In 1998, the AIDS crisis in Africa was booming and with it came an incredible amount of orphans and vulnerable children, many who were shipped off to orphanages and aging grandparents. I was about to land in Zambia, a nation devastatingly impacted by the AIDS crisis. As my plane circled around to attempt a landing, I remember feeling very overwhelmed.
Bright Hope was stretched thin and had already made plans for more projects than we could fund. Now to try to take on a huge problem like this, how could we do it? I asked myself, “Why had I accepted this invitation to Zambia now, there is no room on my plate or in my wallet, Lord!”
In the quiet calm of the plane’s final approach, we were flying over village after village. I felt I could almost reach out and touch the thatched roofs, but all my heart could think about was that in each village we flew over, there were likely more kids in desperate need. Maybe there are 10 orphans in that village, I thought… And in that village there might be 30 kids going hungry and not attending school because their mom is too sick to work. So many vulnerable kids in need!
Then just as we were about to touch down, I felt the Lord’s admonishment. I think He was saying to me, “I have sent you to Zambia because these children matter to me. Make room on your plate, I will help you.”
I straightened up. I prayed back to God, “If that was really You speaking to me Lord, then yes, I accept this challenge.”
I did make room on my plate and have never been happier about saying yes to God’s leading than in those years that followed. In fact, that trip defined Bright Hope’s outreach to orphans and vulnerable children for decades to come.
First, it led me to see the failures of the orphanage model and how helping families through economic strategies like savings loans and business skills can help poor families care for their own children and for the orphans left by siblings or cousins. How much better for orphans to be in a home with a caring relative, (90% of orphans in orphanages have a relative within 10 miles of the orphanage) than in a crowded orphanage?
Second, it showed me that God will supply resources when the vision is His and His people are in place. Soon after that trip, I got a call from a church that wanted to help churches in Zambia care for orphans and vulnerable children. Through that church and thousands of Allies, Bright Hope has delivered help and aid to thousands of children and their families. Many of our projects today in Zambia are outgrowths of those first programs.
Twenty-five years is a long time to be at any ministry or type of work. I have learned a lot about God, people, and myself. Mostly I have learned that the more I give of myself to the poor, in the name of Jesus, the more I grow and succeed at becoming who God wants me to be.
Wherever you are in your journey of walking with the poor, may God guide you and bless you as you follow Him.
President, Bright Hope