We visit the homes of families in the Unbound program to listen and learn. In my case, I go mainly to document stories so I can share them with the wider community. They’re stories of need, sure, but also stories of resilience, giftedness and accomplishment.
Messengers of special stories
I remember visiting the home of Doris, a sponsored elder in Meru, Kenya. She took great pride in showing us the water pump she’d had installed after years of saving portions of her sponsorship benefit funds. She was happy to no longer have to carry heavy buckets from a distant well, but what gave her the greatest joy was that she could now share water with her neighbors.
On that same trip I sat in Teresiah’s tiny home in a slum in Nanyuki. Though, with little income, she was already raising three children, she’d taken in a little girl who’d been abandoned at a local garbage dump. She found room in her heart and her home for one more.
Then there was the home of my own sponsored children, Alvaro, then 7, and his sister, Maria, 4, in a village in southwest Guatemala. On a blazing hot day, they and their mother sat with me in the shade outside their house. I drew silly faces on balloons and the children giggled as we found our way of overcoming the language barrier.
It’s one thing to hear these stories. It’s something else to be where they happen, to experience the rugged, dusty hike to an isolated rural hut, or the heat and confinement of a windowless slum dwelling. To know the sights, sounds, smells and feel of these homes is to be given a rare gift.
Allowing things to come into focus
Many of the families in our program live in homes without electric lights. Some, especially those in big-city slums, have homes with no windows. On entering one of these dwellings from the brightness of the midday sun, it usually takes a moment for one’s eyes to adjust. Slowly, things come into focus.
That’s not a bad analogy, I think, for the experience of sponsorship. We enter another person’s world and, perhaps, at first see only darkness. But as our eyes adjust — which is to say as our perspective changes and our worldview expands — we see their reality, which is more than need.
Walking out of a home back into the daylight takes another adjustment of the eyes, and every time I’ve done it, I’m reminded of the story of Peter and John visiting the empty tomb of Jesus. They enter the tomb with curiosity and, perhaps, anxiety. They leave with hope.
What I’ve discovered on my travels is that the world is smaller than I once thought, and people are much more alike than different. Families want to live in peace with their neighbors. Parents worry about their children’s futures. And every home — whether it’s a mud hut miles from the nearest road, a tin shack in the middle of a sprawling urban slum or a split-level dwelling in a U.S. suburb — is sacred ground.
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