Last night, I dreamt of Malawi again. I was actually visiting another African country (though it wasn’t clear which one) at the very beginning of September (perfectly clear, because dreams are strange). In the dream, I told someone, “This is my second trip to Africa this summer.” I don’t recall how the story began or progressed, but the end was very clear: someone asked me what I learned from my trip, and I repeated the line from the end of this blog post. God is at work in Africa, and He’s at work through child sponsorship. Then, I cried. (Surprise, surprise.) Emily Freeman talks often (referencing someone else, I believe) about paying attention to the way a dream makes you feel, rather than the content itself. The content of this dream seems to speak for itself. Still, beyond that, I woke up with the strong yearning, yet again, to tell more Malawi stories. I’ve been quiet about them lately, but there are more. Today, I’d like to tell you about a boy named Happy. That’s him. Doesn’t his name seem to be a wonderful fit? It is. My friend Melissa sponsors Happy and another boy, Albert, both from Malawi. When she wasn’t able to come on our trip because of a pesky and unwelcome broken shoulder (as it a broken shoulder could be anything but pesky and unwelcome), our team promised to look out for them and deliver her care packages. When someone introduced me to him, I was sitting with Fotunate, struggling to talk to her. Happy immediately smiled at me and said, “Is this the girl you sponsor? Don’t worry, I’ll translate for you.” When I explained that Melissa was unable to make the trip, he said, “Oh. Perhaps I am not so happy after all.” I loved him right then and there. Happy lives in Chitipi, one of COTN’s children’s homes in Malawi. COTN operates two primary programs. The first, village partnerships, matches sponsors to children who live within their village with their parents or other family. The second program is the children’s homes, which take care of children who have lost both parents and have no other family capable of caring for them. Happy’s parents both passed away when he was quite young, though I don’t know why. I didn’t ask. For sometime, he lived with his uncle in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital. “I liked living with my uncle,” he said, “but I was always hungry. Yeah, we did not have any food. Then, I came to live at Chitipi, and Melissa is my sponsor, and I am not hungry anymore.”
I loved talking with Malawian teenagers and college students, because they could articulate so clearly what sponsorship meant to them. For Steven, it was relationship. For Happy, it was a fully belly. For both, it was the honor of knowing that someone far, far away believes they are valuable. For a long time, Happy and I sat on the concrete gazebo floor, coloring pictures with Fotunate. He translated my questions into Chichewa and her responses back to me in very impressive English. Along the way, I learned more about him and his story. English, he told me, is his favorite subject. “Did you know Melissa used to be an English teacher?” I asked. “You two are a perfect fit.”
I wonder if you might also be a perfect fit for a child needing a sponsor. My guess is yes, yes, and yes. Often, COTN matches children with more than once sponsor, in order to meet their needs more fully. I just checked, and it turns out, Happy is in need of another sponsor.