Treasuring the Throw Aways
By Ben Rodgers
Believe it or not, many children in southern Africa, are considered "throw-aways" by their communities. It sounds harsh because it is. What a brutally discouraging message for a child to be burdened with! "You are not important. You don't really matter. You are worthless." With an out-of-control AIDS pandemic, and abject poverty, there just isn't much hope in the hearts of the people - and children quickly are seen simply as a burden.
But God calls children a blessing. And that is why Children's Cup is devoted to giving hope to the "throw-away" children of this world. And it's working because of the thousands of people we have been able to give the opportunity to make a personal connection with the face, the name, and the story of a child - and for many, the chance to go to Africa - where they've seen, they've held, they've smelled the life of these children who matter more to God than anyone can describe.
The result of these encounters is an immense collection of individuals who are passionate about helping the “throw-away” children grow from hurt and hopelessness to a life overflowing with hope. Over the past 20 years we have been engaged in rescuing tens of thousands of orphaned and forgotten children around the world.
Here is the story of one of those children who was once a “throw away” child:
Lenhle’s father died when she was just a little girl. As is common in her country, after his death, her father’s family came and took everything, leaving Lenhle, her mother and five siblings with nothing. Her mother struggled to provide for her children, but one day Lenhle came home to find her mom on the front step of the house, not knowing where to turn. They had been kicked out of their home because she couldn’t pay the rent. Six children, an unemployed single mother, and no hope.
When Lenhle was 15, she found a Children’s Cup CarePoint. She started bringing her siblings with her to receive the only meal they ate each day. Lenhle found a place to belong at the CarePoint, and she met Jesus during the Bible Club meetings she attended each week.
Not only did the missionaries and teachers at the CarePoint show her extravagant love, but they also taught her to serve others. And she found a lot of joy in helping other kids at youth camps and Christmas parties - particularly those who were in situations like she had grown up in.
One day while at her CarePoint, Lenhle saw one of the Children’s Cup interns serving at the CarePoint, and began to dream about being an intern herself one day. She wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. She wanted to be used by God to show His love to hurting and forgotten children.
Lenhle recently completed her internship, and joined the Children’s Cup team serving at the CarePoints in Swaziland. It is a joy to see her playing with the children she loves so much. Not only is she gifted in her work with children, but because she understands first-hand what they are living through, she is an even greater blessing to them. She gives them hope for their own future. She’ll be the first to tell you, the love she shows them is a reflection of the extravagant love she found in Jesus.
As Children's Cup has helped give hope to these children, our partners are telling us that they themselves are experiencing a richer depth of life as they engage with us to change destinies. When you serve someone else in need, not only do they grow stronger, but your own life becomes fuller.
By following the example of Christ, we can demonstrate his love by meeting practical needs so that we can then deliver the truth of the saving grace of Jesus. It starts with clean water and a daily meal, then the efforts expand to medical care and education assistance, and discipleship programs and leadership training. We start with the basic humanitarian needs because a hungry child is less likely to hear the message of the love of Jesus than one you've just given a meal to. At the same time, we are determined to do more than just feed children because just giving them a meal doesn't mean they've found hope. My father-in-law used to always say, "Hope's name is Jesus!"
We give them hope when we give them Jesus.
Not only is Children’s Cup rescuing hurting kids, nurturing them, but also empowering and equipping them to be an influence in their communities right now and into the future. We have learned that the way we break poverty is through creating new cycles of serving and giving. Part of that transformation for our kids is serving others that are hurting. Those who have received hope begin to give hope. We have children like Lenhle helping to lead groups of six and seven year olds to collect firewood for elderly widows and to help clean their houses. It is indescribable the impact on these small children when an elderly woman weeps for joy and hugs them tightly, affirming them for being the hands of God to her.
A new culture is being created.
The sites where we feed children (CarePoints) are strategically placed so that they can also develop into a local life-giving church that can reach into the entire community where the children who once were "throw-aways" can find hope. This is when the cycle of hopelessness begins to be broken. And from our experience so far, these churches begin growing very quickly because they are attracting people from every walk of life in Africa that are drawn to the stories of hope and changed lives. Everybody wants to be part of something that is making a difference.
The churches (some of the fastest-growing and most influential churches) that partner with us to plant and develop life-giving local churches from our CarePoints are telling us that they attribute part of their success to their involvement with Children's Cup in Africa. Their people have been forever inspired to reach further into the lives of the hurting around them because of the stories of transformation they experienced in Africa.
When your church chooses to treasure the ones others consider "throw-aways" God tends to show up all the more powerfully in your own church.
For more information on Children's Cup, visit www.childrenscup.org.