by Dean Houser
Editor's note: This month's column is from Dean Houser, a corrections officer from Sinclairville, N.Y., and an AMG donor. His is an astounding story of how a simple child sponsorship can affect a whole family and even a whole community for Christ. We would be remiss not to share this "report from the front" with you!
If you are considering sponsoring a child or participating in a short-term mission trip, I encourage you to follow through and do it. One of the most rewarding investments you can make is in the life of another person. Once you become a child sponsor or go on a short-term mission trip, you will never be the same again.
Impact on the child: My family sponsors Eva, an 11-year-old girl at Camp El Har, AMG's home for AIDS orphans in the central African country of Uganda. Eva is the youngest of seven children. Her father died and her mother could not care for her large family. She abandoned all her children except for Eva. In time a boyfriend moved in with Eva and her mother and they began selling alcohol. AMG workers became concerned for Eva's well being, and were able to obtain custody and place Eva at Camp El Har. She arrived at Camp El Har in February, 2006, malnourished, behind academically, and able to speak little English.
In August, 2006, I traveled to Uganda with a short-term mission team and met Eva. I was able to see how the AMG sponsorship program was giving Eva a better future through nutritious meals, education, medical care, and teaching her about the love of Christ. It was evident that the care and nurturing of a good home environment was greatly contributing to her physical, spiritual, emotional, and educational growth and development. Within six months she was catching up on her studies, was learning to speak English, was in better health, and had turned her life over to the Lord. I returned home with mixed emotions and a burden for Eva, her mother, and their situation. I was to discover that this was the beginning of a much bigger plan that God had for our sponsorship.
Back home I shared Eva's story with my wife Karen and daughter Alyson. Karen especially felt a burden to help Eva's mother. We prayed that God would work in both her and Eva's lives. We also spoke with AMG about Eva and her mother, and asked if there could be a way to help Eva's mother.
Impact on family: In May, 2007, AMG told us that Eva's mother wanted to start a retail business. We forwarded funds to AMG and within a few weeks Eva's mother was in business.
In August, 2007, God made it possible for Karen, Alyson, and myself to visit Uganda on a short term mission team. Karen and Alyson met Eva at Camp El-Har and saw how the AMG sponsorship program had been caring for her. But we were also anxious to meet the woman we knew only as Eva's mother. We really wanted to see and hear about her new business.
Who we met was a very excited woman by the name of Teddy. She showed us the rice, beans, flour, sugar, produce, and other food items she had for sale. She eagerly told us about her business and how it had steadily grown in just a few months.
Teddy shared that she was forced from home at a very young age. After having children of her own and then trying to raise them alone she felt hopeless. She left the children in hopes that they might find a better life on their own. She started the alcohol business with her boyfriend because it was the only life she had ever known, and the only one she thought she could have.
After visiting Eva at Camp El Har, Teddy saw what a difference the AMG sponsorship program was having on her. Teddy began to realize that she, too, could have a better life. She contacted AMG to ask for help in turning her life around.
Karen shared her testimony with Teddy, telling her how much God loved her and that she, too, could experience a new life by asking God into her heart. Teddy replied, "After seeing all that He has done for me and Eva, how can I say no?" Teddy then asked Karen to pray with her as she accepted Christ into her life. It truly was a blessed moment.
Impact on community: We believe that God has a plan for Teddy and Eva that will also impact their communities. We are praying that what God has done in their lives will be a testimony for all to see. Eva is becoming a leader in her school, church, and of course, at Camp El Har. We pray that Teddy's walk with the Lord will be strengthened and that she will become a beacon in a community that is not necessarily friendly toward the gospel. She has the potential to witness to many people about God's grace.
Impact on the sponsors: Three years ago, I never dreamed that God would open up so much to us from one AMG child sponsorship. A child sponsorship and short-term mission trips have allowed us to make very rewarding connections with people in small villages in Uganda, their churches, pastors, leaders and projects. My family agrees that a piece of our hearts remain in Uganda. We can't wait to return to work and minister there again.
These are just some of the impacts that a child sponsorship can have. The ripple effect of a child sponsorship can reach out in many ways!