First of all, how many children do you sponsor all together?
Well, we have 26 African kids total, that we’ve sponsored through the years, in both Uganda and Kenya. But many of them have already graduated and a few of them have left the program for various reasons. So we are currently sponsoring only 13. We actually have 3 African “grandchildren” as well. Two of our older sons in Kenya have already started families of their own and one of our sons in Uganda sponsors his own little boy as a way of “paying it forward”. We are always so touched to see that as soon as our older children graduate from college and are successfully employed and supporting themselves, the first thing they want to do is give back. They pay school fees for their younger siblings/cousins/nieces/nephews, they send money home to their parents or guardians. The first thing our oldest son in Uganda did was to buy his widowed elderly mother a door (as opposed to a sheet tacked up over the entry) so that she would be safer in her home. The son we mentioned who is sponsoring his own little boy is still in college and does not have any steady income; he skips meals and sells his art on the street to raise money to afford the sponsorship. He said he was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what our family was doing for him, he could not help but do something in return! One of the greatest blessings of child sponsorship, is seeing the ripple effect that it has on so many lives; by sponsoring ONE child, you are actually impacting many more for years to come!
Can you explain more about the concept of “living simply so other’s can simply live”?
It means that we make intentional lifestyle choices that free up our finances to bless others. We didn’t choose to be born in the “United States of Abundance” and they didn’t choose to be born into poverty in a 3rd world country. The wealth we have been given comes straight from God (the talents & skills He’s given us to earn money, the opportunity to go to college, access to good jobs, etc). So we always keep this in mind…the money we are spending isn’t really ours; how would God have us steward the finances he’s given us to manage? With every purchase we make we ask ourselves ”is this item really necessary or is it excessive?” Having spent 4 summers in Africa, we see how little they live with and how much they live without; basic things that we take for granted here in America such as clean water and shoes for our feet. We live a very counter-cultural, pared-down lifestyle to keep our monthly budget as low as possible so we can sponsor as many kids as possible.
So what does this actually look like? Can you give us some tangible examples?
*We have a very small house & very small yard.
*We were a one-car family for 22 years of marriage (which meant buying a house near one of our jobs so that one of us can walk to work).
*We drive small gas efficient cars that are better for the environment and better for the budget.
*We didn’t purchase a computer until 18.5 years of marriage (being school teachers we always just used the computers in our classrooms or walk to the library to use their free computers).
*We still don’t own a printer (we print from Joey’s school or at our church).
*We don’t have TV or any video gaming systems.
*We don’t have internet at our house.
*We are so blessed with hand-me-down clothes so we do very little clothes shopping.
*A lot of our furniture has been given to us, bought at yard sales, or curb-side finds for free during bulk garbage days!
*We don’t go out to eat unless it’s for a special celebration with family or friends. We only get “fast food” if we are on a road trip (which we believe is the only purpose for fast food), otherwise cook at home.
*We eat leftovers. It’s amazing to us what a simple concept this is, yet how many Americans just buy lunch at work (or go out to eat) the next day rather than bring the leftovers from dinner last night.
*We “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. We don’t buy or use a lot of disposable products such as paper plates and plastic water bottles. If we do get a water bottle from somewhere else, we just keep washing and reusing it before we recycle it. We have home-made cloth baggies to use in place of Ziploc’s. When we do use a plastic Ziploc, we wash it out and reuse it until it get holes in it. We use cloths that can be washed and re-used instead of paper towels or wet-wipes.
*We buy in bulk as much as possible and avoid “snack size” items with excessive packaging that costs more per ounce and fills up our landfills with unnecessary waste.
*We compost our food scraps, which means we never have to buy potting soil. We get free wood chips from the city’s recycling center (old trees & branches they’ve ground up).
*We don’t waste money on junk food that is unnecessary calories and aren’t healthy for us.
*Spending summers in Africa means we can’t grow or keep a garden ourselves, but we are blessed to have our pantry & freezer stocked with vegetables from Anissa’s mother’s garden. Canning & freezing cuts down our food budget AND means we are eating healthier, organic, home-grown items.
*We hang out our clothes to dry on drying racks in the basement (there’s not really space in our yard), instead of using the dryer which reduces the electric bill and helps the environment.
*We walk, ride bikes or skateboard as much as possible to save on gas and reduce pollution.
There’s a lot more examples we could give, but these are just a few of the many ways that enable us to sponsor so many kids. And the best thing is, you’ll notice a lot of our lifestyle choices that save us money also save the earth and save our health…both of which are commands God has given us: to steward & manage the earth’s resources and to take care of our bodies which are His temple. So it’s an all-around win-win!
What would you say to encourage a family who is contemplating child sponsorship but isn’t sure how to work it into their monthly budget?
There is ALWAYS something you can cut. And as you see in the examples listed above, it really comes down to the little things. So much of what we have come to view as “necessary” here in America, is actually just excess. One of the easiest ways for people to clear up space in their budget is with food & drink. Going through the Starbucks drive through on the way to work every morning at $4 a drink M-F is $20 a week. Sponsorship through NHU is only $35 a month. Instead of going out to eat as a family of 4 for $50 for ONE meal, you could be sponsoring a child for a MONTH. As we said in the video, it boils down to obedience. Even if your family doesn’t feel “called” to sponsorship to the same degree that our family does, we are ALL mandated in scripture to help the widows and the orphans. We are all going to have to answer to God about how we managed the money He entrusted to us during our short time here on earth. Luke 12:48 says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”