Today is a big day. We received news that our first sponsored child Tuhame Edson graduated from the Compassion program in Uganda, completed his Vocational Training and is about to begin a new season.
10 years of sponsorshipâ€¦ I remember walking up to a Compassion stand in 2005. My eyes locked on the face of the little nine-year-old with the unsure eyes and thought, yeah, I think weâ€™re both a bit uncertain, so letâ€™s give this a go, you and I.
Being born with clubfoot and born into extreme poverty is a doubly hard deal. And yet he was also born to be an even greater overcomer.
I witnessed it first hand when I visited Edson and his family in western Uganda on two precious occasions. We were both nervous that first meeting, both unsure of what to say, him shyly waving a small British flag, me with a wavering, tear-blurred smile and words stuck somewhere in my heart. On my second visit he heard the jeep coming and loped alongside, waving to me, an ear-to-ear smile splitting his face as we pulled up through the banana trees to his family home.
Thank God for Compassion, thank God for the local church in his community who saw the potential in him and chose to help him get on his feet, quite literally. Through an operation, leg braces to help him learn to walk, physiotherapy and encouragement, he became physically strong, exuding a quiet confidence that went far deeper.
Most sponsored children donâ€™t go on to become doctors, lawyers, engineers or have seats in government. Quite a few do. But most quietly find that one thing they are good at and give that skill back to their community to the best of their ability. I personally think this is where the greatest transformation comes in communities; each of us giving back what we love and what we learn to those around us.
Our Edson is now a qualified barber and is passionate about training others. He is setting up his own salon and wants to set up a training centre in the local town to see others skilled too. And, he wants to sponsor a child himself! He is a leader and a businessman with a pastoral heart. He has vision, hope and a very promising future.
Itâ€™s why we do this isnâ€™t it? Itâ€™s not about rescuingÂ Â someone from poverty or their circumstances. Itâ€™s not pity. Itâ€™s not the grand western gesture, a pompous hand reaching down to lift someone out of a sad predicament. Itâ€™s simply this: We are global citizens with a faith that says love your neighbour as yourself and a realization that everyone, regardless of where they are born or what they are born into should have the opportunity to fulfill the dream they have for their life. We give because he is our brother or she is our sister and if we have something, anything, we give it because we simply have the ability to do so.
Surely thatâ€™s as complicated as it gets.
So today I will be writing to him one last time to say thank you, to tell him that he actually changed my life in specific ways. He gave me a bigger world perspective. He taught me that you are never too young (or old) to learn how to overcome challenges with humility, courage and a smile. He taught me about the importance of a lifestyle of generosity and showed me every person has a story worth telling, worth listening to. But above all, Iâ€™m going to tell him that he is one of the most outstanding human beings Iâ€™ve ever met and he will always have a place of importance in our family.