May 21, 2013

Of Rice, Beans, and Child Sponsorship

Over a year ago through some friends of ours I was introduced to Lahash International, an organization that partners with local ministries in Eastern Africa to "bring good news and holistic care to children in need."  I read about the Main family's involvement with Lahash's Rice & Beans Month and couldn't help but be intrigued.  I tucked away the idea for future reference and went on with my life...which at the time included waiting desperately for the last couple of months of a very long deployment to come to an end.

A few weeks after Ted's return from Afghanistan we ventured on a mega road trip that included serving at the Commission 2012 summer youth camp in Idaho, where I devoured a book called The Hole in Our Gospel during camp week.  Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision USA, is the author, so already I had an intrinsic desire to read the book--we've been child sponsors through World Vision since my college days.  I'll write more at a later date about this book and the path it started me on (well, me and my dear hubby, who has been a fairly willing participant in my journey!), but I wanted to at least note the book here, because it definitely played a role in some steps our family began to take last fall.

Enter once again the Main family.  We received a letter from them detailing a great adventure--three of them would be traveling to Uganda to meet with their sponsored boy!  The team visit would coincide with the dedication of a new family-style house that would be home to a number of sponsored children and their care givers as well as a weekend camp-style retreat that volunteers were organizing for the kids.  At the same time the Mains were raising funds for their travels, their son Daniel decided to do a fundraiser of his own to help raise money for the Amazing Grace Children's Home project.  "Hoops for Homes" was a fun and inspired way for him to use his talent with a basketball and get his community involved in donating as well.

Cue our own family's interest and creativity...meanwhile, we were settling in a bit into life here in Italy, living in a two-bedroom apartment while waiting for a more permanent living situation to open up.  With some extra time (if not space) on our hands, Charis decided to begin her own fundraiser, "Bears for Bricks."  We cheered her on (and indulged her need to knit during school read-aloud time) as she knitted almost 40 bears.  (As an that we've finished the fundraiser, I really have NO IDEA how much money she raised, but I'm so proud of her for sticking with it and carrying out her vision to make this happen!)

The more we read about the Main family's Uganda trip preparations, and the more we read about Lahash as an organization, the more convinced we became that our family needed to get in on the exciting things God has been doing in East Africa!  In November we officially became sponsors of 5 children at AGCH, all of whom India, John, and Josiah got to meet when they went on their trip.

Sponsoring Godfrey, Jesca, Oliver, Morris, Kani, and (just recently) Sarah has been an incredible gateway for our kids' eyes to be opened to the vast needs in the world around us.  Our kids have never truly known what it is to be "starving" (though they would argue that fact an hour before dinner).  They have never lacked for clothing.  They have never hurt for living space, despite a bigger-than-average family size.  They don't have to walk anywhere to fetch water; they have hours of free time that in other parts of the world would find them slaving over basic survival tasks.

The J kids have connected with their new friends in East Africa by writing letters back and forth and seeing their pictures, both in the mail and online through blogs, Facebook groups, etc.  When we learned that "our" kids were having to walk over a mile each way for decent water, we were motivated by love and concern to spread the word about Lahash's need for funds for drilling a well on the AGCH property.  When we saw pictures of Godfrey and Jesca with the mattresses they received for Christmas--and when it dawned on the kids that this was the FIRST TIME these kids have been able to sleep comfortably on a regular basis--well, that was a powerful teaching moment.  When we saw the smiles of Oliver, Morris, and Kani as they held up their backpacks or proudly modeled new clothes, we felt their joy while at the same time feeling somewhat ashamed of whatever our complaint-of-the-day happened to be.

So it seemed a natural step for our family to join with Lahash in observing Rice & Beans Month.
  1. Solidarity--joining with our friends around the world who don't have the options and variety that we enjoy in their food habits.
  2. Simplicity--getting rid of excesses and non-essentials so we can focus on what's really important.
  3. Sharing--simplifying our diets so that we can share our extra resources to help meet the nutritional needs of vulnerable children across East Africa.
I need to wrap this up...a delicious concoction known as "Dan's Ginger & Zucchini Beans" is simmering on the stove, and it's time for me to heat up some rice to go with it!  In my next post, I'll write in detail about Rice & Beans our family is approaching it this year and some of our personal thoughts about the experience.

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