101 kids. These are the photos that fill the 101 frames on this Saskatchewan sponsor’s living room wall.
The sight causes my jaw to drop as I talk to Lynn Jensen over a video call. A faithful sponsor for 18 years, Lynn lives and breathes Compassion.
Lynn’s sentences are punctuated with joyous laughter as we talk about her sponsorship journey and how she got to supporting 101 Compassion kids. You can feel her energy and excitement for the mission through the screen. “They’re my family,” she says matter-of-factly.
Meeting her once, I can already tell Lynn is a vessel of wisdom for all things empathy and generosity.
As she shares her stories with me, I am inspired. But my big question for Lynn as we share a screen is, how did you get here?
Why 101 kids?
A childhood across Canada
As a kid, Lynn was used to a nomadic lifestyle. The daughter of Salvation Army officers, she lived all over Canada.
“I went to nine schools in 12 years,” she shares.
As an adult, Lynn worked in nursing homes. But for the last ten years of her career, she worked as the manager of a men’s housing unit at the Salvation Army—or what she fondly calls the “house mom”.
“I taught [the men] life skills and was like a mom to all of them. Whatever I did was always people-orientated. The plan was to be a veterinarian, but instead, I ended up with old people and teenagers,” she laughs.
Buying the home that no one wanted
Despite her cross-Canada childhood, Lynn and her husband Richard have intentionally rooted themselves in Regina, Saskatchewan for the past 24 years.
Zeroing in on a neighbourhood considered undesirable by many, Lynn and Richard bought an extra-large home that was bank-repossessed. But this is where they felt called to live life, work and raise their three children.
Eventually, it became clear why God had called them to this home.
“[The house] was way bigger than what we would ever need. But in February of the next year, our first foster kid showed up. Over the years, we’ve had 15 foster kids—all teenagers—come and stay,” says Lynn.
Two of these foster kids eventually joined Lynn and Richard’s family of five as adopted children.
It started with a child’s photo in a backpack…
All the steps of her life, Lynn’s lived with her heart open. But she couldn’t have anticipated how one child’s photo would break her heart wide open.
When Lynn’s daughter, Amber, was 17, she introduced her to Compassion. After returning home from a week away at a youth conference in Alberta, her daughter pulled a folded Compassion pamphlet from her backpack.
“My daughter asked, ‘Can we do this?’ And I said, ‘Well, he’s adorable! Of course, we can do this,’” Lynn says giddily.
“Then I thought, we can’t just have one kid—we should have two! Compassion phoned and said they desperately needed sponsors, so we took on another one. They presented two to choose from and I thought, you can’t choose between the two, so we added two more! And it’s just kind of gone from there.”
As her sponsorships increased, so did Lynn’s passion for Compassion’s mission.
“I just really appreciate the way [Compassion] is set up and how they work with the local churches. And the letter-writing aspect of it—having a relationship with the kids,” she says.
Writing to 101 kids
Today, Lynn’s love for the mission has only grown. She sponsors 39 children and writes to 62 aged 1-22—that’s 101 kids altogether. She shows me around her living room, where each of their pictures is proudly hung on the wall.
When I see the number of smiling children adorning her wall, I have one question cushioned between my shock and admiration: How do you keep up with each one?
“As letters come in, I respond to them. Once a month, I write to everybody. I just sit down and do a couple of hours a day until I get through it. Usually, I do it all online except for birthdays, which I write by hand two months ahead so I can get them in the mail,” she says.
Sharing the simple things
I am just as moved as Lynn continues to share with me the simplicity of her process. For her, writing to the children she sponsors is an opportunity to invite them into the small things of her life—like sharing a picture of the first snowfall of the year.
It’s a process inspired by the kids themselves when Lynn asked them what they wanted her to write about.
“They’d say, ‘We want to know what it’s like where you live, and we want to know about your family,’” shares Lynn.
Like texting a friend when they come to your mind, Lynn shares bits of her life that inspire her.
“There have been times when we’ve sung a song on a Sunday morning that really touched me, and I’ll come home and write to them: ‘We sing this song. Do you know this song?’ And the responses I get are amazing because they’ll tell me they either know that one or they don’t, or they’ll say, ‘This is a song I really like—we learned it, and we sing it with our teacher.’ You never know where the simplest thing is going to lead you,” she shares.
A nudge like an electric current
I begin to wonder about her discernment process. How does she know when to say yes yet again? Especially 101 kids?
It’s an area that God has been challenging Lynn and Richard in for years. We talk about the human struggle of clinging to earthly treasures, but her simple reminder is a sweet and sobering reminder to me.
“Originally, I had said if we [sponsor] 12, that’ll be enough. But then God just has this way of going, ‘No, you know what? Your money isn’t the most important thing,’” says Lynn.
She shares a story with me that further confirms the kind of person she is—and the kind that I aspire to be. One who is so attuned to the Holy Spirit’s voice that you could recognize it anywhere.
“It’s always a God nudge. Like the last little girl that I just sponsored in Ecuador,” she shares.
“We were at her centre at the Survival program. A mom came up and grabbed my arm; it was like an electric current went through me. I thought, ‘Oh, no. I can’t. I promised Richard I wouldn’t.’ Then her little girl, Wayra, was climbing all over me—we had lunch together with her and her mom and spent all this time together.”
“We got back to the hotel that night, and I saw Richard had texted me: ‘Hey, you’re going to be 65 in a couple of weeks. Do you want to sponsor another child?’ I told God that I needed a sign—that was it!”
Sponsorship as a strengthening of faith
Hearing Lynn’s stories of exchanges with her sponsored children, I can sense this mission has a significant connection to her faith. I already know that she is forever changed by the little lives that adorn her walls.
“I feel like [my sponsored kids] know so much more about how to rely on God. We live in all this abundance, and sometimes that gets in the way. You tend to count on your things and your stuff. And they know how to count on God,” Lynn says.
“[Sponsorship] is always an encouragement to me and a reminder to trust God and know He is never going to let me down. He said He’s going to look after us. And sometimes you just have to give Him the opportunity to do that.”
Sponsorship has also provided opportunities for Lynn to laugh and create lasting memories. Like her trip to Ecuador in November of 2023. Though it was her seventh trip with Compassion, she found an exciting newness yet again.
“We got to see the boy we sponsor in Ecuador, Bernardo. I got to be with him when he tried pizza for the first time and ice cream for the first time. I got to explain what brain freeze was!” she laughs.
After making connections and memories together in person, Lynn tells me that there is always a shift in the relationship.
“[After meeting them], there is a pivot in the letter writing. Especially from their end. It’s like, all of a sudden, they know their sponsor is real. The next letter you get after you come home, you can tell there’s been a little shift in how they’re writing,” she says.
“It’s taken my focus off me”
As our conversation comes to an end, I am inspired—even convicted—by Lynn’s sheer hunger for giving to others. Even within our brief conversation, she has managed to give something so precious to me. It’s the rare kind of ability some people have to leave you wanting to be a better person—a better Christ-follower—than when you first started. I imagine this is how she’s left others feeling in her journeys over the years.
Even still, she bursts at the seams to leave a tidbit of encouragement to Canadian sponsors.
“Sponsoring has been more of a blessing to me than I ever could’ve anticipated. It’s taken my focus off of myself. It makes me realize that we’re the Global Church—I’m part of that church where my child is attending. It’s Jesus doing all the work,” she says.
Lynn’s life is a living offering to Christ, poured out for others. The love she gives away casts a light, leaving brightness in the darkest shadows of the world. I’m reminded of the words of Isaiah:
“And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10
Just like Lynn, may we all leave places better than we found them, pour ourselves out for the sake of others and walk in step with the Holy Spirit as He leads us to opportunities to be His hands and feet on this earth.
Whether it’s sponsoring 101 kids, writing 101 letters or having 101 conversations with a stranger, may our lives ever be poured out for others, in Jesus’ name.
May it be so.