Contributed by Laura Walls for Stories from the Field
My five-year-old daughter came out of her bedroom this morning, rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and asked, "What smells so good?"
" Apple muffins." I smiled, remembering how happy it made me as a child, to wake up and smell good things baking in the kitchen.
Then I thought about my writing topic for today. Hunger. The contrast feels so extreme.
A food crisis has been ravaging East Africa and World Vision writer, Kari Costanza, and photographer, Jon Warren, have been witnessing the grief and despair of families whose children wake up hungry and go to bed hungry. Kari's stories are "must-read" for every child ambassador.
This morning, I admit that East Africa seems so far away. I have muffins in the oven and children that are healthy and full. Nothing I see around me indicates that anything is amiss. And yet right now, on the other side of the globe, children are going to bed sick from hunger.
And Claire was once one of them.
While the Child Ambassador team was in Rwanda, we had the chance to meet Vedaste and Beata, a family whose lives were transformed and, overflowing with abundant grace and fullness of life, they reached out in turn to help little Claire. Read along to hear their story and to learn about how the Child Ambassador team is being challenged to act on behalf of suffering children in East Africa - because each of those kids, like the special children we have in our own lives, has a name and a story, a smile and a unique personality all their own. And each one longs to have a future, like Claire.
Petite, four-year-old Claire greeted us at the door of her rural Rwandan farmhouse, smiling sweetly.
"Muraho." (Hello!) She held out her right hand for a handshake, left hand holding her right forearm in a perfect, poised display of Rwandan etiquette. We were immediately smitten - every last one of us!
As her family shared their story, Claire batted her eyes, grinned, and peeked out from the safety of their arms. She was enchanting and sweet and adorable. It was hard to learn that life had almost ended early for Claire. Two years before, Claire had been malnourished and suffering. As the Rwandan rain poured down outside, Vedaste and Beata poured out their hearts.
"I want to share with you our story of God’s faithfulness." Vedaste began. "We once lived a very challenging life but God has protected us and enabled us to come out of our extreme poverty through World Vision." He smiled and asked Beata to share.
She spoke with a quiet, elegant confidence. "I am greeting you as friends. We were once very poor and had no land. We didn’t have enough clothing for our children. It was extremely difficult to earn money. We were farming and working so hard but our soil was so acidic that it didn’t yield much harvest."
She went on to share that their children suffered greatly as a result of their poverty. They were hungry and malnourished. She had been unable to breastfeed seven of her nine children because she was so malnourished herself, as well.
But in 2007, World Vision came into their lives. They received training in agriculture and their son, Emmanuel, was registered for sponsorship. Emmanuel had severe vision and hearing problems and the family was very concerned. But with medical care through World Vision, his sight and hearing were restored!
World Vision gave the family a cow and Beata started a small business doing some sewing. Things began to improve. They were able to save up and buy another cow and this cow produced a calf. Now they were able to not just enjoy the nutritional benefits of having a cow but also experience the financial benefits of selling milk! In addition, Vedaste devoted himself to the World Vision-led trainings he received in agriculture. At this time, the family farm contains 260 different types of produce and employs up to ten people in the community to take care of the cows and help with the harvest. Vedaste is also part of a model farmer program through World Vision. Through this specialized training program, he now reaches out to other farmers in his community and teaches them new agricultural techniques like mixing fruit trees with vegetables and preserving water for irrigation and cattle during the dry season.
Meanwhile, Beata's sewing business expanded with the help of micro loans through Vision Fund. Currently, she employs 6 people at her local shop and has trained 102 girls in her community to sew! And Emmanuel, her oldest son who was once at risk of becoming blind is now in charge of the embroidery machine, placing beautiful, intricate designs on the clothing in her shop!
But for Vedaste and Beata, it wasn't enough to employ and train others in their community. Their cup had gone from empty to overflowing and the family longed to do more to serve others. With great love and compassion, they adopted Claire.
Vedaste's face grew serious. "We found Claire living in the same condition as we were living in before. She was malnourished and suffering. We adopted her because we feel we have been given so much of God’s grace and we wanted to give back."
Beata explained further,* “I know what it means to be hungry. I know what it means to have a child when you don’t have food or drink to give to them. I feel compelled to help people, because God restored my life when I was almost dead. The second chance was given to me to live. I want to use it to help people.”
* Beata's last quote was found on the same page where the prayer guide is located. It was such a surprise to see little Claire's face on that page and to read Beata's words! I hope that you don't mind that I added it to this story of our time spent with them. It fit in so beautifully!
A Call to Action:
As child ambassadors, we have a chance to help a hungry child like Claire. We have the opportunity to take the grace and abundance that we have been given and overflow to help others, like Vedaste and Beata.
Downloadable Prayer Guide
The Prayer Guide was first found here on the World Vision site. A downloadable version can be found here!
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.