Changed Communities- Ours and Theirs- by Rachel Antoine
You probably know that when an entire community works together to meet a goal, so much more is accomplished than if only one individual did the same task. I didn’t say it is easier, but a greater work is done. I have been able to witness my church family begin to transform from the inside out over these past few years as we have partnered with communities in Uganda through Children’s HopeChest. It is a beautiful process to be changed by God, not just individually, but as an entire group, all growing together. I want to show you a glimpse of what that has looked like for us.
As a church, we knew God wanted us to love our brothers and sisters who follow God, and not just the ones who sit across the aisle from us, but across the globe (1 Peter 3:8). We just weren’t sure how to go about it, until we heard about Children’s HopeChest. Their focus is to entwine two communities, one state-side, such as a church or business, with another community who has a high orphan population, for both to build a relationship together while becoming more like Christ. We wanted to empower orphans and widows, yet at the same time, allow God to transform our hearts and lives to look more like Jesus’ life. We knew our brothers and sisters in Uganda had so much they could teach us about following Christ, and that this partnership was extremely necessary for our spiritual health and their empowerment.
Since our church family has begun to build this new relationship with the families in Uganda, I have been encouraged and challenged by the affect it has had on us. In church, we have talked about how the kids in Uganda are our family, and, for some reason, I don’t always think it sticks. But one day, one of my friends informed me that when her 7-year-old daughter draws pictures of their family, their sponsor child is in them. Another friend sent me a video of their 2-year-old son holding a picture of their sponsor child. Their son was saying how even though the sponsor child lives so far away, she is his sister and they both love Jesus. However, the person who has really blown me away, is my own mom. She traveled with my husband and me, along with the deBruin’s and a team in 2012 to meet the kids in Uganda. When we returned home from our trip, she had already decided to change her retirement plans and get a job, donating her income to sponsoring as many children as she could. These are just a few people who have begun to believe Jesus’ definition of family ( “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:50).
Every day, I’m able to see how expanding our family to Uganda has affected so many areas of our lives. I have a group of friends who sponsor kids and have been touched by the lives of the kids in Uganda. We’ve decided to keep each other accountable to spend more of our time and money on our families in Uganda. (Radical, by David Platt is a great read for this area of thought). In addition, it’s been refreshing to hear others talk about how to make Christmas less about ourselves and more about giving to kids around the globe. You will have the chance to participate in this yourself, as the Change Their Story project begins this season. Also, as my church has heard some of the most painful situations from the families in Uganda, we have begun to pray with more urgency and desire for God to be the comforter and healer to them. All of these areas of our lives have been influenced by getting to know the families in Uganda, who in turn, have become our family.
For years, I have said that my local church is my family and I do not know what I would do without them. I can now say the same about my family in Uganda. God has begun to entangle our lives in a beautiful way. My prayer is that God continues to transform us to be the church He created us to be, putting others’ needs before our own, having compassion for one another, and loving others as our own blood, all the while doing this in us corporately that we can be changed together.