Sponsor Spreads Love in Rwanda

Today’s guest is Karen
Tilli, who is the proud sponsor of three Rwandan children. She recently returned from Rwanda with a heartwarming story of visiting her three sponsored children. Karen works in the tech start-up industry in New York City and is passionate about mission-driven innovation.

Nine years ago, I interned with Food for the Hungry (FH) in Rwanda. The country and its people stole my heart and left an important mark on my life.

I finally made it back to Rwanda in December to visit old friends and meet my three sponsored children. It was a long trip from the capital city of Kigali out to the rural area where the kids live. The trip was filled with multiple police checkpoints, breathtaking vistas of Rwanda’s great lakes and long chats about FH’s work.

Rwanda has changed in remarkable ways over the last nine years. Little of the country’s development has reached the most vulnerable rural communities that FH serves.

It’s hard to describe what it’s like to visit with someone you’ve grown to love but can barely communicate with on your own.

We arrived at each family’s house welcomed by a large crowd of neighbors. They were intent on welcoming this rare foreign visitor with the utmost hospitality and intrigue. They sang songs of welcome, songs to praise God and songs to remind us what heaven will be like.

We finally sat down, each family and I, to ask each other questions and get to know each other better. The kids stole cautious glances at me. They seemed to be caught between a desire to be respectful and to experience the excitement of the moment.

After some time had passed, my sponsored child disappeared and returned with a gift and a radiant smile. The families had worked hard to provide me with a pineapple, some eggs, a banana leaf mat and a poster of Jesus.

I recognized my handwriting on the cards and notes the families proudly handed me. I rejoiced with them as they presented school report cards with high marks. When it was time to leave, my gracious FH hosts shepherded us outside for pictures. Then we finally hugged goodbye, with many requests to return soon and declarations of the utmost welcome.

Poverty can take many forms and often be overwhelming to engage with for the long term.

The complexities that we face prayerfully working towards a world without hunger can be staggering. There have been many times that continuing to engage with these tough subjects has left me feeling helpless or overwhelmed into apathy.

I think the most important part of the trip for me was realizing that loving a child is not hard or overwhelming. I had the chance to show up for these kids and show them that they are deeply loved, and was reminded that Jesus did the same for us. He showed up to say that even in our lack, we are loved beyond words.

My sincere prayer is that these precious kids remember, above all things, that someone out there deeply loves them and is rooting for them.

You can learn more about child sponsorship here.