Lavin was a beautiful little girl with big brown eyes, short curls, and a smile that could light up an entire photograph. As soon as I saw her, my heart whispered, “She is God’s daughter. She is my daughter.” Lavin’s smile shined up at me from one of the several picture frames blanketing the Christian Relief Fund table. She seemed thrilled to be wearing her pale blue school uniform, excited for the opportunity to have a sponsor of her own.
I was fifteen at the time and a freshman in high school. As I signed my name, agreeing to become her sponsor, I couldn’t help but feel a strong love for this sweet little girl I’d never met. I knew this love could only come from Jesus. Through her struggles, Christ loved her unfalteringly. He had a plan for Lavin, a plan to give her hope and a future.
In ten years of life, Lavin had experienced the unimaginable: losing her father to AIDS, living in a one-room mud hut with no running water and no electricity, spending days of hunger and thirst in sweltering heat, and getting a late start on her education because of living in utter poverty. With the help of Christian Relief Fund, I had the opportunity to shine the light of Jesus into Lavin’s future.
Receiving letters from Lavin was exciting enough to brighten my entire week. As she learned to write, her letters grew in form and maturity, changing from, “I am Lavin. I like football,” to stories about her day and what she had been studying in the Bible. My little girl was growing in strength and boldness. Her words reflected a heart for Christ.
When I was sixteen and Lavin had just turned twelve, I traveled to Kisumu, Kenya with Christian Relief Fund. “Does anyone know Lavin?” I asked the crowd of giggling uniformed children at Ring Road who crowded around me, all wanting to ask questions and touch my long curls.
“Lavin!” they began to call until a young girl stepped forward, staring up at me with wide eyes. She was small and quiet, but a smile was beginning to appear on her face. Recognition.
“Do you know who I am?” I asked her.
Lavin nodded quickly. “You are Emily.”
The week I had with Lavin was filled with precious memories. My favorite moment was after we spent an afternoon watching the schoolchildren play football. When it came time to return to Ring Road Orphanage and walk through the slums, Lavin hooked my arm in hers. “Come, let’s sing,” she said, grinning at me with that infectious smile of hers. Skipping through the slums, arm-in-arm, Lavin and I began to sing a song we’d improvised a few days before: “Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you. Yesu ni Bwana, Yesu ni Bwana (Jesus is Lord).” Members of the community stepped out to watch us and wave, smiles breaking out on their worn faces.
In that moment, Lavin and I were not separated by our cultures, by poverty, by language, by distance. We were two young girls made beautiful in Christ. We were created and cherished by the same God who gave us breath. We were friends. We were sisters. She was my daughter.
Recently, I received a new photograph of Lavin. She has a grin on her face and is still wearing a pretty blue uniform. She’s beautiful and so grown-up now. Nearly five years have passed since I became Lavin’s sponsor. In fact, Lavin is the same age now as I was when I first began to sponsor her. Fifteen.
Letters from Lavin have become even more special to me now that we’ve truly become friends. Her words are relational. “How is your little sister? I have been praying for your friend’s knee surgery. I like to write, just like you. Remember when we danced through the streets together, singing ‘Yesu ni Bwana?’ I miss you, mother. I miss you, sister.” I miss her too.
When I think about Lavin, I no longer imagine a child whose future is dark and destitute. Thanks to Christian Relief Fund, Lavin’s future is bright. She will have opportunities to go to college, to become a teacher, to help other little girls just like her one day. Lavin isn’t hungry anymore. She has nourishing food. She has shoes. She is receiving a great education.
One of my most recent letters from Lavin said, “I want to make you proud.” She has, with her joy, her courage, and her sense of unending hope through the darkest trials.
If you do not sponsor a child, I encourage you to do so. Sponsorship through Christian Relief Fund transforms a child’s life. They are given nourishing food, basic medical care, clothing, and education. They are taught the Gospel and given Biblical training. You can send letters of encouragement and love to your child, showing him that someone across the ocean loves him with the love of Christ, even if no one else on this earth does.
And when your child writes you back, perhaps you will have a chance to learn as well.
Looking back over the last five years of sponsorship, all I can see is love. Christ adores this precious little girl. He has big plans for Lavin. Her future is bright with hope.
Will you change a child’s life today?