Love Risks

02/14/14

I sat on the plane to Sierra Leone, thought about meeting my sponsored child, and cried.

You see, a child I sponsored once broke my heart. 

 
When you love, you always risk that your love will not be accepted. But does tha
         When you love, you always risk that your love will not be accepted. But does that mean you shouldn't love? 
 
I met her one of the first days I was in Africa, serving with an organization similar to Children of the Nations. She came up to me, grabbed my hand and said, "You will be my mother." 
 
She called me Mama every day after that, and the other children started calling me Mama Martha*—Martha's mother. Within a few days I had contacted the in-country staff and asked if she needed a sponsor. She didn't, but they let me sign up to sponsor her anyway. I was in love. 
 
Martha had a difficult background. Her parents had both died of AIDS, and she was HIV positive. At eleven years old the only family she had were her older brothers, who I met and did not think much of. She was one of those kids who just needs extra attention, and the in-country staff, though they loved and cared for her, clearly didn't have the time to give her all she needed. So I did. I gave her as much of my time as I could—spent hours reading books with her, stayed up late helping her with her homework, and slipped notes in her backpack in the morning. 
 
I went back twice to visit her, and between visits I prayed for her and wrote to her as often as possible. Every one of her letters went on my fridge. 
 
The last time I saw her, she was thirteen. Five years went by without me visiting, and she turned into a woman. A woman who could make her own choices. And she did. 
 
She ran away from school three times. Each time, the organization gave her another chance, knowing that, because of her health, her life would be at risk if she weren’t under their care. Each time, she took that chance, and for some reason, could not accept it. The third time, they had to draw a line. And so she left the program. She's no longer my little girl. She's gone. 
 
My sponsored child made the choice to walk away from the opportunities I helped
My sponsored child made the choice to walk away from the opportunities I helped give her, and walk away from my love. My heart was crushed. 
 
After that, who would sponsor another child?
 
It took me a long time. But God is teaching me that this thing we call love is not about me. Love risks. 
 
Somehow, I only want to love if I know it will be accepted. And appreciated. But that's not how God loves us. God risked everything to love us. He gave His whole life, knowing that many of us would take His love, and for some reason, just like Martha, wouldn't be able to accept it. But He did it anyway.  
 
Love risks. 
 
So I risked it all and decided to sponsor again. And sitting on that plane I was faced with a very real fact. You might love this little girl, and at some point in her life, she might choose to run away from that love. You might give this girl an opportunity by sponsoring her, but she might choose not to take that opportunity. 
 
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't ever give her that opportunity. Because God knows I've trampled on the opportunities and scorned the love that He gives me. Yet every day, He keeps loving me. Can I not do the same for a child in need? Because my love and support may be the only opportunity she gets.
 
Sorry if this isn't the gushy Valentine's Day post you were hoping for. But sometimes that's what love looks like. 
 
love risks
 
Will you love a child in need this Valentine's Day? Go ahead—risk it. Sponsor a child today. 
 
*The name of the child has been changed to protect her privacy.