Red dust covers everything in Kampala, Uganda. When it rains, the red earth becomes brick-colored mud and it gets into everything.
As the team from our sister station, WCSG, Compassion International and MNN visited project sites, we tracked it everywhere. There was a notable difference between our footprints and those of the people who lived in the villages we were visiting. For the most part, our footprints were the outlines of shoes. The throngs of kids and some of their parents we visited were barefoot. A few people had shoes, but they were the rarity.
Why did that strike me? I felt really gross when we got back to our hotel after a day of trekking through the bush. I could wash off the mud. The people whose homes we’d just visited could rinse, but for the most part, the next time they stepped outside of their home, they’d get dirty again…except that was their way of life.
That difference alone was a stark contrast. The village we visited yesterday was less primitive than some. Subsistence farmers can eke out roughly $11 a month…stretched to five mouths to feed. The people we met had a home. They had a roof, walls and a floor. One had furniture. There were three really worn out toothbrushes and a cracked mirror hanging off the front door of another house…whose kitchen was essentially a lean-to in the yard.
Yet to see their faces, they were so happy Compassion International had taken an interest in them. Before Compassion began their project in Kitimbwa (about 66 km west of Mukono), the infant mortality rate was high. Few children, if any, got a chance to go to school. Mothers and fathers struggled not only with their marital relationship, but also with raising the children.
After Compassion launched the Child Survival Program, basic things like hygiene, nutrition, pre-natal care and infant care were taught. Mothers were encouraged to play with their babies to help them develop. Mothers began getting together for play sessions. They were also given the opportunity to learn a trade so they could earn some money to help lift the family out of poverty. Once a child gets into the CSP, when they turn three, they can get into the Sponsorship programs. From there, children get food, medicine, love and given the chance to go to school.
Most importantly, these people, once wallowing in poverty and hopelessness, were exposed to the Gospel on a nearly daily basis. They heard it, they saw it in action with the Compassion staff, and then some of them felt it. As we spoke with the project directors, we were told that for every Compassion child that comes to Christ, ten other people also come to Christ because of the reality of the transformation they see in that child’s life.
For the staff we spoke with, that transformation is the driving force behind everything they do.
But, kids grow up. They age out of the school system, and then what?
Compassion International has introduced another program for the best and brightest of the sponsored children: the Leadership Development Program, or LDP.
Once accepted into the LDP, the sponsored student can go to college. As we’re told, many of them are excited about getting their law degrees, or social work degrees with the express purpose of continuing that transformation. Some go back to their villages as part of Compassion International. Others take change outside of their villages and hope to advocate for families in a court of law. Still others are making a definite footprint on a national level in government.
It’s so exciting to see how $32 a month can give a child such hope. It’s even more exciting to walk step by step with them and see where their footprints lead.
On Thursday, I will meet with Misac, a little boy my family is sponsoring from one of the project areas near Kampala. He shares the same birthdate as my son. I am so excited to share the hope that we have invested in him. I asked one of the LDP students I met this week, Joseph, to record a quick encouraging word for Misac. Their stories are very similar, and I thought that for Misac to hear that someone was like him at his age, to know that he can rise above his circumstance, that God is moving powerfully through boys like this–and I realize it’s like the story of loaves and fishes all over again.
God takes so little and creates so much for His glory…