I walked into the kitchen one day to find my 3-year-old daughter, Lucy, intently “reading” a child picture folder from a recent Team World Vision race like she was reading the morning newspaper. My 8-year-old daughter, Sydney, walked in and started talking to her about one of our sponsored kids, and they began getting excited about sponsoring another child. We were sponsoring four already, and I thought, “Man, these kids are adding up!”
But God had another thought for me. He wanted to show me something about connections, how deep his love is for children around the world, and how ordinary folks, like my two young daughters, can be God’s answer to a farmer’s prayers in Kenya. So we said yes to yet another child and got a packet containing a photograph of a girl named Anita in Kenya. Sydney went crazy, writing her a long letter and drawing a portrait of Anita to send with it.
Soon after that, I ran an ultramarathon in South Africa with Team World Vision. Following the race, I went to Kenya to meet Anita and her family. You never know what kind of connection you’re going to have or not have, but we pulled up to Anita’s house, and the whole village was there to welcome me. It was so special. They put this glittery sash around my neck and Anita’s neck.
I met Anita’s father, Abraham — a farmer barely making it. I love people — I love talking to them and hearing their stories. Abraham’s first question was, “Where does the sun sit in the sky over your city?” As a farmer, he was looking for a way to connect.
Then we walked his farm. I can recognize corn or soybeans, but I didn’t recognize millet, and I accidentally tore some up. When I asked if he took his crops into a market, he said, “No, I don’t take any food to market — that’s the food my family lives on.” It hit me: I had wasted food he depends on for his family. The amazing thing was that he didn’t get angry. He embraced me. His spirit that day was so awesome.
I went with them on their walk for water, which was downhill nearly two miles over rocky terrain. I couldn’t believe that their water source was a river — the water was filthy, filled with snakes and bugs. But Anita filled her jerry can and was chugging that water. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have even washed my car with that water. On the walk back, I carried a full jerry can. It took us over twice as long to get back, and I was drenched in sweat.
Abraham said to me, “It’s an answer to prayer for my family that you are our daughter’s sponsor.” I felt like God was closing the loop, saying to them, “You are loved.” I felt so connected to Abraham and Anita. But it was time to go. Three minutes before we left, Anita gave me a letter she’d written for my daughter. Just as Sydney had drawn Anita, Anita had now drawn a portrait of Sydney. When I got home, that letter was the last gift I handed to Sydney, and she wept because she was so excited.
We feel like our family needs to be making a difference in other people’s lives and filling them up with God’s love. I see in my family a desire to connect with other people. Globalization gives us cheaper labor, but maybe through it, God is also giving us a chance to use what he’s given us and connect families.
I’m pumped for my kids. There’s this temptation in our culture to create a bubble and protect kids from seeing poverty and hard things. I don’t want to do that. I want them to know the world and know real people with real faces in other areas of the world who are poor. We have the opportunity to make an impact on their lives, and they have an opportunity to make an impact on our lives, and it’s all possible through World Vision and our staff in the field.
John Huddle lives in California and is the West Coast director for Team World Vision. He and his wife have four children and five sponsored children. Team World Vision will host Anita and several other children at churches in the U.S. in November.