by Lisa Smith

As we return from Swaziland, my mind continues to fill with thoughts of the family we left behind. Each visit is like an annual family reunion, the kind where everyone simply can’t wait to see each other. And when it’s time to leave, some smile and hug while others try to hold back tears. Thankfully, with annual visits, the children now realize we’ll return so there is much more hugging, smiling and chasing the bus down the long driveway than tears.

This visit our team was welcomed into homes, shared in worship, taught each other popular dances of both cultures, had sitting mats rolled out as a sign of hospitality, shown family scrapbooks complete with pictures of sponsors, and held deep discussions that sometimes included laughter and sometimes tears. That’s family.

Our sponsored children may be family picked from a website or sponsorship card, but it is my prayer for everyone to know how real of a person is on the other end. It’s a precious life worthy of knowing the love of Jesus, worthy of the joy when a sponsor’s letter arrives, worthy of the hope of a brighter future, and worthy of everything we would hope for our own children.

Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” We have seen faith in this verse played out through sponsorship. Though they seem to have little by American standards, sponsored children and their families thank God for each and every sponsor because they know God has brought us together to change lives according to His plan. I can’t describe how amazing it was to witness a 12-year-old boy, who’s packet had been on the sponsorship table at Connection Pointe for at least year, find out that he was being sponsored by one of our team members. Pure joy! Hope. Now family. 

Despite all the joys, our family there still faces darkness. Alcoholism, abandonment, and sexual abuse are every day issues in Swaziland. Even some government leaders still place faith in witchcraft rather than in Jesus Christ. This darkness reminds me of why we go…to be a light where there is darkness (Eph. 5:8). Hearing Pastor LaSalette evangelize to men who were drinking homemade alcohol and inviting them to church renewed my excitement for serving God in a place where the light of the gospel is still needed. I think it spurred all who heard her enthusiasm to shine our light more brightly and boldly in our home away from home.

Even if you think you’ll never have the opportunity to visit your sponsored child, God has given each sponsor an opportunity to encourage and love in the name of Jesus through letters, email, pictures and perhaps even a face to face meeting one day. Be a light in the darkness. Be family.

Thank you to all who sent letters and helped with sponsor gifts this year. We can’t express how meaningful it is for the children to receive your messages and pictures. Our team was blessed to be ambassadors, not only in Jesus’ name, but each and every sponsor. Bless you.