I promised you a blog about Cannon Beach … and trust me that is coming … but I wanted to share something more endearing first. About two years ago I made the commitment to do something I’ve never done before — sponsor a child from another country. You know that small inner voice that speaks ever so softly sometimes called the Holy Spirit? Well, I heard and ignored that small voice several times before making the commitment. I have always questioned in my mind if the sponsored child really gets the money and gifts sent on their behalf — or does politics play into it and does the government take the money. Have you wondered the same? The organization our church works with is called African New Life Ministries (ANLM) and some members of our church have had direct involvement with the organization and have personally visited the villages, the school program, and have seen the needs of a community that is still rebuilding from the genocide of 1994. In the end I chose to make a long-term monthly financial commitment for a child I had never met and probably never would meet.
The child I picked out by a photograph was Diana Aimee Umurungi, a 5th grade student who liked soccer and English. She lived in one of the poorer communities of Rwanda called Kigali. I would later learn that she and her family walked from Tanzania in 2006 when the refuges were kicked out and it was a very hard journey. This is not the original photo I received of her, but she still had the same beautiful smile.
While my checkbook showed a monthly change, my heart did not. I had a hard time connecting with someone so far away and truthfully I was afraid to write letters or send gifts in the beginning. What do I say, what do I send? I received a letter from Diana about six months after our sponsorship began and was touched by her writing, her sharing of her family, her love of Jesus, but still, I wasn’t convinced an interpreter didn’t write it without any input from Diana. It wasn’t until a year and a few letters from Diana that my heart started to catch up with my checkbook. The writing style was always the same and the letters progressed in length as she asked for prayer to do well with her studies, and with each letter and I got to know her a little more. In my first letter to her I shared how proud I was of her, that yes, indeed, I was praying for her studies. I started sharing things about my myself, my family, my grandkids and would send photos not just of them, but other photos as well. I tried to send ones that shared a message of hope. One particular photo was the one below. When you look at it do you see something damaged or ugly because of the wings being cut? Of course not. That’s how it is with God. Even when we sometimes see ourselves as unworthy, unlovable, or broken — or in the most difficult of situations — God sees us as the beautiful person he created us to be and longs to help us find the joy in all that we do.
Jerry and Cindy Proudy, members of our church and active promoters of ANLM, recently spent three weeks in Rwanda visiting the sponsored children of our church and delivering gifts that we sent for them. While they were there I received an e-mail from Cindy that truly touched me. It read:
We began to hear in early September about a sponsored child from Kageyo who had amazed government officials when she scored number 5 in the nation on the 2010 primary leaving exam that every student must take at the end of 6th grade. How could a student from a refuge resettlement community score such a high mark? What I found out today is that Diana is your sponsored child. She is now attending New Life Christian Academy in Kayonza in Senior 2 (8th grade). She was introduced to our group last Friday when we visited the school, but until our trip to Kageyo today, I did not put the pieces together that she was your sponsored child. We will meet her personally sometime in the next couple of weeks. Here’s a link to ANLM’s blog about Diana. She was invited to meet the First Lady of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame, in recognition of her achievement. No cameras were allowed at this meeting, but memories last a lifetime. Cindy
I was so proud of this young woman from Africa who I have never met, and had I not stepped out in faith and listened to God’s leading, I would not have received the joy that overcame me the day I received Cindy’s e-mail. I was so excited for this young girl that is making her country and family proud! She would most likely have accomplished these goals even if I hadn’t been her sponsor, but in the end, it was me who got to help rejoice with her in her accomplishments. I wrote back to Cindy a letter for Diana including more photos. Cindy printed them off and was able to give them to her. Can you imagine Diana’s joy being the same as mine that someone so far away, that she has never met, was so happy for her. Pretty cool. Cindy and Jerry were able to get videos of the children so I was able to watch one from Diana. To see her smile and hear her voice was so sweet. Cindy and Jerry, I am grateful for your work and mission!
As you will read in my next post, “That was you God, wasn’t it?”