Change Makers

When the world becomes a classroom

As Matthew and Lisa Owens arrived at their sponsored child’s village in Zimbabwe, they were overcome with a sense of honor when they saw that the entire community had come out to greet them. The sight was only one of many moments that took their breath away as they visited four of their five sponsored children during a year-long, 19-country trip around the globe.

Matthew and Lisa, both teachers, had grown up traveling overseas. They wanted their children to experience the world too. So when their kids were 13, 11, and 8, the couple took a leave of absence from their jobs and spent a year traveling. They created assignments for the children along the way — the world became their classroom.

To be able to connect with an actual person brings it to a heart level.—Lisa Owens

But for Matthew and Lisa, the point wasn’t only learning about other cultures. They have a passion for World Vision and its work, each having started sponsoring children in college. After they were married and started a family, they chose a sponsored child of the same gender and exact birthday as Jonah, Mia, and Olivia.

“To be able to connect with an actual person brings it to a heart level,” Lisa says. “When our children’s birthdays roll around, we’re also praying for this other child. When their photos are coming to us, we’re constantly looking at it from the lens of our own child’s life as well. It’s such a tiny step, but it’s a step, and we’re grateful that World Vision has helped us do that.”

Visiting their sponsored children in Bolivia, India, Eswatini (Swaziland), and Zimbabwe changed the way Matthew and Lisa approach their relationship with the kids.

“Getting a glimpse into their community added so much more content to our prayers,” Matthew says. “It really invigorated our engagement.”

The family felt a new sense of unity with other cultures as they realized how activities such as art and soccer were the same on opposite sides of the world. Those shared experiences go beyond activities and school lessons. “We have the same heavenly Father,” Matthew says. That perspective fuels how they see their sponsored children.

“Rather than look at a picture and say, ‘Oh, here’s a poor kid from the other side of the world. My job is to give them money.’ Instead, it’s seeing the wholeness of this child,” Lisa says. “They’re loved. They’re loved by their family, their community, and they’re loved and provided for by God.”

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