"My Sponsored Child is Real": A Couple Gains Perspective on a Trip to Uganda

09/10/12

You might be skeptical about child sponsorship. Does the money you send really benefit your child? Is it making a difference in his or her life? You're not the only one who has these questions. "I am a total skeptic," admits Jenn Jones, who sponsors a boy named Arnold in Uganda. "We got letters, but I wasn't sure whether our money was going to him, or whether he was even real." Jenn's husband Tyler chuckles as he remembers trying to hang their sponsored child's photo on the fridge. "Jenn said, 'That's silly—we don't even know him,'" Tyler recounts. "I wanted a real relationship with him," Jenn adds.

This summer, that relationship began. Jenn and Tyler's view of sponsorship was transformed as they journeyed from Seattle to Uganda on Children of the Nations' (COTN) first-ever "Meet Your Sponsored Child" Venture Trip.

Tyler and Jenn were nervous with anticipation as they touched down for the first time in Africa. After a long and bumpy van ride, the team neared COTN's guesthouse after dark. Expecting to crash for the night and meet their sponsored children in the morning, the team was surprised to hear children screaming as they pulled up to the guesthouse. "There were about fifteen children screaming our names and cheering," says Tyler. "As we drove by, I saw a little boy in a blue sweater. I totally recognized him from the pictures—it was Arnold."

Nervous at first, Jenn and Tyler warmed up to nine-year-old Arnold pretty fast. Their whole trip was centered around getting to know their child—from participating in daily chores with them to special trips together—so they had plenty of time to begin their relationship.

Through these activities, they began to learn more about Arnold—he loves soccer; he wants to be an engineer; he has a huge heart for others. They saw the care they help provide for him at COTN's Uganda Children's Village—a warm bed, a mosquito net, nutritious meals, the chance to attend school. More than these physical items, Jenn and Tyler began to see that they were giving Arnold the ability to dream, and to achieve those dreams.

The week culminated in an emotional trip—COTN staff took the team and their children to the site of a massacre that took place at the height of Uganda's rebel war. It was an intense experience for Tyler and Jenn, and they could only imagine what Arnold was going through. Jenn asked Arnold what he was thinking as they left.  "Well," she remembers him saying, "I think we should pray for them."  Jenn was blown away.  "Not only is COTN feeding kids physically," she reflects, "but they're feeding them spiritually as well.  He turned to God before I did."

Learning some of Uganda's history and understanding a little more about the country also helped Jenn and Tyler realize the importance of their sponsorship. "I never really understood COTN's mission statement—raising children who transform nations," admits Tyler. "But in Uganda, I saw the absolute need for moral, upright, godly men and women to step up and lead. We're playing a part in doing that by sponsoring a child."

Jenn and Tyler were encouraged by the difference they are making and will continue to make in Arnold's life, even as they consider what it would look like to support him through college. But not every child in the village is as blessed as Arnold.  Every day, Tyler and Jenn walked past countless children dressed in rags, with swollen bellies. "What we realized on this trip," says Tyler, "is the more people decide to sponsor, the more children COTN could take in. There is so much need."

Do you want to make a deep impact on a child's life? Sponsor a child and transform a life.