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Feb 18, 2015

Something clicked for Patty when she began reading Helen Lee’s The Missional Mom. The book inspired Patty to live a life of action that would model to her daughters what it means to put God first. Then she read Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess. Patty was inspired to simplify her life and use her material possessions to bless others.

Last September, Patty traveled to Ethiopia to bless children with a gift as simple and as crucial as a new pair of shoes. While there, she had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit face-to-face with Beruk, the child she and her family began sponsoring in 2010.  

Patty and her husband, Jason, were led to sponsor a child and their family through Bethany Christian Services’ One Family ministry after their friends adopted a son through Bethany. They showed Patty and Jason photos of children who were available to be adopted or sponsored. Seeing this, they were moved to do something that would help children stay with their families.

How Far Can $30 Go?

Among the children in the photos, Patty found Beruk, an 11-year-old boy with a winning smile who lived with his grandparents in Ethiopia. She was surprised to learn how far a monthly gift of $30 would go—one dollar a day would cover Beruk’s education, nutrition, and health care. The amazing return made this a “no brainer” investment.  

As they began their sponsorship, Patty and Jason learned more about Beruk and his family. Through the act of person-to-person giving, they soon found that their hearts were invested as well, and they wanted to do more. When Patty learned that Beruk’s grandparents worked as day laborers to make ends meet, she thought about her own grandmother receiving care in a retirement community; she wondered what it would take to provide a more stable income for the family and also lessen the burden on Beruk’s grandmother. Was there another way that she could make a living at home without any negative repercussions in her community? She asked the question and learned that just $300 would purchase some goats and other farm animals that they could raise on their land.

Patty was incredulous—a one-time investment of $300 could make that kind of difference? That sealed it. She and Jason were all in.  

It wasn’t always easy for them to follow through with their sponsorship commitment. They fell on their own financial hard times and considered whether they might need that monthly $30 to keep food on their own table. But Patty sensed God saying, “No, find a way to make this work.” So they did.

What Else is Possible?

In 2014, Patty learned that a Christian radio station had partnered with Buckner International to put together a mission team to go to Ethiopia and distribute shoes to children in schools and orphanages. Through sponsoring Beruk, Patty had taken a special interest in Ethiopia, and saw an opportunity to learn more about his culture and understand the needs of children like him.

As the itinerary was finalized for the trip, Patty realized her team would be traveling just two hours from Beruk’s home. For each person’s safety, team members were instructed to stay with the group at all times, which was understandable, but Patty still knew the question was worth asking: would it be possible for her to meet Beruk and his grandparents face-to-face?

Bethany worked with Patty and Patty worked with Buckner to arrange for some time at the beginning of the trip to visit Beruk’s village. He was grinning from ear-to-ear when Patty arrived at the community center. He and his grandmother greeted her with warm hugs, and she went with them back to their home. They crossed through a metal gate, and Patty saw before her a series of stones leading up to the house. Recent rains had turned the ground to mud, and the uneven stones would surely be slick. Her heart melted when Beruk graciously took her hand to guide her safely across the path.

Once inside, Patty met Beruk’s grandfather, and she learned that they also shared the modest home with Beruk’s aunt and two uncles. Patty longed to connect with this family, but their experiences and cultures were worlds apart; she was unsure how to bridge the gap. Just then, there was a noise at the home’s entrance—the goats Patty had helped the family acquire had grown curious, and they were trying to come inside. The chaotic shooing away that followed provided the perfect comic relief, and everyone relaxed and enjoyed the conversation. Patty learned much more about Beruk’s life, his family, and his community. She was struck by the difference her gifts had made for this child and family, and how good it felt to give this personally.

Patty rejoined her team and spent the next week washing children’s feet, giving them new socks and shoes, and praying a blessing over their lives. At each stop, Patty was moved to tears to see up close the difference even a small gift or gesture of kindness can make when it’s given in Jesus’ name.

What More Can I Do?

Patty came home with a new perspective and new questions: with access to so much in the United States, what do we do with all of our abundance? As parents who want to be generous toward our children, how do we help them discern “needs” from “wants,” particularly when the want is a new pair of shoes?

Patty’s experience in Ethiopia has had ripple effects as she strives to be a “missional mom” living a missional life. Patty and her husband are now sponsoring seven children in Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, and China. With the $190 she made by selling some jewelry, Patty helped an Ethiopian family repair their damaged roof. When Jason was rear-ended last year, they decided to send the insurance money to a friend in Ghana who had founded a school—the gift provided an oral surgery that gave a child the ability to speak. Choosing between a child and dinged bumper? No contest.

When Patty and Jason first became sponsors, Bethany sent them a Christmas ornament with Beruk’s picture. This past Christmas, as Patty unwrapped it and saw his face again—this time, her connection was even more personal. He was more than a boy she was helping in a village far away—she had visited his home, met his grandparents, and held his hand. He was family.

If you would like to help a child and family in need, visit BethanyOneFamily.org and become a sponsor today.