Connecting with a Child in Sierra Leone

10/15/10

Amber Rettke is a Certified Child Life Specialist at Florida Hospital for Children in Orlando. This past summer she was part of a Venture Team from Summit Church that served in Sierra Leone. Below, she writes about sponsoring a child she connected with while there.

I wanted to sponsor a child. So, in preparation for my Venture Trip with Children of the Nations (COTN) to Sierra Leone this past summer, I really began to think about it. I spent time on COTN’s website, browsing the children in need of sponsors. I thought about what it would be like to meet my future sponsor child. However, once I was in Sierra Leone, child sponsorship became more than a want, it became a need, a responsibility. God had opened my eyes to the responsibility of caring for orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). But, how do I sponsor only one child when there is an entire country of children in need of sponsors? I felt as if every set of eyes I looked into were begging me to sponsor them.

Piercing, beautiful eyes—I saw them everywhere I turned in Sierra Leone. In the woman washing clothes at the river with a baby on her back, in the man I met while hiking to a village, in the grandmother watching children in her home. And then there was Theresa. She had dark, joy-filled eyes that locked with mine as she ran to meet me in her village of Mokpangumba. All she knew about me was that I was with a Venture team from Children of the Nations. She walked with me from her house to her church in the center of her village, and never left my side.

During my afternoon with Theresa, I was able to peer into the life of a seven-year-old girl whose future could be filled with possibility, but whose present is surrounded by poverty. Theresa demonstrated joy as she worshipped God, clapping her hands and singing loudly. She spoke with pride when reciting a nursery rhyme for our team. She squealed with excitement while chasing bubbles outside the church. She even showed a bit of orneriness, but was quickly corrected by her mother! Theresa was full of life; I can only imagine what her life might look like outside her poverty-stricken village. Presently, Theresa lives in a mud hut with nine family members, without running water or electricity, eating rice and cassava for her daily meals. She currently attends nursery school in her village, but next year will walk three miles one way to attend COTN’s primary school.

Now, as Theresa’s sponsor, I have the privilege of affecting her life from four thousand miles away. My small monthly donation allows Theresa to go to school, to have access to a local health clinic, and to receive a meal outside of her home each day. I can communicate with her via letters and “watch” as the Lord transforms her into the young lady He has created her to be. With her spunk, I can only see big things happening for her future. My minimal sponsorship donation affects Theresa, as well as those in her life. Her family has one less meal to provide each day for Theresa. They also reap the benefits of her education, hopefully learning along with their daughter. In the future, Theresa’s sponsorship will affect those she works with, and those she leads. I am humbled to think that God can use my little donation to affect not only Theresa, but also those in her sphere of influence.

For ten days I lived in the poverty of Sierra Leone, and I was surrounded by those who knew nothing more, and plenty less. Throughout my daily life, I live in the opposite of poverty. I have benefitted from the value of education, the necessity of health care, the comfort of little things like shoes. However, while on my God-ordained trip to Sierra Leone, my eyes were opened to my responsibility to those in poverty. I am responsible to do my part—to support opportunities for change. And although sponsorship through Children of the Nations is about the transformation of children, I am grateful for the transformation God is doing within me as I participate with this organization.

To follow Amber’s lead and change a child’s life, visit our Sponsorship page.