I have learned many life changing lessons since I began my walk and work with the Sister Connection ministry. I thank God every day for the opportunities HE has provided me, and for this work I love so much. I have come to understand, however, that HIS purpose in calling me to Burundi transcends the work I do, and is rooted in HIS concern for my growth as HIS disciple. God works in and through of each us because HE wants to develop relationships…. between HIM and us… and among HIS children. I’d like to share a story of my own experience that illustrates this lesson and its transformational effect on my life.
I met Tama for the first time while visiting his small village in Burundi near the Tanzanian border. He is one of many Sister Connection orphans. He lived nearby in a home Sister Connection had built for his mother, who I learned had recently passed away. With both parents gone, at the age of 15, Tama was thrust into the role as the “man of the house” and responsible for taking care of his 9 year-old brother. His heart-wrenching story touched me very deeply, and shortly after returning home and sharing his story with my wife Tracey, we decided to become his sponsor.
Our sponsorship of Tama began with a financial reaction to his very moving story. As his sponsor, every month a deduction is taken from our checking account. It’s electronic, it’s automatic, it happens quickly and quietly… and without notice- such is the peril of technology to relationships. Just before Christmas that year, however, I received a letter from Tama that brought to light the danger of not focusing on the real purpose of sponsorship- the relationship. As I began to read his letter, I didn’t have to read far before I read these words:
“Our dear sponsors and parents given to us by Jesus…”
If these words had physical weight, they would have crushed me. The heaviness I felt in my heart as I repeated his words over in my mind, and began to realize we were not just his sponsors. In the heart and mind of this young boy (man) we were a gift. God was using the work I did for Sister Connection to create a very special relationship, a relationship that honors HIM .
I have learned that the sponsor’s relationship must evolve beyond a monetary transaction if it is to develop in to the fullness of God’s higher purpose. For Tama, Tracey and myself, God has transformed the monthly gifts into a more meaningful and deeper relationship. After receiving his letter, I realized I was missing the whole point of sponsorship. Now, I view sponsorship as a relational seed, planted in the hope that God will use it to create transformational relationships for those on both ends of the sponsorship equation.
Not only are there many Burundian widows and orphans in need of this kind of relationship- a relationship that brings honor to God through meaningful and intentional acts of love- but we Americans need these relationships in our life just as much.