Picking up where they left off

When I was 22 I became a pastor. I was put in charge of 23 hygenically challenged, yet hilarious, middle schoolers. I had great affection for all but two of those kids, and all but two of those kids loved me back better than I loved them. It was a tremendous responsibility, a responsibility that I recognized also came with authority and privilege.

Those kids would do anything I asked them, and  because of the life change that Jesus brought to those kid’s lives, their parents were also willing to do nearly anything for me.  I knew then that only a cretin would take advantage of that situation, but I had also watched a lot of “frogs” boil themselves “in the kettle” of authority over time.  I didn’t want to be the guy that who woke up one day and realized that he was a self-centered prig who not only ordered his life according to his own preferences, but also expected those around him to accommodate those preferences as well.

My problem was that I didn’t know how to prevent this slow transformation over time.  I knew that I should be vigilant, but vigilant about what?  Then, by a stroke of providence, I attended a Youth Specialties conference on student ministries.  While I was there I attended a session where a wise man gave me the information that I was missing.  It was 14 years ago, and If I could remember his name, I’d give him credit for saying this:

“Don’t do things for people that they can or should be doing for themselves,

and don’t ever ask them to do the same for you.

Instead, do things WITH people,

and ask them to do things with you.”

I realized that what I needed to be careful about was helping, but not enabling, people, and vigilant about keeping others from enabling me.  God used that realization to set the direction and tone for my ministry.  I do my best to do ministry, and to partner with other ministers and ministries, that work the same way.

Last week I had the privilege of partnering with Africa New Life Ministries in Rwanda, East Africa.  It’s a country that is being sustainably rebuilt, after a civil war and genocide, by people who aren’t looking to institute programs for import and export, but want to see Africans developed as human beings.  Africa New Life Ministries is one of the chief partners of this cause, believing that every African’s development begins by finding New Life through the transforming work of Jesus Christ as demonstrated through devotion to the Gospel and acts of compassion.

One of the ways that they accomplish this is through child sponsorship.  A child sponsored through ANLM receives not just food, but access to the best K-12 education in East Africa, and an opportunity to know peace with God in Christ.  In addition to producing the nation’s top students, and in doing so building the foundation for a sustainable political and economic future, they are bringing the clean water wells, agriculture, and micro-economic initiatives necessary for villages to become towns and towns to become cities.

Which brings me to this:

Last week I saw firsthand what happens when a family decides to stop sponsoring a child.

The Child Development Officer, who not only supervises the care of the child but knows which hut they live in, has to take the child out of class to send them home.  Not for grades, not for behavior, but simply because they can’t afford to be there any longer.  Beyond this, the child stops receiving the school lunch program, and they stop receiving letters of support and encouragement from the sponsored family. If the child is older than 12 they will most likely have to find work in an economy with 61% unemployment, or be married off so that the family can receive a dowry.

The kid has to grow up.

This post isn’t a condemnation of someone who can no longer afford the $39 monthly fee that it takes to set a child on a trajectory of hope.  It’s just an ask for someone to step in to carry a kid that somebody had to set down.  And I’m not asking you to do something for me,

I’m asking you to do something with me.

Two weeks ago my wife and I agreed to pick up a child who had lost sponsorship a year ago.  When we met her, she was very excited that we brought her food and a bedroll.  None of that excitement came near the joy on her face when we gave her the school supplies and told her that she would be able to return to class.  Twelve year-old Ingabire Marie Beatrice, who is as hard working as she is smart, gets to resume the trajectory towards hope that someone else laid the foundation for.

My wife and I just get the privilege of pushing her over the line.

What follows are two videos of kids we met in Rwanda.  These are hard-working students who just need someone to help carry them over a goal that is easily within reach.  If you are interested in renewing the sponsorship of either of these two dear ones, please message me and I’ll make sure that you get the opportunity to join me in doing for someone what they cannot do for themself.


Just a quick update:  Both children have been sponsored (very quickly I might add!) and will be able to return to school this month, thank you to the many of you who reached out and asked to sponsor, especially to the two lucky families who get to help these kids reach their graduation dates!

Caline Iradukunda – BGR00498


 Emmanuel Mihanda – BGR00448

9 Responses to “Picking up where they left off”

  1. Ann Tepfer July 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    We’ve been wanting to do this for awhile, and want the boys to be apart of the process. We would love to sponsor a child. Can we write personal letters? Send packages?

    • Jon July 11, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      Hey Ann, you guys can definitely write letters, I met kid after kid who had a picture of their sponsor family and a a letter in their back pocket! Packages are a little tougher because shipping is almost impossible (there still isn’t yet a government postal service) most items travel between country in checked bags. We include stickers and coloring pages in our letters. Are you guys interested in Emmanuel or Caline?

  2. Sharon O July 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    This is awesome. We sponsor two little five year old girls in Haiti since Larry had gone there and knew the exreme poverty the people experience on a daily basis. We go through compassion from Colorado Springs.

  3. Darcy Hansen July 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I have such a tender spot in my heart for those children who lose their sponsors. I had no idea though what happens when they do. With Race for the Dream, many of our kids were ones that had lost their sponsors. So thankful for your post. Now I know. And I will continue to be an advocate for these dear ones. What a joy and a privilege it is to join with ANLM in extending the love of Christ to the people of Rwanda.

    • Jon July 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      So excited for your trip, and Jealous of you guys! THanks for standing in the gap for these kids!

  4. Nancy Brown July 11, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    Jon –

    I have wanted to sponsor a child for a long time now and finally have done so with ANLM – Benitha is the most adorable little 5 year old girl! She has the most beautiful eyes and smile! I have raised to young men that were given to me by God and have always wanted to have a little girl – Now I do!!! The day that I clicked the final button on sponsoring Benitha I got a bit misty – My dream has finally come true! I am doubly blessed that Tera Fain will be going over to Rawanda with AFNM next month and she will be able to meet Benitha and take a package to her from me. Maybe one day I will be able to go with AFNM and meet Benitha in person.

    • Jon July 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

      So, so great Nancy! She’s gonna love meeting Tera and it will be great for her to recieve the gifts from a friend!

  5. Mark Dunker July 11, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Thanks Jon and Janelle for encouraging others to get involved in changing lives in Africa.

    Next time, plan a couple days in Tanzania! Our guest room is ready for you (or will be as soon as I move out the desk and printer and junk table and random boxes and…)!

    • Jon July 12, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

      I’d love to see you guys in Dar Es Salaam! Our trip was really last minute, but next time I’m there… I’m there!

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