During the Vietnam War, peace activist A.J. Muste (1885-1967), stood in front of the White House night after night with a candle – sometimes alone. A reporter interviewed him one evening as he stood there in the rain. “Mr. Muste,” the reporter said, “do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night with a candle?” A. J. responded, “Oh, I don’t do this to change the country, I do this so the country won’t change me.” I decided to think of ways to light a candle of hope in 2017 and invite others to join me. If you have an idea about lighting a candle, please share it in the comment section below.
I believe that we can light a candle of hope by taking a personal interest in a child outside of our own family. There are many ways to do this:
- help a child in your community by loving a neighborhood child or volunteering for a program like Kids Hope, Boys and Girls Club, or Boy Scouts. Volunteer in a local school or in a teaching or mentoring program in your church.
- become a foster parent.
- sponsor a child through an international program.
I am currently sponsoring four teenagers through Compassion International. They have been “my” kids for five years or more. The relationships I have developed with these children (two boys and two girls) has become very special, especially now that they are all 16 or 17.
Aibie lives in the Philippines. Children in rural Philippines are vulnerable to illnesses. Many die from infections, colds, and diarrhea. Few medical facilities are available, and even when they are available, their parents are too poor to seek help. Extreme poverty also means that child labor is an issue. Abie is now in the ninth grade, earning average grades and loving math. Her favorite sport is softball and she is excited about playing on a competitive team. She also loves swimming, volleyball, and bicycling. She attends church and Sunday School and loves learning about God. She is eager to complete school so that she can earn money to help her parents and several siblings.
Marina lives in Burkina Faso in western Africa, one of the poorest countries of the world. Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line, living on less than $307 per year. Children’s lives are threatened by malnutrition, child labor, sickness, and human trafficking. Marina is one of the 55 % of children in Burkina Faso who are in school. While her grades are below average, she is sticking with it. Recently she asked for prayers as she attempts to pass her primary school exams. Marina recently attended a camp on sexuality provided by her Compassion Center, a wonderful gift because she lives in an area of human trafficking. Marina is a loving, compassionate young woman; she always asks about my health and would love to come to visit me in Michigan,
At 17, Yair is the oldest of my Compassion kids. He lives in the coastal region of Colombia Families in this region live in the shadows of modern buildings, fancy hotels and luxurious homes, but do not have access to potable water or adequate sewage systems. Malaria and waterborne illnesses are constant threats. As seaports and tourist destinations, coastal cities are centers of drug commerce and are dangerous communities for children and teens. Yair is 17 and in the 9th grade. He attends a Bible study at his local Compassion Center. He loves sports – especially soccer and basketball. One of the pictures I have of him shows him wearing a Chicago Bulls sweatshirt. I wondered if that was the luck of a clothing donation, but Yair says the Bulls are his favorite basketball team and he really admires Michael Jordan.
Pablo is the most communicative of the four. He writes long letters about his life and his interests. Pablo lives in the coastal community Manta, home to approximately 260,500 residents. Ecuador experienced a horrific earthquake in 2016 that killed more than 650. After the earthquake, Pablo disappeared for several months but finally ended up in a different Compassion Center and resumed communication with me. Pablo is in the 11th grade, is an above average student and has lots of friends. He currently loves the study of informatics. He attends church and a Bible class. I recently received a letter from his mother. She told me that their home had been damaged in the earthquake but they are grateful that they can still live in it. She thanked me for sponsoring Pablo and for the birthday gift ($25) I sent as well as for an additional gift I sent to the family. (I try to send a gift to each family once a year.) She wrote in English and was proud to tell me that she has a computer.
Since I retired, sponsoring these four teens has required sacrificial living and giving. But the joy of knowing that these four young people are healthy, in school, loving God, and developing the gifts that our God gave them is worth it all. I picture each of them as a tall bright candle of hope in their families and in their world.