Our family began sponsoring a child from New Hope in 2011. We were given the name N. . . Rebecca, along with a picture of her in her school uniform and a little information about her story. We prayed for her as a family and talked about her letters, admiring her drawings that came on the back of each one. My thoughts on sponsorship were that it was a good thing to help a child and at the same time teach our children what life is like for a child in Africa. But I was not prepared for what God would do when we met Rebecca in person.
A few weeks before my husband, Jeremy, and I left for New Hope, I emailed Rebecca, telling her that we were so excited to be coming to meet her. I told her the dates that we would be at New Hope. My expectation was that someone would coordinate a meeting between us and her and we could give her a gift, a hug, take a picture together, and that would be that. What actually happened was so much better.
Our first morning in Uganda, we were told by another team member that Rebecca was asking for us. We went looking for her. I had barely stepped off the porch of the guest house when she came running toward me and threw her arms around me. I was overwhelmed. I told the other team members who watched it all happen, “It was worth the price of airfare just for that moment!”
The rest of our two weeks at New Hope, we continued to see Rebecca every day like clockwork, before and after school. She was not content just to see me, Aunty Jennie, she had to see Uncle Jeremy! She asked me lots of questions about what it was like to travel on an airplane and about our kids at home. We brought her a backpack and Bible, and a few other things. Her face lit up when she saw the Bible with her name engraved on it. She immediately opened it and read the theme verse for the year, John 14:16, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
Rebecca never asked for more gifts from us, but she continued to give from what she had and from her heart. First, she wrote us a letter of thanks for the gifts. Then, she drew a picture of our family. She brought us each a ring that she had knotted out of string and another gift that she had made out of string to decorate our wall at home.
Somehow over the course of these days, she became more than just “the girl we sponsor.” She became truly our sponsor daughter, and we felt like parents to her. We were walking with her and she grabbed each of our hands and walked in between us. We wondered if she has ever had that experience before– walking hand in hand between two parents. It was especially powerful to just sit and watch her interact with Jeremy, knowing she has no father at home. He would joke around with her, make up silly songs for her, and treat her like a daughter.
Of all the things we experienced on our trip to New Hope, our relationship with Rebecca, our sponsor daughter was the most powerful. 1st Corinthians 13:3 has new meaning, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Sponsorship is more than a program, it is a relationship. Our connection with Rebecca is so much more than financial, it is the love of Christ, and it goes both ways. Rebecca taught me more about what it means to love, and my prayers for her will never be the same.
By Jennie Pickens, New Hope Sponsor since 2011 (as printed in the New Hope paper newsletter)
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