Heather Althoff's family sponsors a Ugandan boy named Sam. Below, Heather shares her story of meeting Sam and his family. Wondering how sponsoring a child can bless your life and perspective just as profoundly as it does the life of the child you help? Here's a story for you.
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Sam sits in the driver seat of the World Vision vehicle that had transported Heather to his community.
In my work as the community life pastor at LifeWay Church, I help coordinate our relationship -- through World Vision -- with the community of Buliisa, Uganda. LifeWay members sponsor more than 120 children living in Buliisa.
My family sponsors Sam.
We chose Sam because he shares the same first name as my own son and is almost the exact same age: Sam Nyendwoha will turn 5 just three weeks before my son, Sam Althoff, does this September.
Last fall, I got to meet Sam as part of a pastors' trip to Uganda. I was completely charmed. Sam was a character, eating up his local celebrity status as our host. He modeled our sunglasses and had what appeared to be a lifelong dream realized when he got to sit in the World Vision vehicle that had driven us out to his community.
But as engaging as Sam himself was, it was perhaps even more important that I got to meet Monica. Monica is Sam’s mother. And she is amazing. She’s raising a little Sam, just like I am. She wants the same things for her Sam that I want for mine: health, opportunity, and the ability to realize the potential that God has created in him.
But she cooks for him over a fire. She washes his clothes -- and those of his two brothers -- by hand in a river. She lives in an area where tiny organisms that would create an inconvenient sick day for my Sam could kill hers.
World Vision has been working in Monica’s community for about two years now. In that time, they’ve converted a natural spring into a protected water source that now provides clean water to some 300 people. They’ve established a program that monitors children for malnutrition and provides mothers with nutrition training, using local foods. They’ve raised awareness about ways to improve sanitation in the community.
Monica implements everything that World Vision has been teaching her community. She was cooking the nutritious meals she had learned about. She and her husband had set their latrine away from their living areas. They were washing their hands and benefiting from the clean water source nearby.
Heather is pictured here with Sam's mother, Monica, in Uganda.
In some ways, I think of Sam as “mine.” I call him “my” sponsored child, and I feel a sense of investment in his future.
But Sam doesn’t need me to be his mother. He has a wonderful mother who loves him desperately and is actively working to improve his life and his community.
Adoption and sponsorship are not the same thing -- far from it. Honestly, adoption isn’t the best answer for most kids in the developing world. Most of them, like Sam, have families and communities who want to -- and should -- care for them. Our role as sponsors is not to raise our sponsored children, but to empower their families and communities to care for them.
I am grateful to God for the amazing mother that Sam has in Monica. I’m grateful for a community that is taking ownership of its success and working toward making things even better.
And, I’m grateful to World Vision for coming alongside my friend, Monica, and for supporting her as she raises her Sam to be everything that God created him to be.
Sponsor a child in Uganda today. Your love and support of a child like Sam will not just provide life-giving basics like food, clean water, medical care, and education; it will also help empower both the child and his or her family and community to realize their God-given potential.
Already a sponsor? Have any inspiring stories of meeting or corresponding with your sponsored child? Share them with us as comments below!