We all met at a well-known Chinese food restaurant (yes, I came to Africa to eat Chinese food), and the Compassion workers brought in the children. Dissan looked a little nervous, until I approached him. He saw the soccer ball I was carrying for him, and his face broke into a smile so big it could light up this hemisphere. He couldn’t even bring himself to put down the soccer ball for the first 30 minutes.
We sat down to eat, and his eyes were as wide as saucers. This was not only his first visit to the city, it was his first time to eat at a restaurant. He’s nine years old.
We began to go through the backpack full of goodies I brought from home. His eyes nearly came out of his head. He couldn’t believe the clothes (they were a perfect fit) and his mouth hung open at the $1 solar-powered calculator. He must have said “thank you” to me a thousand times.
The Compassion worker from his project in the village made the four-hour drive with him, and she served as our interpreter. She and Dissan together told me his story.
He lives in the village, in a mud hut. Both his parents died last year, and the relative he was sent to live with is very sick. So is his six-year-old brother (Dissan is healthy). Because it has rained so much in Uganda the last few months, the front wall of their hut has washed away.
This boy, this precious boy with the golden smile, does not have parents, and he does not even have four walls.
He could not believe the constant flow of food brought out to us (it was served in courses). He devoured everything in front of him, including four egg rolls and two bottles of soda (he was amazed that the waiter brought him a second one).
After lunch, we kicked around the soccer ball in the yard of the restaurant—the boy has a wicked strong kick. I showed him a picture of my children and he asked me when he could meet them.
Parting was terribly hard, especially now that I’ve seen mud huts in the villages and I know what he’s returning to. The interpreter helped me tell him that I love him, and that my family prays for him every night.
He told me that he’s praying for us too. Imagine.
I told him that I promised we would continue to sponsor him through Compassion as long as he needs us, until he’s an adult. I gave him a long momma hug, which he eagerly returned. I whispered in his ear the blessing I say over my own kids before they get on the bus each morning: May the Lord bless you and keep you, may He make His face to shine upon you, may He be gracious unto you and grant you His peace.
And when he was gone, I hid my face in Sophie’s shoulder and wept.
When you sponsor a Compassion child, it is not a “symbolic” sponsorship. Your money is not going into some generic slush fund and doled out to a random group of children. There is only one Dissan, and he is ours. If we didn’t sponsor him, he wouldn’t have a sponsor unless someone else signed up. If you’re a child sponsor, and you want to visit your child in his home country, then they will arrange it.
Because there’s only one of you, and there’s only one of them.
Have you been reading the blog posts this week? Have you been thinking about sponsoring a child? Somewhere, right now, in a slum in Uganda or a shack in Ecuador or a mud hut in Rwanda, there is a child whose life could be radically, completely altered by your willingness to make the tiniest sacrifice.
Please, just take one of these kids into your heart. They won’t be the only ones whose lives are changed. You won’t ever be the same, either.