How easily we can recall a story that’s so close to our hearts, even if it happened years ago in a country that is 8,000 miles away.
Meet some of our very first sponsors: Jonathan and Jennifer Jenkins. In 2003, the young couple from Bluemont, Virginia, embarked to Zambia to volunteer at Camp Hope. Jennifer was a leader of a small group and recalls a young girl who would never leave her side. “She didn’t speak a word of English but she stuck so close to me.”
Jonathan remembers a little girl who helped him sweep an entire church. “The children ate oranges for snacks and so there were hundreds of orange peels and little pieces of craft paper all over the floor. I started to pick them up one by one, and a young girl came in there with a hand broom and started sweeping. She started in the corner and helped me clean that entire church floor.”
Jennifer smiles. “It was the same little girl that was bonding with me!” she reveals. “Every now and then, she would run off from my group and, little did I know, she was running off to spend time with Jonathan!”
“We would have taken her home with us if we could,” says Jennifer. “We were brokenhearted to leave her, but we got to see her again….”
Jonathan and Jennifer returned to Camp Hope the following year. They met Fidies’ mom and little brother who lived in a one-room mud hut in Freedom Compound. Neither spoke English but Jennifer remembers a warm hug with Fidies’ mom that erased any awkwardness.
“We had sent Fidies a Bible, a backpack and some clothes through Every Orphan’s Hope and when we went to visit her, she had the Bible on a shelf like it was a place of honor, and she had the backpack hanging and even the wrapping that it came in…all in her little space.”
Jonathan adds, “That was the same year my mom came with us. She spent her 70th birthday on a mission trip to Zambia and got to play ball with Fidies.”
“I think that the new Facebook program will help build our relationship with Veronica and Lister,” says Jennifer. “It’s an easy way to maintain a relationship with your sponsored child. And of course, when we get their picture, they go up with all of our Christmas cards. Those are beautiful pictures of the kids!”
She adds, “Every now and then, I’ll run across a YouTube video of the kids singing and there’s just nothing like it! That’s one of our favorite memories of Zambia.”
Another lasting impression of Zambia is the loyalty of the Church to the children in the community. Jonathan and Jennifer also recall the commitment of the mamas who are up before dawn cooking, praying and caring for the children. “All the Zambians work to give what little they have to the kids,” says Jonathan. “They’re making a personal sacrifice for the children of their nationality.”
Jonathan and Jennifer adopted two children: a 7-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter, and Zambia played an important role in their adoption story. Says Jennifer, “That’s the time we were deciding on how we were going to build our family. After Zambia, we knew we were ready and that any child God gave us, we would be thrilled with.”
Jonathan and Jennifer encourage everyone to take a trip to Zambia at least once. One time will be enough for you to want to sponsor a child. “Once you build that initial relationship you have a conviction to continue to love them,” says Jonathan. “When Fidies took the time to help me sweep that church when all the other kids were outside playing, it just touched my heart. It created a bond between us.”
“So often we see pictures of kids, or orphans, in other countries and for us, being there and holding their hand and walking with them and playing soccer with them and hugging them and letting them play with your hair…they become flesh and blood,” says Jennifer. “They are real children, not a picture in a magazine.”
Jonathan agrees. “A picture is two-dimensional but actually going to Zambia and holding a child makes it four-dimensional. I think that’s what really cements a sponsorship.”