Joel Hughes from Ohio went to India in January to teach at a pastors’ training conference and had the wonderful opportunity to meet the child he and his family sponsors through India Gospel League. Here is his story!
My family has been sponsoring a child through India Gospel League (IGL) for several years. Her name is Sheela. When I found out that I would be traveling to India as part of a team to teach a young pastor’s conference, I asked if it would be possible to meet her. Their answer was a confident yes! This is a unique feature of IGL child sponsorships. IGL has a variety of opportunities to see India. When our friends had come back from IGL trips, they always had stories of the sponsored children they met. I confess that I never fully appreciated the emotional impact of these meetings until I met Sheela.
She had traveled for four hours from the children’s home where she lives. There she stood—I recognized her immediately from the photos we’d received over the years. “Sheela!” I barked as I strode to greet her and fill her arms with little presents. This was probably terrifying for a polite and quiet 14 year old girl, but she smiled right back and we attempted to communicate although I speak absolutely no Tamil. We were able to have a conversation through a translator. I asked my most pressing question; what was her relationship with Jesus? She said that she had received Christ as her personal savior.
I confess that I don’t remember everything that happened that night. Part of my hazy memory was from the intense emotional experience of seeing someone in person who you only know from photos and letters and who you have traveled 9,000 miles to meet. It was overwhelming. Now I understand how Paul could be so emotional about his relationship with the church in Thessalonica even though he had been with them for only a short time. A face-to-face meeting made child sponsorship so real, so concrete. I already knew she was a real person from pictures and letters, but something about speaking face to face transformed our relationship. Now I know Sheela. She’s well cared for, receiving an education, and being discipled by older believers. She’s healthy. She’s happy.
After meeting Sheela, I can’t imagine a day when my family will not be sponsoring a child. The $30 per month is basically no money—less than any of my “necessary” expenses like cable, internet, or cell phone. In Luke 16 Jesus said “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” After meeting Sheela, I don’t feel that the term “sponsored child” does her justice any longer. She is my sister in Christ, my friend. I may never make it back to India, but one day we will have a reunion in eternity. I’ll introduce her to the rest of my family, and hopefully she’ll introduce me to hers. It won’t take a 9,000 mile journey to visit, we won’t need an interpreter to communicate, and we’ll have plenty of time to swap stories of how we used our lives on different continents to serve the same Lord.