Compassion International: Vancouver family shares message of hope

10-year-old Grace Farrell instrumental in getting children sponsored around the world

VANCOUVER — They counted down the days before the trip to El Salvador.

They knew it would be a brief trip, but they also prayed it would make for a memory of a lifetime.

They were excited to meet her, to greet her, to get to know her in person.

Grace Farrell (right), a 10-year old from Vancouver, got to meet Gabby, a 10-year-old from El Salvador last month. The Farrell family has sponsored Gabby for years through Compassion International. Photo courtesy of the Farrell family
Grace Farrell (right), a 10-year old from Vancouver, got to meet Gabby, a 10-year-old from El Salvador last month. The Farrell family has sponsored Gabby for years through Compassion International. Photo courtesy of the Farrell family

The anticipation was nearly overwhelming for the Farrell family of Vancouver, especially 10-year-old Grace.

They were off to surprise Gabby, a 10-year-old girl who the Farrell family has been sponsoring for years through Compassion International.

When the Farrell family made it to Gabby’s village, everything that they had hoped for came true.

Instant friendship.

Hugs.

Conversation.

Games.

Tears of joy.

The only tough part of the journey was when it was time for the Farrells to return home.

Justin and Carrie Farrell, along with their children Grace and Alex visited with the family of Gabby in El Salvador in November. Photo courtesy of the Farrell family
Justin and Carrie Farrell, along with their children Grace and Alex visited with the family of Gabby in El Salvador in November. Photo courtesy of the Farrell family

Most of the visit was documented, too. Compassion International was so impressed with the Farrell family, with Grace in particular, that the charity is planning to showcase the family in an upcoming marketing campaign.

The Farrells — Carrie and Justin, along with their children Grace and 8-year-old Alex — sponsor Gabby as well as 13-year-old Said from Peru and 17-year-old Alexandria from Ecuador. The Farrells have also been instrumental in sharing their stories and recruiting other families in Clark County to sponsor other children throughout the world.

Grace Farrell (middle) gave presentations at a local church and recruited 28 more families from Clark County to sponsor children through Compassion International. Grace and her brother Alex (right) wen to El Salvador to meet Gabby last month. Gabby and the Farrell family have been exchanging letters for years. Photo courtesy of the Farrell family
Grace Farrell (middle) gave presentations at a local church and recruited 28 more families from Clark County to sponsor children through Compassion International. Grace and her brother Alex (right) wen to El Salvador to meet Gabby last month. Gabby and the Farrell family have been exchanging letters for years. Photo courtesy of the Farrell family

Grace took charge of one mission by giving presentations at Messiah Lutheran Church. In all, there were four presentations, meaning four times a 10-year-old stood tall to tell the story of Compassion International and what it meant to her family to give to others.

“I was kind of nervous at first. I thought I was going to forget some things,” Grace Farrell said. “I kind of winged it. After I did one, I said, ‘OK, I got this.’ Next time I did it, it was easier.”

Oh, she got it alright.

From those four presentations, 28 more children were sponsored by families from Clark County.

Compassion International is “a child-advocacy ministry that pairs compassionate people with those who are suffering from poverty,” according to the charity’s website.

“They need people to breathe hope into them, to tell them they are loved,” Carrie Farrell said.

Gabby has made a bulletin board of letters and other items sent from by the Farrell family over the years. Photo courtesy of the Farrell family
Gabby has made a bulletin board of letters and other items sent from by the Farrell family over the years. Photo courtesy of the Farrell family

When the charity heard about Grace’s presentations, plans were made to highlight her.

“They interviewed our pastor, they interviewed her teacher at Cornerstone Christian Academy,” Carrie Farrell said. “It doesn’t matter how young you are, you can make a big impact.”

There was an opportunity for the family to meet Gabby. The Farrells said yes, almost immediately.

“It’s funny how you can miss a kid that you only spent a day-and-a-half with. I miss her so much,” Carrie said. “It was really crazy because Grace and her instantly came connected.”

Sponsoring a child costs $38 a month, which provides medical checkups, food, educational assistance, and mentoring, among other things.

“They are making that $38 really work for those kiddos,” Carrie said.

Grace Farrell (right) and Gabby have been pen pals for years. They met in person last month in El Salvador. They had to overcome a language barrier, but they became fast friends. Photo courtesy of the Farrell family
Grace Farrell (right) and Gabby have been pen pals for years. They met in person last month in El Salvador. They had to overcome a language barrier, but they became fast friends. Photo courtesy of the Farrell family

It is so much more than just writing a check, though. At least for families such as the Farrells. They exchange letters every month with the children they sponsor. They get to know the children. Gabby, for example, likes science, soccer, and rabbits.

So when the Farrells found out they were going to meet Gabby, they made a quilt for her, featuring items related to Gabby’s interests.

“Money is important,” Carrie Farrell said. “But the connection through our letters is probably more meaningful than anything else.”

In fact, when the Farrells arrived in El Salvador, they noticed a bulletin board in Gabby’s residence, showcasing all the letters the family had sent through the years.

There are other ways for people to donate to Compassion International, including one-time gifts. For more information, go to the website at: https://www.compassion.com/grace

“We have so much and they have so little,” Grace Farrell said. “We are so fortunate. We have to not be thinking about ourselves but thinking about other people.”

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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