Names with Faces
It is one thing to send money to needy children in other parts of the world, but it is a whole other thing to actually see their faces, be in their situation, hear them speak, and hug their little bodies. You see it on TV and hear stories of the poverty in Africa, but nothing can prepare your heart to know them and then to see the homes they live in, the food they eat (or don't), and watch their tiny feet chase your bus as you drive half a world away from them. When stories connect with the heart of a person, change happens. This is true in any endeavor in life. Every person has hardship behind a smile, insecurities beneath their flesh, and a story behind walls. Once you get to know these parts of them, it makes sense as to why they are who they are.
We saw the faces of Charles and Shella for the first time on pictures when the first list of Arise Africa sponsorships became available last September. We then continued to build relationships with them through letters! Reading their stories and now knowing their daily realities has changed our life more than any amount of financial support could change theirs. We had the greatest privilege of seeing their faces in person in January on the first Arise Africa mission trip. We quickly sought them out to build relationships and love on them as much as possible for the limited time we were in Lusaka. Shella is a nine year old girl with a smile that will light up the world and warm your heart in one instant. Her tender and grateful spirit radiates and makes you want to lean down and watch her every move. She loves to dance and is not intimidated by any situation or person. Charles is a five year old boy that sees life as one adventure after another. He immediately saw my husband as his personal jungle gym. His house is only one block from Destiny school but he somehow manages to get lost on the way to school from time to time. We always wonder what exciting adventures he finds to explore on the way to school.
During the last part of the trip, we were able to see these children interact in their home life. As we were entering their homes, it was profound to think that this is their HOME: where they were born, where they sleep, where they interact with their family. The conditions were small and rough even by the standards of the Dallas projects. No electricity, no running water, more than five people in one tiny room, flies all around. The more time we spent getting to know these families, the more we realized that this world is not our HOME. HOME for the Sayles is not our comfortable, warm, clean house in Dallas, Texas. Charles and Shella's HOME is not the slums of Lusaka, Zambia. Because of their faith in Christ (and boy was that faith evident), their eternal HOME is with our Savior in Heaven! In hard situations, we as Americans are so quick to want to change the circumstances. We are so quick to find answers to our problems, NOW! Wow, the gift of a simple life is much! Arise Africa has given us the incredible opportunity to help these children have food, education, and discipleship in their faith.
One thing that we realized in being there is that the monetary need is great but nothing can change the situation except for the love of God and love from the community of believers. It has become quite evident to us how the greatest commandment to "love the Lord your God with all you heart soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself" can change people, communities, and the world from the inside out. No words can express the joy of watching the Zambian Arise Africa staff, school teachers, church pastors, and the community of believers come alongside these vulnerable, orphan children. We can try our hardest to relate to Charles and Shella but at the end of the day, I really don't know what its like to go days without food, weeks without showers, months without medical attention, and years without the love of an earthly mother and father. It is a delight to know that these older Zambian mentors have been there and walked their path. It is also comforting to know our Heavenly Father cares perfectly for each of these children, as he does for us.
In our minds, relational ministry is so crucial in the lives of Charles and Shella and these other children. The Arise Africa staff members work hard to make sure these kids are getting their daily nutrition, medical attention, and education, but they take it to the next level to know their hearts. This includes both the emotional and spiritual needs of these children. They want to know not just if they are eating but how they are doing, what they fear, how they hurt, and what they need both physically and spiritually! This is the great commission!
We thought we knew what it was like to love, walk with Christ, pray, and give. These things become such a duty, at times, and can feel mundane. They grow stale and the Christian walk mediocre. Before you know it, gratitude is nowhere to be found in your heart. You find yourself feeling that you deserve happiness, a nice meal and comfort. Seeing this place changes it all. Suddenly, your list of thankfulness to God cannot be stopped! Gratitude overwhelms your heart, and the stale cracker of your faith becomes as salty as the oceans! We are just grateful to get to be a part of what God's doing through Arise Africa!
With much Joy,
Rob and Kim Sayles
Note: If you are interested in sponsoring a child through Arise Africa please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a list of current kiddos needing help.