Nearly twenty years ago I left a piece of my heart on a different continent. At the idealistic age of eighteen, I boarded a jet for the first time and flew half way around the world, to a place I had only seen in my brother’s pictures or on the pages of National Geographic. I didn’t know what was in store for me. If it weren’t for the help of my mom and here planning, I probably never would have made it there. I remember thinking as the plane touched down on the humid tarmac, I wonder if my ride knows I’m coming…Thank God, they did, and after I made my way through a bumbling security and found my battered Goodwill luggage, I headed off on the streets of Africa. I didn’t know it then, but that trip would change my life.
Walking the streets of the congested city where the smells of rot and filth were overwhelming would open my eyes to the world as it is-broken and damaged. Beat up by the fee that walk across it and bleeding from the scars we leave. There were children on those streets, faces dirty and clothes torn. Hunger in their eyes. I was told not to give them my money, that though they claimed to be orphans, they may have been placed on the streets by their parents, the sole purpose to beg for money and return home with coins and bills. I could not fathom this. My mind couldn’t wrap around the notion of this cycle of poverty continuing generation after generation. Children with bare feet and empty bellies. Yet just as this old world spins round and round, so does this cycle of want and need. It is the lather-rinse-repeat of the third world.
When I returned home, I knew that I would forever be changed and that a piece of me would remain there, on that dry land. Over the years I have longed to make a difference but short of moving back and submersing myself in missions, I didn’t see how. Then I found Compassion. Nearly two years ago we sponsored our first child. The middles and I found a little boy their same age, in Togo, where I had been, and we signed up to help make a difference in his life. We have prayed for him together and read his letters. We’ve sent pictures and stickers and drawings to show him our world. There is something magical in getting the cream colored envelopes that I know will carry a small part of his life to us here.
This week we expanded our Compassion family and began sponsoring another child. This sweet girl lives in one of the most tragic places on earth, the war torn country of Rwanda. My heart aches for this place and what it has seen. But there is joy in knowing that from my home so far away, we can make a difference in this little one’s life. She will get medical care and her family will get community supports. She will go to school and grow and learn and we get to watch this happen. For both of these beautiful lives, the cycle will be broken and a new path will be forged. There is so much joy in that!!
I know that all those years ago I left a piece of me in Africa. I also have a desire to go and leave more of me there. Until that day, I love knowing that even though I sit in my home thousands of miles away, I am still making a difference in the continent that stole my heart. Someday I will return. Until then, I watch and pray from afar.
Would you like to make a difference in a child’s life? I encourage you to search your heart and sponsor a child at Compassion.