“I Want To Be One That Goes On”

When I heard that our team from Lahash was invited to have lunch with the sponsored kids at the Grace & Healing Ministry Nutrition Program, I thought, “Celebrity sightings!” These were the kids whose stories I had followed for years, ever since my family began participating in Rice & Beans Month! They had defied the odds simply by staying alive, due in no small part to the loving care they received at Grace & Healing Ministry and to meals like this one funded by Rice & Beans Month.

As we all sat together, our team decided to share a bit about ourselves so the kids could get to know us. I explained that my job is to write and share stories about kids in East Africa with people in the U.S. I noticed an intrigued look on one young man’s face. Before I knew it, his hand was up to ask a simple question. “Would you tell my story?”

How could I turn down a request like that?

The next day, this young man named Daniel told me about his life before he was accepted into the Lahash Sponsorship Program in 2013. He was sick a lot with pain in his chest due to respiratory issues, and frequently suffered with sores all over his body. He received no medical care because his family couldn’t afford it. His mother had died when he was two years old, and he lived with his grandmother from then on.

When I asked him about the changes he has seen in his life since, he listed four: a bed and mattress, medical care, good meals, and school. It struck me that all of those things are just basic everyday expectations, but for him they were all unattainable without sponsorship and Rice & Beans Month.

Daniel is now about 16, and had just completed his Class 7 exams when we talked. He is older than most people in Class 7, because health issues delayed his educational progress at many points along the way. Still, he expressed high hopes of completing secondary school and then going on to higher education and a good job. He told me, “There’s a big difference between those who stop school at Class 7 and those who go on. I want to be one that goes on.”

By the end of our conversation, he had expressed interest in studying English, politics, and history. And becoming a businessman. Or maybe a police officer. But also a pastor, because “even now, I can talk to someone about the Bible and he will turn to Jesus.” He thinks he would do well at preaching the word of God over the radio, or maybe TV. I couldn’t keep from smiling as I listened to all of his big ideas. Five years ago, he was barely hanging on to life. Today, he can hardly contain his excitement for the future.

Sometimes I think too small about Rice & Beans Month: food is a basic human need, and Rice & Beans Month helps to meet that need. Very true. But getting to know Daniel was a good reminder that these meals do much more than fill stomachs. These meals foster relationships. They improve health. They keep kids in school. They give hope. And once you have all that in place, who knows where you might go from there? In Daniel’s case, I look forward to finding out.