Her eyes gazed at me, piercing my heart and soul. Without a single word, she managed to squeeze her way into my heart; her face seared into my memory. Months after meeting her, I said goodbye and left the dusty Kalahari village, losing contact with this bright-eyed girl.
This precious child will never know the impact she had on me: that she became the face of poverty to me.
The stories about starving children in Africa now belonged to a name. They had a face. I remember her tiny school uniform, hanging loosely on the 5 year old’s 25 pound frame, a normal weight for a 2-3 year old. I remember the joy springing into her eyes when I stepped into the classroom. How she would rush to grab my hands when I led the children out to the garden, eager to work alongside me.
I remember the skin stretched over her bones, and the wiry, golden hair, discolored from severe malnutrition, rubbing off in large patches.
Above all, I remember her name: Bokamoso,which in Setswana means “future”. And I wonder what her future holds.
After returning to life in America, her face haunted me. As I lived the “first world’ life once again, guilt crept in. Though I live in a land of plenty, the memories of those who don’t remains at the front of my mind. I remember living with a food insecure family in South Africa, wondering whether there would be enough food to fill my own stomach. This stomach which had never gone hungry a day in my life.
The memory of Bokamoso, who I was not able to help after returning to the USA, led me to sponsor a child through Compassion. Though I am not wealthy, and my salary is paltry compared to most, I find joy in sponsoring a precious little girl in Ghana. Every time I look at her picture, I am nearly moved to tears, wondering about her. I have yet to receive my first letter, but my heart prays for her, more emotions than words. Praying that she isn’t scared, sick, or hungry. That she turns to God during the difficult times, learning to praise Him through the joys and the fears of life.
I never truly understood how blessed I was to grow up in the USA, where access to food and medical care is almost unavoidable. Yes, we have poverty, food deserts, and substandard medical care here, but it pales in comparison to my experiences in South Africa, let alone the rest of the developing world.
After seeing life in rural Africa, I knew I would never forget these faces. I knew I would never be content to enjoy American life again, knowing that the children I worked with each day were just a few of the millions that go to bed each night with stomachs rumbling from hunger. Children whose bodies were devastated from simple illnesses and long-term malnutrition. Precious little ones who were already disadvantaged from birth due to lack of appropriate nutrition and medical care.
Children like Judah (see video below) are blessed to live in developed areas. But consider the millions of children whose lives would have ended at birth because they live in the developing world. We can praise God that Judah is healthy, happy, and stronger than ever. But we can’t forget those just like him who had a different fate.
These children can’t help themselves. But even with my humble means, I can help just one. Last month, Enam came into my life, through a photo online and a packet of papers from Compassion. And her face is now seared into my memory, just like Bokamoso’s. But she isn’t the face of poverty. She is the face of hope.
I may never know what Bokamoso’s future holds. But through Compassion, I will get to walk with Enam through life. I have so much hope for her future, and I know my hope is only a drop in the bucket compared to what God has planned.
Have you considered sponsoring a child through Compassion? I can tell you the absolutely joy in the faces of the children I worked with in South Africa when they would receive a donation from our garden or a new school uniform. I can only imagine the joy when they find out someone in a far-off land cares enough to sponsor them. Join with me and bring joy and hope to a family that has nowhere else to turn. Consider sponsoring a child through Compassion today.