For our son, Christian it was the last day as a high school freshman and the beginning of an overseas adventure. Through, Women of Faith, I have worked with World Vision for many years but this would be Christian’s first time to come with me on a World Vision trip.
We met up with my friend of almost thirty years, Sandi Patty, and her son, Sam, at the Dallas Airport and began our long trip. We flew to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, then to Nairobi, Kenya and finally on to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The following morning we set out with our World Vision U.S. team leaders, Michael Beonky and Jenny Lockwald, and began the six-hour drive to the town of Jimma, which would be our base for the next few nights.
There are so many faces, songs, stories that will always have a place in my head and heart. One thing was clear to me, though. The Ethiopian people we met are not looking to be rescued—they simply want a little help to be able to care for their families and give their children more opportunities than they have had. As a mother, I understand that. I also saw that child sponsorship does far more than provide food and clothing for one child. It provides dignity and hope to an entire family and impacts the life of a village.
We spent some time with Awelu, a boy we have sponsored for some time. I stood beside Awelu’s father as Christian and Awelu played soccer. I will never forget this quiet gracious man who shook my hand and said through an interpreter, “Thank you for caring about my son. I promise you that I will pray for your family.”
What I saw wasn’t those who “have” helping this who “have not”. What I witnessed was the Body of Christ in action. We gave a few small gifts to Awelu and his brothers and sisters. He came with a bag full of the most luscious mangoes for us. They sang to us. We sang to them and when we asked if we could pray for them, they fell to their knees in the dirt as we gathered at the throne of mercy together. It became holy ground.
There are many moments that stand out for me but as I sit at my kitchen table I am thinking about the words spoken to Christian and Sam by one of the village elders. My quote might not be 100% accurate but this is the heart of what he said to these two teenage boys.
“You have many opportunities that children in this village do not have. This is a gift. Do not waste it. Give back. It might not be here but give back somewhere. Pour your life out for what matters.”
I wept as I listened to this kind, wise man call our sons out to live for what matters. I heard him too. I will not forget this gentle giant.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”