By responding to God's call to be involved in the lives of others, Jennifer Erickson became a child sponsor and then a Child Ambassador.
Read about her journey to witness the transformation that sponsorship inspires in children's lives around the world!
For Christmas in 2007, Jennifer Erickson searched for something to give to her father. When asked what he wanted for Christmas, he would simply say that he just wanted to see his children. But she wanted a meaningful gift for him.
Then Jennifer remembered that her parents had sponsored children through World Vision for a number of years when she was younger. Jennifer and her dad had taken some mission trips to Mexico, so she chose a girl from Mexico, named Roxana, to sponsor. She wrapped up Roxana’s picture and told her dad that she was sponsoring this little girl in his name.
The experience became even more meaningful when she got to visit Roxana while on a mission trip.
Jennifer met a shy child who barely said anything, but seemed very sweet, right around the same age as the students she taught. A couple of years later, Jennifer got to visit her a second time.
She went to Roxana’s school and saw a girl transformed. “I saw changes in her — in her health, in her growth…in her ability to interact and her gregariousness. She was much more outgoing and more confidant,” Jennifer remembers.
That’s when Jennifer made the decision to become a Child Ambassador for World Vision. Child Ambassadors are volunteers who share their sponsorship experiences on behalf of World Vision and encourage others to sponsor a child.
“I saw what a difference it made in Roxana’s life,” says Jennifer about child sponsorship. “I feel very strongly about the work that World Vision is doing there and around the world.”
Jennifer says that talking about World Vision’s child sponsorship was the easiest thing to do. “I felt very passionate and enthusiastic about becoming a Child Ambassador,” she says.
Jennifer starts her presentation by sharing her own experience about sponsoring Roxana. “That is an experience that the Lord has blessed me with and I need to be a steward of that experience by sharing it with others,” she says.
Recently, she’s expanded her circle of those she reaches by volunteering at World Vision’s Artist concerts. “To be able to share my experience with people I had never met and probably would never meet outside that context has been really beneficial for me,” she says.
Last December, she volunteered at a concert in Aurora, Ill., near her home in Batavia, Ill. “I just went there to volunteer. I had no intention of sponsoring another child,” she says. But then she saw one little boy’s face that tugged at her. “I just could not get it out of my head and I pulled out his profile, read the information on him and he had a single mother.”
Jennifer, who is single, felt empathy for the boy’s mother. “The child stole my heart, but I can relate to the mother being on her own and trying to raise this little boy, and I thought, ‘The Lord sees her and knows her, and I want her to know that.’”
So she made the decision to sponsor a second child.
Sponsorship has had an unexpected benefit for Jennifer, who is a third grade teacher. “I feel like that has transformed my teaching as well because it’s given me a broader world view, and then I’ve been able to communicate that to my students,” she says. “I feel like that is very, very important for them growing up in a global society. They’re going to need to know how to empathize with and appreciate other cultures and perspectives, and so my experience has given me the opportunity to communicate that to them.”
Jennifer has shared photos of Roxana’s community with her students to offer them a glimpse of the world that they might otherwise never know.
Jennifer believes in the importance for people of all ages to be engaged with the global community. “I feel like in our culture it is imperative for people to at least get involved,” she says. “We have been blessed as a country with so much, and to sponsor a child really blesses the sponsor in so many ways as you’re interacting and reinvesting in a life, in a culture, that’s not your own.”
And that’s just what Jennifer has done. She’s let herself respond to God’s call to be involved in the lives of others. “I feel like although I don’t have any children of my own, now I have a little girl in Mexico, a little boy in Africa,” she says. “I feel a personal investment in those children.”
Photo: 2013 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision
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