For as long as I can remember, my mom and dad have been faithful about a calling to child sponsorship. As my brother and I grew up, we were able to write letters to a child all the way across the world who was close to our age. We talked to him about sports, school, animals and other things typical kids love to talk about, as we encouraged him in his faith. As I’ve grown, I’ve always felt the conviction to begin sponsoring a child on my own. I understood the lasting impact that sponsorship has in a child’s life even more fully through my parents’ example of stepping out in faith every month with their finances. Providing physical needs like food, water, clothes and education was a way to open a door to the need for Jesus in their hearts. However, as a 19-year-old college student, I was hesitant about the money it would take to sponsor a child.
Waverly McCall works with Benjamin House Ministries (BHM) as a US Representative. A post of hers on Facebook challenged me to consider how many cups of coffee or articles of clothing I had bought in the last month and how I could be changing a child’s life through sponsorship. I was curious to calculate how much money I had spent on coffee in the last month and was astonished to see it was well above the cost of a month of child sponsorship. My heart was broken for how I was using my money selfishly and foolishly. While we can all agree that coffee is a wonderful thing, the way I had been spending my money on coffee was out of excess. I knew my priorities as a steward of what God has given me had to change; so I clicked the link in the post to the BHM website. Little did I know how my whole world was about to change.
Using the money I made from my hand-lettering business, I began sponsoring a little girl named Esther Murungi. During the summer of 2018, I had the amazing opportunity to meet her during a short-term ministry trip to Uganda with BHM. I was able to spend an entire day with her, seeing where she lives in the Katanga slum and where she goes to school. The slum where Esther lives is a dismal place where sewage water runs through pathways, where families live in makeshift homes made of scraps stacked right on top of one another, where diseases spread rampantly, and where education is a luxury. It is a place that so desperately needs Jesus. Esther’s mother cannot care for her because of her mental illnesses. Her mother was taken advantage of by the man who is Esther’s father, so he is not in the picture either. Her grandmother and aunt are her primary caretakers, but her grandmother is aging. Life expectancy is short in a place like Katanga. Esther is one of the many children in Uganda with a story like this. Her aunt told me that sponsorship gives her hope for Esther’s well-being and future. It’s in those moments when you don’t know how to feel. When there is so much you want to do and feel like you’re not doing enough. When you have to leave a precious little girl behind in such a dark place. However, through it all, there is still the hope of Jesus.
I was absolutely filled with joy when we visited her school where they were teaching the children lessons from the Bible. Each of the students was so eager to find the Bible verses we discussed with them in their own Bibles. In every classroom we visited, our translator asked the children which of them had a sponsor. Hundreds of little hands were raised in every room. There was nothing like seeing first-hand the way God has worked through BHM to change lives.
What do you do when you experience something like that? When you see that there are children and their families who need the hope of Jesus and sponsorship so desperately. While I experienced the great love of my Heavenly Father as I looked at Esther, I also experienced deep sorrow and conviction. My heart was tied to Uganda like no other place I had been. That day, meeting Esther and seeing her school, is when the reality of how much child sponsorship changes the lives of the children really hit me. I knew I wanted to do something to challenge others to sponsor children through BHM.
Flashback to a couple years in high school when I knew I wanted to turn my love of photography into a business. Ever since I was a kid in my birthplace of Colorado with a disposable camera taking pictures of dinosaur fossils in museums, I knew I loved photography. Now I am a professional wedding and lifestyle photographer and going into my senior year at Anderson University to earn a degree in Communication: Digital Media.
During my time in Uganda last summer, Jason Williamson and I taught photography classes to the parents of sponsored children and took pictures of the sponsored children and their families. In those moments combining the passion the Lord has given me for photography and missions was right where I knew I was meant to be, but I didn’t really understand what that would look like in the future.
After I got back, Waverly called me and asked what it would look like for me to spend 3 months in Uganda during the summer of 2019 as an intern for BHM. I immediately said I couldn’t because of the number of weddings I had to shoot next summer. After looking at my calendar, I then realized that those wedding shoots had fallen through for one reason or another and I had exactly 12 weeks open next summer (which, if you know me well, is a miracle in and of itself). I couldn’t believe it. After praying through and feeling complete peace about the trip, my “yes” was on the table.
Bucky Rogers, Founder and Executive Director of BHM, and Waverly formally offered me an internship with the title of “Storyteller.” From May-August 2019, I will have the privilege of telling the stories of the children in the BHM sponsorship program and those in transitional homes. I will use photography, videography, social media and writing. I’ll be working alongside social workers in Uganda to better understand the needs of the people and share them with potential and existing sponsors.
I am so honored to have this opportunity and so excited to be a part of furthering the kingdom in these children’s and families’ lives through working with BHM. Child sponsorship changes the lives of the children and their families; but, most importantly, it opens up the door for the Gospel to be shared with more and more of the people in Uganda. While there are aspects of living in another country for three months that are definitely out of my comfort zone, I know the Lord doesn’t call me to be comfortable. Ever. Not even when I live in America. Jesus didn’t come to earth to be comfortable, but to give hope to the hopeless through the Gospel and his ministry. I cannot wait to hold little Esther’s hand and laugh with her again. I can’t wait to share the stories of the people there through the gifts the Lord has given me. But most importantly, I can’t wait to share the most important story I know with her and so many others through working with BHM: the story of my Savior.