and ask them questions about their life. Ana is one of three children with another one on the way. Her father is a day laborer and just goes out and looks for work every day.

This was her grandmother. She followed us all the way down the road as we left and her expression never changed.


Toward the end of the visit, I asked Chica how I could specifically pray for her family. This was her answer.

“I don’t really believe that God will answer the dreams I have for my children, but I hope they stay in school and get an education so they can have a better life.”

It broke my heart and it made me understand while Ana is such a solemn girl with a sad look in her eyes. She is being raised in an environment where there is no hope.

And here’s where I’m going to be really honest and say that I totally understand why her mother feels the way she does. All she’s ever known is poverty and difficult circumstances. Chica can’t even comprehend what a better life would look like because all she has ever known is hardship. It’s the reality that poverty goes so far beyond material things.


Honestly, it’s hard for me to reconcile it in my mind and understand why I am blessed with so much, when others have so little.
If I were in their place, would I believe that God could answer my dreams? Would I even dare to dream?

I believe as strongly as I believe anything that God is good, but sitting there in that house filled with sadness it was hard to understand all His ways.

I cried as I sat there on the little couch in Ana’s home because I wanted to offer them some kind of hope and, all of a sudden, my $32.00 a month didn’t feel like much at all.

But the thing is that as Ana’s sponsor, I have the opportunity to give her hope. By providing for her socio-economic, academic, spiritual, and physical needs, I am giving her hope for a better life with my $32.00. However, the most important thing I can do is to commit to write Ana on a regular basis to let her know that I love her, that God loves her, and that it’s okay to dream of a life beyond what she knows.

Because if I’m not telling her, then who is?

I understand that in my head, but it devastates my heart. I looked at this little girl today who is the same age as my Caroline, my smiling, laughing Caroline, and all I saw was sadness. God used it to devastate me, but He also used it to challenge me to go deeper. These Compassion kids aren’t just kids on a piece of paper or a random snapshot. They are real kids that are barely making it in this world and need every last piece of hope they can get.

And if you think you can’t make a difference, then let me tell you about Beatriz.

Beatriz was a lady we met on our second home visit and has three children, two of whom are sponsored by Compassion and she told us that she was a Compassion child from the time she was six years old until she graduated from high school. We asked her if she knew who her sponsor was and without pausing, she said, “Bill from Michigan.”

Not only that, her son Misael pulled out the letters he’s received from his Compassion sponsors named Peter and Melanie from Massachusetts. He was so proud of his letters. And even though this family didn’t necessarily have any more materially than Ana’s family, they had joy. It was a startling contrast.


Until today I had no idea how much hope these kids find in having a sponsor and how much the letters they receive mean to them. Not only do you know their name, they know yours and find hope in your words.

And for some of them, like my Ana Anjelica, you may be the only one telling them that there is more than the life they know and that God has a plan for their life.

Words have power, even when they’re written by a goofy American who does a bad version of El Pollo Bailar.

If you’d like to sponsor a child, you can go here or click on the image in my sidebar and if you already have a sponsored child, I encourage you to take the time to write them before the day is over.

And if you haven’t read all the other bloggers on this trip, you can find their posts over at Compassion Bloggers.


  1. Kelly says

    Dear Melanie, I’ve been reading your blog daily for so long that I feel like we’re really friends, like we’ve met and shared powdered doughnuts and everything. That being said, your post was so genuine that I sat here and cried with you. I know that the Lord has planted a great seed in that precious girls life through you, and He will grow it. I’m praying for you, all the way from Alabama.

  2. says

    I can feel your devastation through your words. Thank you for reminding me to pray for those outside my little world. Sometimes we all need a reminder that this world is bigger than us, and many less fortunate.

  3. says

    Thank you for this reminder, it was healing and hopeful to read this as I was watching the presidential election outcome just now.

    It’s time to write a letter to my little boy, Kiki, in Indonesia.

    When I lead worship my favorite song to do is “Captivate Us”. Blessings to you, dear sister!

  4. says

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve never met the child we sponsor through Compassion but this helps me to better understand the solemn look I see on his face in pictures. Your heartbreaking description helps me to know how to better pray for him and his family. It will also help me when I write letters in the future…oh, how important those letters of encouragement are to these children!

  5. says

    Keep going girlie. You can do this- I’m praying for you here in Nashville. I’m signing up today to sponsor and praying God will use me to open the eyes of the very affluent teenagers I teach to the despair and hopelessness of poverty. I am also praying God will do something so big it’s bound to fail if he isn’t in it. God speed- P.S.- I’m also praying that Caroline and P. are hanging in there while you’re gone. You’re covered- do your thing.

  6. Cindy says

    Melanie I am sitting here with tears in my eyes! Oh that God will break our hearts over the circumstances of the poor and oppressed. I am praying that those you have come in contact with will come to know the joy and peace of Jesus Christ.

  7. says

    I had to sit here for a few minutes to collect myself before I started to comment. Oh Melanie, my heart is broken for that family but at the same time I am rejoicing in that she has you as a sponsor and she has Compassion that will show her love, and more importantly Jesus. I pray that she knows she caught a glimpse of the hands and feet of Christ today in you. And I pray for her family that they come to know the true hope, the only hope…Jesus.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us Melanie, it is a beautiful one.

    Much love…

  8. says

    And God? He’s answered my prayers, by not only being so Present with you, in you and through you, but Melanie, He has given you the words here. They are expressed so eloquently. Praise Him!

    Praying for you, Sister. Not stopping.

  9. Jenni says

    I pray with you that your sponsored child’s family will experience the HOPE that Jesus brings into the heart, no matter what the external circumstances. Your honesty in presenting the dire situations these children are in is difficult to hear, but so necessary. May we never, ever fail to have our hearts broken over the needs of others.

  10. Tina says

    WOW, thank you for sharing your innermost thoughts with us. The stories that you have shared (and will continue to share) have touched my heart…the way you write paints a picture that even real pictures cannot depict!!! Beautiful!!!!!

  11. says

    Wow, wow, wow.

    I’m reminded that the slave trade ended because British women decided they could do without plantation-raised, slave-tended sugar in their tea for awhile. Saving individual kids is wonderful. I hope we can find a way to enact structural change as well.

  12. Tara says

    I know what you mean. I am missionary in a poverty stricken country and I’ve often told my husband that if I had grown up here…I don’t know if I could believe in the goodness of God – or even believe in God at all. Why some have so much and others so little…it’s a question I’ll ask my Jesus when I see him.

  13. says

    Such a sad story but although this little girl and her family don’t believe hope exists, your small sum every month is going to change their hearts and their lives. I will pray for all the children needing help, and for you all on your journey. And I’ll also pray for your little Ana Anjelica and her family.

  14. kelly s. says

    Oh my goodness Melanie,

    I’m crying without control. What a beautiful and powerful post. I’m just stunned right now and feel so just…icky all over, for my focus on material wealth and things that don’t matter AT ALL.

    I just prayed for you and the rest of the team. I’m praying you can bring hope to people who have none.

    Beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!

    Kelly S. (Michigan)

  15. says

    our church supports a haitian pastor at a haitian church in the dr. my husband and i have both visited several times and the unfair treatment of the haitians is heartbreaking.

    thank you for writing about it and bringing it to attention. it’s a heartbreaking reality.

  16. says

    This line spoke to me:

    “Because if I’m not telling her, then who is?”

    Tell her, Big Mama! She needs to hear it and she needs to know it. And YOU are the one to tell her. You and I both know that you weren’t matched with her because that’s how the matching-lotto worked. God had a hand in that for a very specific reason.

    You can do it, sister! : )

  17. says

    This post is so timeley for me. I know it’s timely for you because it fits the trip… :-) But… well, I have been through a very difficult three years (it’s on my blog a couple of posts back, but I know you’re busy) and my dh will lose his job tomorrow. I’m grateful he has another job to take, but it’s ten thousand less a year. For us, that’s incredibly significant. Truly. I’ve felt that it was the right choice, but my head can’t get past the fact that we already live month to month and we’re going to take a big cut not knowing how God will make up for it financially. A bit anxious. A bit feeling… poor.
    Then I read this post.

    Not only is my life Hunky Dory,
    I’m rich.

    With God’s love.
    With material possessions.
    With more hope than I could ever deserve.

    Thank you.
    I’m praying for you
    all those around you on your trip.

  18. Margie says

    Thanks for sharing. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes and thanking God there are people like you and MM and so many others that can bring all this to us. Even though we aren’t there, we can experience the sadness and know more how to pray for those who are in poverty. Not only there in the DR, but here in the good ole’ USA.

  19. says

    Oh Melanie, all I can say is God bless you! Keep doing what you are doing. I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face. Praying for you, praying for all you see and all you will do. God is doing something amazing with you!

  20. says

    Umm, Wow! Melanie!
    God bless you as you experience a new journey each day you are there.
    That is one powerful testimony! No one could understand that hopelessness without a picture….. as you have shown us.

    I know now more than ever…..we have to reach out and do our part. Even if it’s the chicken dance….or a letter….or a goodie bag of stuff from our over-indulged country. We are called to help!

    Praying for you all!
    Oh….and loving the updates! Thanks!

  21. says

    Melanie, I want you to know that you’re making a difference here, in the US, too. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not a coincidence I discovered your blog and others involved with Compassion right before your trip. Thank you for sharing this experience with all of us readers.

  22. says

    I read about your Ana on another one of the blogs yesterday.

    It broke my heart.

    Last night I woke up in a cold sweat. I had been dreaming that I was praying over her with you and the other Compassion bloggers. It was one of those prayer times when you are just crying out to God for him to intervene. I woke up feeling that I had been there. It was such a real and vivid dream. I am committing to join you in praying for that sweet child to find her hope and SMILE in Jesus.
    What he breaks our hearts with, he is faithful to mend.

    I pray you feel our prayers today.

    And yes, I too thought about the difference between the smiles of our children Friday night in our cozy little neighborhoods verses the lack of hope and FOOD in theirs.

  23. says

    Devastated…and yet full of hope. That is the heart that Jesus would have us embrace for the ones who can’t speak up for themselves.

    Well done….and thanks for speaking those words for others who need to hear them!

  24. says

    Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone to tell these real life stories … Praying for the remainder of the trip, more children being sponsored AND written to.

    I am saddened that Ana and her family live daily with no hope, but we know that there IS hope in Jesus and He is speaking and will continue to speak through you long after you return to the states. You are the light in this little girl’s life for such a time as this.

  25. says

    I’m sitting here in my office crying with you. I resonate with so much of what you shared. Thank you for your ministry. I’m still praying for y’all!

  26. Amanda says

    If I were in their place, would I believe that God could answer my dreams? Would I even dare to dream?

    Wow. This really makes me think. Unbelievable post.

  27. says

    Thank you again for sharing your heart and soul with the rest of us. You can offer your Compassion Child hope…hope that one day she will live with Him in a perfect world full of happiness and love and wonder. Thank you for inspiring me to sponsor our own child. God Bless – Tiffany

  28. Elsa says

    Wow. This post is so beautiful and moving. I appreciate very much that you so clearly say how you understand the hopelessness and the difficulty in believing a God under those circumstances. I agree with you. Thank you for sharing this so honestly. Your words are truly touching.

  29. Jordan says


    Thank you and the other compassion bloggers for making sponsorship so easy. Immediately after I read this, I sponsored a little guy named Oscar. I live my life and try to make the world around me a better place, but when you’re stuck in one small American town, sometimes it’s easy to forget or abandon those efforts. I’m so excited to start writing to him and sending him love and encouragement! Be safe on the rest of your trip.


  30. says

    What a powerful post. I can only imagine how the sadness of that house must stay with you.

    I’m inspired to keep writing to our sponsored boy in Tanzania after reading this.

    Thanks for the reminder that God can send hope through his flawed followers.

  31. says

    Wow. You reminded me of so much. First, my family needs to write to our sponsered child more. Second, we need to get beyond “ourselves” a lot more. If we could all have a small tase of that joy… steadfast hope beyond our circumstances. Wow. Thanks for the reminders and blessings for the rest of your journey.

  32. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. You have shown me how important it is to write to my Compassion child! I mean, I knew this in my brain, but now I know it in my heart, too. Financial sponsorship is good and necessary, but I now understand how much more effective it can be when prayers and words of encouragement are spoken.

  33. Mary Lou says

    Thanks for doing this, Melanie. I will be praying that Ana Anjelica comes to know the sure hope of Jesus!

  34. says

    Your post touches my heart because I’ve done mission trips to Mexico and lived in Brasil and saw this poverty on a daily basis. You’ll never been the same now; the DR will be in your heart forever. God bless you and those families you serve there.

  35. Cara says

    Melanie, this post makes my heart ache.

    I sponsor a little girl in the DR (because of Shaun’s trip there that he posted about months back). She is all smiles. I would dearly love to be able to meet her at some point. She is 7, and so we have some time. She has poverty, but joy. And in her letters her joy and curiosity, and dreams, shine through.

    We sponsor a boy in Haiti. We’ve gotten 2 pictures of him over the years. He is much like Ana. Very solemn face in both, and his letters are different than Sosiris’. I can see the difference between them now, and maybe why it is there.

    You’ve reminded me to write more often. Shaun said the same thing – that is what can really make the difference to them – more than $32 a month ever could.

    I love your blog, and I was so excited when you posted that you were going to go to the DR. Keep it up, be strong and courageous because the LORD is with you.

  36. Celeste Hill says

    Thank you for your heart to share the reality of all your thoughts. Please know that I am praying for you and your precious girl Ana. You have been touched by her in the deepest part of your soul and the Lord will use this in a mighty way for your ministry to this little one.
    I am convicted and encouraged to write our sponsered child more often.

    God bless you Melanie,
    Your siesta Celeste Hill

  37. says

    Big Mama ~ Thank you so much for sharing so transparently from your heart. I’m going to share this post with my children as it so well reinforces what hubby and I try to teach them, a lesson that is so hard to learn when surrounded by so many THINGS.

  38. says

    That’s an amazing story and really paints a picture of the contrast between a house that has lost hope and a home that believes in God’s promise for His people. It remids me that material things actually mean nothing when it comes to happiness. It’s all about faith.

  39. Tina says

    I came back to read this again, and was taking a closer look at the photos. One in particular caught my eye…the one of the “kitchen”…most of us would not know what to do or think if our kitchen looked like that…but I noticed…on the shelves…she had laid a runner, or some decorative cloth to place her dishes and pots on, just a touch to make it more homey. These people are just like us…wanting to provide for their families and make a home for them…WOW…amazing…can’t wait for the next blog…

  40. says

    Thank you for that MUCH NEEDED reminder! I need to pray consistently for the child we sponsor (who also is from the DR).

    If we don’t pray for her…..

    who will?

  41. says

    Praying for all of you while you are there, that God will give you what you need daily, knowing when you get up every day your heart will indeed be broken and that that’s the point – to move others to care enough to reach out and help as they can. I chose our Compassion child because in her photo she was the saddest child I’d ever seen – her name – Gift.

  42. says

    sniff sniff, wipe my eyes… Thanks for your stories. I will be showing this to my son. He’s still young, but I want him to realize there are children living like this in other parts of the world.

    Your writing is just terrific. Great job!!

  43. papamama77 says

    I have a niece who is in the Peace Corps in DR (Bayahibe). Your story about the hope in the home of Beatriz is what it is all about. I believe we will always have poverty to try to solve. I don’t see alot of progress after even years of trying to teach ways for improved living conditions….but the hope we have in God, through God, this is what I am loving about Compassion. This makes a real eternal difference. I hope my niece’s efforts are also making headway to a better day for DR but I know this hope Compassion is giving is making all the difference.

  44. says

    Wow – Thank you for sharing with so incredible a journey.

    You and the whole team are in my prayers for safe travels. I will also pray for the children there as they are fed and nourished through Christ’s love and compassion. May they grow up to share what they have experienced that others may be blessed also.

    In Christ Alone,

  45. says

    You’re in the midst of a Kingdom work, and Chica will remember; Ana will remember. What they saw in you (and others) was Christ–His very hands and feet! They were touched by God when they were touched by you, when they’re written to…all those who’ve been sponsored.

    I’m praying for their poverty right.now. And not the material kind, but the hole in their heart….


  46. Lavonda says

    I cannot believe how fortunate we are and yet we walk around oblivious to what we’re taking for granted.

    It’s 1:30am here, and for the first time in forever I can’t sleep. AT ALL. (I also can’t breathe with this sinus thing going on). So I just got up to come read some of your trip and the other bloggers there too.

    Thank you for being so transparent about what you see, and what you feel, and what they must be feeling… very good for me.
    I’m praying for you and for everyone there. My heart aches right now for these children…

  47. says

    Thank you for sharing your heart Melanie. I feel like I am able to share a little piece of what you are experiencing through your words. I’ll be praying for all of you!

  48. says

    This post is amazing. Working here (Compassion) it’s easy to get “used to” what we do. So I’m so glad for posts like this that reminds me of how important it is.

  49. says

    Popped over here from Kat’s blog, and must say it left me totally convicted that I need to start writing to the two kids I sponsor–a little girl from Bangladesh through World Vision, and another little girl from India through Gospel for Asia. I have sponsored them for several years now, but keep putting off the letter writing because I can’t seem to be able to think of what to write.