“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, ESV)
I have this itch in my spirit this morning or more of a yearning. In my room (converted dining space into mom’s “studio”) there are bookshelves with books and containers of various art/sewing supplies. Paints of various colors fill old soda crates, an easel hangs on the wall, and fabric scraps are tucked away in drawers. It’s my haven. I have created some art pieces over the years, but what the studio has really become is the place where things go when mom needs to fix them. A broken necklace and a pair of pants that need a new button sit on the table at the moment.
My yearning has nothing to do with my studio or its supplies, but instead a letter that is buried somewhere within this room. A letter given to me when I went to Uganda the summer of 2012 on a Mission trip with my husband. A letter written from a seventeen year old girl who dared to have a dream.
Her name was Jackie and she was beautiful. She appeared at the medical clinic the first day we arrived in Labuje outside of Gulu. We chatted a bit. Her eyes held so much sorrow, but yet there was something playful about her. She came into the prayer room where I was set up to pray over people who had seen the mission doctors. After walking over to my station, she sat down like any teenage girl who was getting ready to gab awhile. Slightly shy, but still bold enough, she asked what was on her heart. Her story was a common story. She couldn’t continue in school because her Uncle and Auntie required her to care for their children. She politely but boldly asked me to pay for her to school.
Orphaned and impoverished children all over the world are missing out on the opportunity to receive an education. Often in third world countries, children are forced into labor, forced to marry or just forced out of the classroom due to lack of funds, uniforms or proper supplies. It often effects girls the most as boys are seen as having a higher value or a greater potential. Also, boys at a certain age don’t miss school due to the hygiene issues that come with menstrual cycles in an economy where toilet paper is hard to afford, let alone feminine products.
I had to tell Jackie, I couldn’t pay for her school. On that trip we were asked over and over to pay for school or to sponsor a child. My husband tried to prepare me for the emotion that would go with having to say “no”, but it was heavy. The guilt inside of me loomed, because I knew how nice I had it back in America. My faith wavered every time I said the word, “no”; I couldn’t understand where hope could exist in the circumstances in which these beautiful people were living. I struggled with why I couldn’t be the hands and feet of Christ to each one of them. I yearned to give them hope and a future. We packed for the day and I left with Jackie and several other’s on my heart.
Upon arriving back the next day at the clinic, there was no Jackie. Some of the other children said she had to stay back to work. Near packing up time, though, a slender quiet young woman walked in my room. She held out her hand to me with a note for me to take and then gave me a big hug. She quietly said, “Thank you, Kysia, for loving me”. Jackie then slipped out of the room and I never saw her again.
Two and a half pages of teenage writing. Hopes, history, dreams and fears jotted down on notebook paper, then folded up tight, as though she had passed me a note in the hallway at school. She longed to return to school. She had sponsor parents who had paid for most of her education, but this year she had been denied the right to continue. Her dream wasn’t that of babysitting, but of creating art; however, her Uncle (which doesn’t always translate as a relative- could just mean someone who took her in) was her only source for food and shelter; he demanded that it was time for her to work. So she did. Still, she dreamed of being an artist. She loved to draw and to paint.
As she continued in her letter she shared with me how she had learned about Jesus in Sunday school. She knew how to pray to Jesus and asked me to pray for her continuously, “every time you get down to honor God.” She knew He had plans and a future for her, so she simply prayed for her future to “come out of dark into light”. She then described how she worshiped God through music, listing off her favorite songs of “You Raise Me Up”, “Am a Friend of God”, and “Who am I Lord.” She closed the letter with (these exact words), “I love you so much, Kysia and I will always do so just as God first loved[.] me and you also sing his song, “Oh, How I love Jesus…””
Spools of thread are hanging off my bookshelves with a can that holds scissors on the shelf. I fix so many little things from broken jewelry to last minute hems. Broken toys, rewired lamps, and super glued shoes are some of my specialties. But how do I fix hope? It’s a question that has gripped me over the last year and a half. My faith tells me hope is only found in Christ. My obedience in Christ tells me to be His hands and feet, meaning care for those who cannot care for themselves. We already sponsor several children, but there are so many children out there who are desperate. What is the next step?
Jackie already knew the next step. She wrote it in her letter. It was a brief statement made in a run on sentence that could be easy to miss; but I paused and did a double take to make sure I are read it correctly. It is “Just as God first loved.” I suddenly used that sentence fragment to fill the answer to all my questions. It reminds me to pray first, surrendering my will and desire to God who first gave me that passion. Secondly, I am to wait for the answer that is given out of the goodness of God; recognizing that sometimes His goodness may or may not be for my action. Lastly, when acting, I am to acknowledge God will provide the strength and the insight I will need for each task. God is the one with the answers, because He loved first and then created from that love. It is only through my surrendering to Him that his love will flow through me.
Although, Jackie, is considered an adult now, I often wonder how she is doing. While I don’t know, my Maker does because He first loved. How am I to encourage others who live in desolate situations to keep dreaming even if I can’t financially support them? I’m not sure; but, My Lord does, because He first loved. If scissors, glue, and buttons could do the trick to mend, then out of my own strength I would probably naively and foolishly try. But this is mending only a Creator can attend; because He first loved.
“Show me your ways, O Lord, My God; guide me in your truth and teach me.” (Psalm 25:4-5) Amen.
If your family is interested in helping change the world one child at a time through child sponsorship there are several organizations that would love have you aboard. We sponsor and work directly with Help One Now , and in addition, sponsor through World Vision.