I received the letter in the mail, read it, and wept.

Our sponsored child from Mali, the one that we had written to for several years and had prayed for, had “moved on”. School, they said. Sabine was a teen when we sponsored her; I deliberately chose an older child – I figured it was probably harder for those older ones to compete with the sweet, cherubic, needy faces of the younger ones.

She was born the year I lived in Burkina Faso. She seemed an old soul in her picture, one who had seen too much in her years already. Her solemn-faced picture hung on our fridge, and we prayed for Sabine. A sister, a daughter, from a continent across the ocean.

Having spent a year in Burkina Faso, in West Africa, as a fresh-faced grad from university, I was aware of some of the struggles that she might face in that desert country, just north of the country where I had experienced life.

There are the usual struggles in a sub-Sahelian country: increasing desertification; scanty access to clean, potable water; poor soil; having enough food from subsistence farming to make it through the year until the next harvest; little medical access.  As a female, you deal with even more: female genital mutilation; lack of access to education; traditions that make you, in essence, property to be traded from one male (your father) to another male (your husband); pregnancy and childbirth (1200 maternal deaths per 100,000 women).

According to the The Population Council Inc, 65% of young girls in the West African country of Mali are married by age 18. (By age 15, 25% are married) Sabine escaped the younger age bracket, but my concern was that she had been married off at 17. She was, after all, an orphan with no siblings, who lived with her grandparents, subsistence farmers in a rural area. I decided to contact the organization about my concerns. I was told that according to their information, Sabine had moved on to another school. The representative that I spoke with also informed me that they are obligated to share with a sponsor the fate of a child {the little one, the one on the fridge, with sad eyes and an uncertain future}, even if the news is not something that the sponsor might want to hear. This is a large, well-known international organization. I trust them. Why did doubts still remain to haunt my thoughts?

I don’t know where Sabine ended up. Perhaps she is in school somewhere. One of the fortunate girls. But the stats would suggest otherwise, at least in my mind. (Perhaps an organization doesn’t always get the full story?)

In any case, I feel sad about the sudden departure of my sponsored child. I think of her, in the dry, desert country of Mali. I wonder if she has enough food to eat, if she has access to clean water, and if so, how far she must trek to get it. If she is in school, I hope that it will open doors for her.

Dear Sabine, you and I, we don’t really know each other. Yet I think of you and I keep you in my thoughts and my prayers…

O God, you who knows every grain of desert sand in the community that holds Sabine, would you please take this young woman into your hands and keep her safe? Would you bless her in the way that she would know what it means to have a Father? Please guide her as she makes her way in this world.

We have a new picture on our fridge, a seven year old girl from Mali. Her name is Miriam, and like Sabine, she looks serious in the picture. New child, new prayers for her.

But I will still pray for a girl named Sabine… and hope, against odds, that her future is a bright one.