It’s been one year since our trip to Uganda and Burundi, to attend the Amahoro gathering in Entebbe, visit our friends Kelley and Claude in Burundi with the SheLoves group, and then to Masaka, Uganda to visit an old friend of mine and see the ministry of a local church there that we support. I originally wrote this post a little after we came home and then for some reason or another it got buried in the drafts folder. But it seems meaningful to have found it again almost exactly one year after we had the wonderful experience of meeting the two children we sponsor through River of Life church’s White Eagles ministry…
Nearly five years ago, my friend Rob let me know about a new girl who’d just arrived at the White Eagle home in Masaka, Uganda. She was eight months pregnant and she needed a sponsor. Rob thought it should be me.
It was before I was married, and I was living on an NGO wage in a small studio apartment in Brussels. I wanted to be generous but somehow it always seemed like a huge stretch in the budget. But Rob was his normal charming persistent self and once he sent me the photos, I could no longer say no.
And so started my story with Joanne, and her son Josiah*. In the years since, I’ve had regular updates from her and from Rob and the staff there. They let me know when there were specific things I could pray for her. Their faces have smiled at me from my wall and I’ve watched Josiah grow from a chubby baby to a little boy. I’ve felt like a proud mama with every report card, every letter, every drawing.
When Idelette and Kelley invited us to join them in Uganda last year for the Amahoro conference, my first thoughts were of Joanne and Josiah. I knew, if I was going to go all that way, there was no way I was leaving the country without getting to meet them.
We arrived at River of Life on Tuesday evening after our flight back from Burundi. As we walked into the courtyard around which the home is built, they were already there, and I got pulled into an excited hug when Joanne saw us. It was such a surreal moment, this face that I’d seen so regularly in photos, suddenly smiling and dancing in front of us.
Joanne is a beautiful young woman. She is friendly and hospitable, quick to help, eager to serve. She looked after us in their home like we were family.
And Josiah? This little bundle of energy is the sweetest boy! For the first few hours he was too shy to do much more than whisper, but soon Rasmus had drawn a few more words out of him, and then it was hard to get him to stop talking! He was thrilled with the Pepper Pig colouring set we’d bought him and guarded it fiercely from the other children in the home.
It was such a joy to spend time with them. Joanne sang us the song she is learning on the guitar. Josiah let us play his Mario Cars game (I was appalling!). Joanne showed me the photo album she has of Josiah growing up and we talked about school and friends and church. We ate meals of matooke and fish together with their White Eagles family, and chased the house cat Mr Princess when he came home with a squirrel. We got to be part of their Sunday bible study together, and played for hours with balloons and books and playdough.
In church on Sunday morning, I watched Joanne lead the worship at the front with such grace and my heart just sang. And as we sat toward the back with the other girls, Josiah leant into Rasmus and whispered, “You’re my sponsor!”
Yes, my love, we are your sponsors.
We’re your sponsors because we believe you and your sweet mama are worthy of so much love and care and safety.
We’re your sponsors because we want to see you thrive, to move forward out of the struggles of the past, and grow strong and confident in who God made you to be.
We’re your sponsors because we can’t stand the unjust structures that have created such a chasm between us, and we want to do our bit to right that wrong.
We’re your sponsors because we are certain that young people like you can impact Uganda for the better and we want to be there to see you do it.
There are many many ways you can give to charity, and sponsoring is just one of the ways. But it’s a beautiful way. We’re convinced this is a good use of our money.
We sponsor Joanne and Josiah through River of Life’s White Eagle’s program. Through this program some of Masaka’s most vulnerable children receive the quality education, care, love, emotional and spiritual support they need to thrive and flourish. They focus on trying to reunite children with their families where that is possible (read a story of how this happens on their blog).
We can highly recommend River of Life to you if you are looking for an organisation to support.