Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
If you’ve ever spent any amount of time with my Julia, you’ll quickly learn several things. She has a heart of pure gold, never ending compassion, and a faith that can move mountains. She is hard working, has straight A’s in her new school, and talents in the arts that don’t end. She is incredibly articulate, and just feisty enough to stand up for and stick to her convictions no matter what that means to her personally.
Left: Julia at just 5 years old, taking over the care of a crying toddler whose mother wouldn’t get out of her nearby car to help her. Right: Julia and Evan knitting dozens of hats for Kenyan newborns 2 years ago.
One thing you’d probably never guess is that she has a severe form of Dyslexia. At the age of 8 there were 11 letters of the alphabet she could not distinguish to save her life, and to this day vowels remain a complete loss. It is the reason I am chronicling her journey to Kenya rather than leaving it to her. This is my gift to her, not because she is exactly illiterate. She simply has to approach reading and writing in her own, very labored, way as she learns to navigate and find ways to compensate for what her brain will thus far not process. She remains grade level in every subject because of her astounding ability to process what she hears and apply it to tests and work (that I read to her, or translate her unique style of written phonics into something her teachers can read). She lets nothing stop her from doing what she sets her mind to doing.
Oh, and she’s only 11. Her beauty inside and out is a jewel in the crown that I must daily lay at the feet of the One who blessed me with her. This is exactly the reason that when she came to me last fall as we admired the majesty of the Grand Canyon, slipped her hand in mine and told me that she thought God was calling her to care for AIDS orphans in rural Kenya, I knew this was going to require me to lay my “crown” down at His feet once again.
I told her that if she was to be sure God was telling her to go to Kenya, he would confirm it in a few ways.
- Her daddy would be on board.
- My parents, who would be responsible for taking her there, would have to agree to it.
- Since Stephen and I already fund our own trips to Gambell, Alaska each summer, she would have to work hard and seek the Lord for her own funding.
- She would have to be willing to undergo all of the vaccinations required for such a trip.
One by one, those confirmations began rolling in. Stephen was on board as long as my parents were. Amazingly enough, my parents reported that God had already put her on their hearts for this trip and weren’t surprised to hear from her. However, coming up with $3,000 at 11 years old seemed like a daunting task. We made an effort to encourage each other not to put anything past a Lord who is always faithful to equip us for whatever He calls us to.
In December, she asked me to help her think of things she could do to begin the sacrifice of time, energy and personal desires in order to answer her calling. She told me that all she wanted for Christmas and her birthday was money toward her trip and ministry. She made a personal commitment to not purchase anything for herself until all of her funds were in. A flier would be made with work she could do for people willing to contribute to her trip and ministry expenses. Soon after, my mom approached with the idea of selling a Christmas coffee cake called Jolly Breakfast Rings to get the ball rolling with a couple hundred dollars toward her goal.
A few generous people hired her help with cleaning or childcare. But the Jolly Breakfast Ring fundraiser blew us away. We thought we would be doing stellar if 15 or 20 people ordered them before Christmas, but within 24 hours, 45 rings were sold. Julia and my mom baked for 2 straight days and raised over $800.
We soon learned that over $800 from coffee cakes wasn’t even to be the amazing part. The last couple of years my parents bought tickets to Kenya for $1400. We were excited to have such a big chunk of it in and were trusting God for the rest when my mom called to say she had decided to check ticket prices that day. Miraculously, they were just $800. Julia’s fundraiser raised just the amount she needed to completely cover the airfare portion of her trip. Tears and hugs all over the place as we praise the Lord for so graciously showing his hand to our family once again.
After that, Julia is walking the halls of church or the streets of our neighborhood and people are handing her money as she goes. Checks are coming in the mail or turning up in her account at church. People are reporting that God has put her so heavily on their hearts they could not ignore what he was telling them to give. We really never asked for a dime that she didn’t work to earn. I wanted her to sacrifice personally for this and see God do what only he can do through people he brought into her life. We’ve read of many missionaries who have lived a life of trust without asking for money, but to experience it for ourselves. . . More tears of gratitude every day.
I never want to forget the day I went to her favorite store, 5 Below, with a list of items I needed to buy for school. I found her a few minutes later in the checkout isle with a few items she had been wanting for several months and no longer seemed to have the will-power to resist. I didn’t say a word because I could see the internal struggle as she waited in line. When her turn came to walk up to the counter, she walked right past it and back out into the store to place everything in her basket back on the shelves. When she came back to me, (of course, I couldn’t see her for the tears in my eyes) but I heard her say, “Mom, I want to be with those orphans more than I want any of that stuff.” OH, HOW I WANTED to go back and buy all of that stuff for her. It was just as much of a sacrifice for me to put my arm around her, walk out of that store and let God work in both of us in that moment.
I did a fundraiser where I roasted coffee that was grown by a coop of Rwandan genocide widows. I raised a couple of hundred dollars that got us so close to her $3000 goal we could smell it. I ran to her room to report that within just 2 1/2 months, we had only $300 to go and 3 months left for God to work. We were excited about THAT when I got word from the accountant at church. The rest of the money was put into her account by a donor that afternoon. Stephen stopped me from telling her the amazing news to say, “Let me go with you. Something even more amazing has happened.”
More amazing? How can it be? I sat down on the bed beside Julia as Stephen read a beautiful letter from a precious, young missionary couple we have grown to love over the past year. The letter told of how God had placed missions on their hearts when they were very young and wanted to do what they could to encourage Julia in her heart for missions as well. The gift bumped Julia’s orphan care ministry budget to nearly $4000. Here we wonder how God will provide $3000 to an 11 year old, not realizing that $3000 was just the beginning.
And money keeps rolling in. I will make a final tally closer to when she leaves, but we keep day dreaming about what can be done with whatever comes in. The orphans are in desperate need of a new school, supplies and teachers. Presently they go to a local public school in which no teachers are present for 1/3 of the school year. School supplies are nonexistent. The local pastor is building homes for local widows, and funds are needed for the effort.
Left: The orphans’ public school class room. Right: A home for a homeless widow.
In a bit of a side note, Julia told me that as Stephen and I walked in to tell her that all her funds were raised and then some, the song “Giants Fall”, written about an 11 year old girl who began a ministry to orphans in Uganda, was playing on her radio. She said, “Mom, that $3,000 was my giant and it just fell.” https://mystar933.com/giants-fall-francesca-battistelli/
So as long as funds keep rolling in, we will be putting them toward the needs in that village and praising God for his faithful provision. He used so many of you to bless Julia and our whole family as well as people he deeply cares for in a rural African village; deeply enough to ask us to send our precious, only daughter, in order to demonstrate a love that would send His one and only son, for her and for them.
Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)