Priceless Relationships – by Jess Duren
Is the Cost of Traveling Worth the Money?
When weighing the costs between sending people or simply sending money, I have but one word – relationships. No matter how many times you look at a picture, look at a penciled drawing, or have money automatically withdrawn from your bank account, you can never really know what your monthly gift means until you are dancing face-to-face with the people it impacts. The reality is, your monthly gift isn’t just a gift. To the people of Bukedea and Ogoloi, you are simply friends from across the world, helping to save their lives. The word sponsor in aTeso, the local language in that region, is literally translated “friend.” That’s something I didn’t know until my feet were on the ground in Uganda.
Once I visited these beautiful people, I realized I would never be the same. I will never look at my bank statement and think that $38 isn’t possibly worth it, that it isn’t making a difference. But I will also never think that actually going is a waste of my money. I can’t say that my life changed the moment I started sponsoring Lillian Adongo. It didn’t. I didn’t truly know what it meant to be a sponsor, to be responsible for life-changing necessities and opportunities, until I saw with my own eyes. I wasn’t changed until I went.
Yes, going costs money. A lot of money for many of us. At the same time, going on a trip, the experience of meeting your sponsored child, seeing the children, their joy, laughter and hurt, you can’t put a price on that. We are building relationships, returning often, and showing these people that they truly are worth it. Empowering the vulnerable to overcome their circumstances is not a light task. It isn’t something you can just throw money at. By getting on a plane and leaving the comfort of our own culture, we are able to set aside our pride and focus on the people. Short-term missions don’t have to be short. This way, the HopeChest way, the trip may seem short but the long-term effects are evident.
I can say with full confidence that none of my three trips were a waste. If anything it’s made me want to go more, to sponsor more kids, and to tell others what they’re missing. I was able to see the children grow, to see the progress in the community, to learn more about the culture, and to foster relationships I could never have had while staying home. We celebrate the joys of new improvements at the Carepoints, but also mourn the loss of these children’s parents. We know these kids now, we consider them family. When we talk about them, we know their home life, we’ve seen the conditions. Videos, photos, even hearing the stories from others never does it justice. Nothing compares to hearing them call your name, to hugging their necks, and to know when you say goodbye, it’s not forever.