Contributed by Laura Walls in Stories from the Field
As child ambassadors, we often hear the question, "What difference does sponsorship make?" In Rwanda, we learned the official answer. May it inspire you to realize the impact you make as a child ambassador and may it also compel you to passionately seek sponsors for children.
We were all captivated by the little baby that Seraphine carried on her back. When she invited us in to sit with her in her small, adobe house, she lifted him off her back and he cooed and gurgled. Jean Claude, at seven months old, was beautiful.
Seraphine shared her story softly, her voice barely above a whisper. “I lost my husband on Christmas last year.” She avoided eye contact. “We are now living an unpredictable life. I live by God’s grace or perhaps if a gracious person comes by and gives us rice.”
I looked beyond where Seraphine sat in the doorway to where her two young children stood outside. Claudine, in her red shirt, stared curiously at her home full of strangers. Vincent, four years old and wearing a green Christmas sweatshirt, looked small and tired. They wandered into the room where we foreign Americans were sitting and sat among us on the ground.
Seraphine continued. Her husband’s death from AIDS left her widowed with three young children at just 28 years old. Additionally, she had also contracted HIV.
I looked from her face to where sweet little Jean Claude lay nursing at her breast. Yes. It was suspected that the baby also had HIV.
I fought the urge to step outside and get some air. To get away from that dark house where mosquitos swarmed in the corners and children were hungry and babies had diseases and mothers were suffering. I remembered the title of a book I read recently called, Walking with the Poor. I wanted to be someone who would walk in solidarity with Seraphine and her family and yet I also desperately wanted to just give whatever money I could and protect myself from that sorrow. I wanted to run away from the pain I felt in my heart. My eyes burned from unshed tears.
As child ambassadors knowledgeable in sharing sponsorship, we were brought to meet Seraphine so we could learn about the difference that sponsorship makes in the life of a family. It’s a question we are often asked. Now, I was sitting in a room at the top of a tall green hillside in Rwanda and the answer HURT.
What benefits are NOT available for unregistered children and families?
We learned that because Seraphine didn’t have registered children for sponsorship, she wasn’t eligible to participate in World Vision Savings Clubs, to receive Gifts-in-Kind, or training in farming or animal husbandry. Without a sponsor, Seraphine would never receive a gift notification (gift of money) from her sponsor to help her start a business, buy some chickens, or even simply purchase some needed essentials for her home. She wouldn’t receive encouragement from knowing she was loved and cared for by someone around the world nor would she receive the regular World Vision staff visits received by sponsored children. Her life would continue as it was, waiting, hoping, and praying that a neighbor would take pity on her and drop off a bag of rice or beans so her children could eat that day.
And some days, they didn't.
But doesn’t EVERYONE benefit from being in a World Vision community?
The short answer is yes. Absolutely. Seraphine has access to clean water. The farms in her area are more productive so their prices are more competitive and variety is more accessible. The schools are stronger and the teachers are better equipped. And, especially important to Seraphine, she has access to the health clinic and medicines to help treat her HIV. But many of the programs that would help her find an income-generating solution to care for her family are currently not accessible.
I shifted uncomfortably at these answers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from going on a Vision Trip, it’s that I’m wholeheartedly American and I default to wanting to slap a quick “bandaid” fix on problems that require deep understanding, patience, and time. I’m used to Disney movies that have short, happy endings. My mind whirled, even as I stayed silent and wrote down every word in my notebook.
Why can’t Seraphine’s children be registered?
There’s a waiting list, even for sponsorship. A certain number of children are eligible based on budgets and deeper, internal matters and currently, there wasn’t a spot available. But because this was a World Vision community, World Vision staff were aware of Seraphine’s struggles and had put her children on a short list - meaning that in two weeks time, they would be eligible to be sponsored. Two of the ten child ambassadors, Michelle Lazaro and Javy Diaz, immediately stepped up to sponsor Claudine and Vincent.
What happens to Seraphine and her children now?
As soon as Seraphine's children are registered and sponsored, she becomes eligible for training programs, Gifts-in-Kind, the World Vision Savings Club, and the personalized attention of World Vision staff. As she receives the love and prayers of her children's new sponsors, she will be encouraged and, in time, Seraphine will begin to hope and dream again.
Jimmy Gahima, our World Vision interpreter and donor liaison spoke with Seraphine about her future. “Seraphine, did you ever think that you would host a group of foreigners from the United States in your home?
She laughed and shook her head.
He smiled. “Well, you see, you just never know what your future might hold!”
Seraphine's eyes brightened a moment.
With the grace of God and help from World Vision child sponsors, suddenly anything seems possible.
Meeting Seraphine: a slideshow of images by talented child ambassador, Javy Diaz.
written by Barb Schellhardt, Randi Jo Rooks, and Candice East / edited by Paula Hemphill
I'm so thankful to be able to partner with part of our prayer team this week to bring you, quite possibly, the most beautiful post of the year! As many of you are aware, the Vision Trip team is on their way to Rwanda to see the work in the field. They are charged with going, seeing, hearing, and sharing the stories of the people they meet there-- which is incredibly important to the work of World Vision and our small orange army. Those of us that remain have a job that is no less important. Our job is to cover them in prayer while they are on the journey. And when they return our job is to steward the stories they share with us well.
To prepare your hearts for this great task some of my dear friends on the prayer team have compiled a beautiful prayer guide for each day.
For extra credit, I encourage you to read the stories on pages 169-171 in He Walks Among Us by Rich and Renee Stearns.
DAY 1: Pray for the team as they travel to Rwanda
Haven't I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take. - Joshua 1:9 (MSG)
Dear Lord, we pray for the Vision Team as they head out on their journey to Rwanda. Thank you that you go before them, you walk alongside them, and you are their rear guard. Watch over and protect each one. Give them favor with flights that there will be no cancellations or delays and that their travel would be smooth. Give them peace and good rest and keep them healthy and strong. Prepare their hearts for the things they will experience. Lead them, Holy Spirit, into all that you have for them to see, feel, and understand. May they feel Your Presence with them every step of the way. Use them to be a blessing and to bring glory to Your name. In Jesus' name, Amen.
DAY 2: Prayer for the families of the team members at home
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. - Psalm 5:11-12
Dear Heavenly Father, we pray a hedge of protection around the Vision Team's family members who they have left behind. You know the concerns of each one - for spouses, for children, for ill and aging parents. Keep them healthy, safe, and happy. Give the team a peaceful focus that they won't be distracted by anything else going on back home. Set their minds on You and protect them and their families from the evil one. Help them to trust You, knowing that you hold them and their loved ones in the palm of Your hand. Thank you, Lord. Amen.
DAY 3: Pray for the staff of World Vision Rwanda
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. - Galatians 6:9
Lord Jesus, we thank you so much for every World Vision staff member in Rwanda! We pray your blessing on them and that they would have confidence in you! Confidence that you will keep them committed, give them strength, give them discernment, energy and an overflow of love. We pray that each staff member would be sure to put their relationship with YOU above all else, so that your Springs of Living Water could flow through them on to all they come in contact with. We pray against any temptations that may come their way and pray they always have integrity and honesty and follow you every step of their ministry. Please help all of the World Vision Rwanda team work in total unity and this be a great testimony to how God’s children love each other despite differences. We pray for their families to be blessed by their work with World Vision. Let each staff member & volunteer be used, with humble hearts, to bring YOUR heart into their corner of the world!
DAY 4: Pray for the sponsored child visits
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. - Luke 2:19
Lord, Thank you for blessing those with the gift of meeting their sponsor child today. As they are introduced and spend time together Lord, we ask that you multiply their time together, that while in an unfamiliar place the team has Your peace. We pray that the children experience YOU through the Vision Team. We pray Lord that as you wrote in your word in Acts 1:8 that these are your witnesses Lord, even to the ends of the earth. As they spend time together may their relationship deepen and unbreakable bonds of friendship, love and trust form. That as Mary pondered the events following Jesus' birth in her heart that the sponsors and the children will ponder all of today's events in their hearts. Thank you Lord for this gift!! We lift up the translators, we ask that you strengthen them and reassure them that you have used the gifts you gave them for your purpose today. For the health of all who attend today's gatherings we pray for wellness, healing and strength. We ask all things in your name Lord Jesus, Amen.
DAY 5: Pray for the children and how WE can steward the stories of the people of Rwanda well
Lord – we pray your blessing on the children of Rwanda! Jesus, help them know your heart. With very act of compassion, let them feel your love and care, Lord. We pray the gospel takes hold in this country in unprecedented ways and that your name be made famous in the hearts of the Rwandan children!! Help them learn to love & trust the Bible, your words to us! Help them have the blessed assurance of your salvation & for your presence and love daily! We pray for World Vision to empower and build up beautiful local communities that these children can thrive in and see firsthand what your body on earth looks like locally. We pray for every child to be sponsored and that sponsorship would be effective and a blessing to all involved! For our leaders on this vision trip – Lord help them smile and love each child they come across and give them at least one special story to remember always in their hearts – a story they can pass along to our team and to their community. We thank you for the gift of children – we know they are precious to you! Help us learn from them and see your image in them!!!
DAY 6: Pray for the World Vision International staff
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight. – Prov 3:5-6
King Jesus – we thank you so much for World Vision International and each staff member. We pray, Lord, for their protection, their strength against temptation, and their confidence in you! Lord, help them trust & depend always in you and not their own understanding, ideas or strengths. Keep our leaders humble, Father, with hearts, minds, and spirits submitted completely to you. Help them always put YOU first Lord and seek you in every decision and every hour. We pray they would be FULL of your Spirit to be able to love in difficult situations, know your will, be able to make tough choices with peace, go against human understanding when necessary & have courageous trust in your faithfulness and sovereignty. Help WVI be a trustworthy & relationship focused vehicle for the local American Church to plug into --- to allow all your children to be part of what you are doing globally! We pray WVI would always uphold your Word, the world changing good news, and that you JESUS would always be the focus of WVI in all the ways they love and lead for you! With that focus, may there always be unity and may Jesus shine through the leaders in our organization!
DAY 7: Pray for the team as they travel home from Rwanda
Father thank you for this Vision trip. Thank you for all the team has experienced. Lord as they are traveling home we ask that they might have opportunities to be still and quiet with you to thank you and reflect on the trip. That you might prepare their hearts to come home to family and friends who have missed them and not experienced what they have. That you will provide rest for them today during their journey. That their eyes will be fixed on you as they travel home whether they have delays or travel on time, may they remember you are by their side and working all things out for their good. For every conversation and opportunity the Spirit prompts them to share about you and what you have done on this trip, Lord we thank you. We trust you in this and all things Lord. In Jesus name we pray Amen.
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.