Here's our table, and my co-volunteer, David, brushing up on his Compassion facts (a first-time volunteer, like me). He's from Watertown, NY... real close to my birth-city. Nice guy - we chatted about kids and music and missions trips. His brother is one of the directors that planned and prepared for the event. He was up from Texas, so David thought he'd come over to help out and get to see his brother at the same time.
Later, I was exchanging pleasantries with a lovely lady across the table about where we live and from where we came. When she heard that I moved to Vermont relatively recently she exclaimed, "Oh, you're a missionary then." I looked at her puzzled. She clarified by saying that any Christian that moves to Vermont is a missionary. Ah, I get it. Okay, yes... come to think of it, I was pretty encouraged to learn that it was a sold-out event in Vermont! So, apparently there's at least 1200 Christian lady-Vermonters. Yay! (We're in the land of the liberals, here.)
The overflow table... how wonderful to need an overflow table!
Bead for Life. These beads are made in Uganda by local women. They're made of paper! Compassion partnered with them so that every person who sponsored a child that day received the beaded necklace as a gift. They were a huge hit! Ladies wanted to purchase extras. Unfortunately, they weren't for sale, but their website explains how you can host Bead for Life parties and make them available to your friends for purchase. It's a wonderful ministry and a source of income for the communities in Uganda. They're beautiful, and so colorful.
My vantage point of a mostly rainy (as is typical lately) autumn day.
We had the distinct honor (not a common occurrence) of having with us a former sponsored child. Julian Alum of Uganda shared her testimony with the ladies (and a few gentlemen) in attendance. It was powerful. With her on stage is Jennifer Rothschild (Fresh Grounded Faith) and Mike Collins (brother of my co-volunteer and Compassion rep).
With poise and eloquence, this lovely young woman spoke of what life was like as a very young child after her father died. How she and her siblings, with their mother, would scavenge for food at the dump; how she was forced to leave school to work with her mother at the market place selling sweet potatoes. With a brief break in her composure and heart-felt emotion, she told us how her mother prayed to God, whatever she knew of Him, for mercy - for her five children not to be hungry, let alone uneducated.
With a smile as broad as the sea and as warm as sunshine, she told us how her life changed, and not just hers but her whole family's, when she became a sponsored child through Compassion International. She was able to go back to school and not just graduate high school, but to earn her undergraduate degree at Kampala. When she told us she is now in her second year at Baylor University working toward a Masters degree in Social work, the room erupted with applause and she (and God) received a standing ovation. She's proof that sponsorship really works. It really changes lives.
Here's an excerpt from the Compassion Website:
"After the death of her father, Julian was faced with the horrors of life in a polygamous and broken family whose relatives deserted her. She was introduced to child labor at the age of 6 to help supplement her mothers’ meager income and was forced to drop out of school and to scavenge for food through the leftovers in the local market in order to survive. Enrolled in a Compassion project at the age of 10, she was introduced to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and later realized that God had led her through all the traumatic events of her life in order to be better prepared to serve Him through ministering to the broken-hearted.
“Millions of children living in poverty are born to be leaders, but this potential will only come about if they are given an opportunity.” Julian’s desire is to become a leading advocate for the poor in Uganda by designing programs that address holistic development as well as programs that deal with social injustices like poverty, orphans, gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS and lack of education for young girls.
She is currently attending Baylor University where she hopes a Masters Degree in Social work will help her implement great change in her country!"
For the rest of the day that dear one helped us work the table to process paperwork for women whose hearts were touched and wanted to become sponsors. That's David, Julian and John B. (another Compassion rep).
Working side by side with Julian was pure joy. She radiates love and grace. And I derived much pleasure in overhearing her subtly singing songs of praise. Quietly, not to draw attention to herself, but just releasing the overflow of her heart. It was precious.
During a lull in the flurry, she stepped away to take a phone call. Returning, she said smiling (always smiling), "That was my mom." "Calling from Uganda?" we asked. "Mmmm, hmmm. She sends her greetings." Mama obviously knew her dear girl would take the stage that day and I'm sure was calling to see how it went. Julian's youngest sibling has just graduated high school and she says, "Mom can rest now." She has peace. Ah, thank you, God.
Next month she'll meet her sponsors for the first time. Oh, can you just imagine?
It was a great day! Exactly 100 children were sponsored and I nearly floated home.
Thank you, Lord.