Larissa wraps Tabitha’s long, black hair slowly around a warm curling iron. The strong bond between the two women is obvious as they laugh and share stories. No one would guess they had just met for the first time.
And yet, they have known each other for years.
Tabitha was 3 years old when her mother died giving birth to Tabitha’s stillborn sister. Not long afterward, Tabitha’s father remarried and started a new family. He sent his young daughter to live with her elderly grandfather, but he was unable to provide for Tabitha.
It was then that a children’s home took Tabitha in. But in order to help cover the cost of her care and education, she needed a sponsor.
On the other side of the world, Larissa was attending college when World Help’s Children of the World International Children’s Choir visited one of her chapel services. And as soon as they mentioned sponsorship, Larissa knew she was being called to something bigger than herself.
Even though Larissa was paying her way through school and was often broke, she knew she had to sponsor a child.
“My sister followed me as I walked from table to table looking at all the photos of the children and praying that God would guide me to the right one,” Larissa explained. “I came to Tabitha’s photo. She had a sad face. I knew she was the one.
“My sister asked, ‘How are you going to afford this?’
I said, ‘I don’t know, but I have to.’”
For the next 14 years, Larissa and her husband were Tabitha’s sponsors. And because of their generosity, Tabitha received an education, nutritious food, medical care, a safe place to live … and the opportunity to become a follower of Jesus Christ.
Tabitha’s mentors at the children’s home — lovingly nicknamed “aunties” and “uncles” — invested in all areas of her life.
Tabitha delved into her studies and became fascinated with science and all of its complexities. Because of the opportunities sponsorship afforded her, she was able to thrive intellectually and physically.
After Tabitha finished her education, she became a teacher at the same school where she was mentored as a girl. She had come full circle — now she was an “auntie.”
For the past two years, Auntie Tabitha has been a chaperone for World Help’s Children of the World choir. As a teacher, mentor, and friend, Tabitha is able to pour into these children’s lives just as others had poured into hers.
Tabitha takes her role as a caretaker seriously. She loves to cook spicy noodles for the children who eagerly gobble them up. She also has a passion for dancing and singing, so her role as one of the choir leaders is a good fit. Most importantly, Tabitha encourages the children to spend time getting to know Jesus.
“I like to teach the kids,” Tabitha said. “I really like to share the stories from the Bible and just let them know the truth.”
Every day Tabitha prays that the children in the choir and at the children’s home will become men and women of faith. “My biggest hope is they will fear God first,” Tabitha said, “and they will walk in His path and follow His commands … and share the Good News with other people.”
Last year, Tabitha received an added bonus while traveling with the children’s choir. Her life came full circle when she met her sponsors, Larissa and Tim.
“I’d never, ever thought about meeting my sponsor,” Tabitha said, “but when we met, it was so cool. We were so happy. Words cannot express how happy we were. We were just crying with joy to meet each other in person — in the flesh.”
And Larissa felt the same. “I never dreamed I would get to meet her one day and that she would turn out to be such a vibrant, beautiful young woman — both inside and out.”
As an advocate for sponsorship, Larissa has a message for those wondering whether they can afford it:
“I would encourage anyone who is considering sponsoring a child to consider the small things we buy for ourselves each month. Many of these things are frivolous, and we could easily live without them. However, If we would spend just a little over a dollar a day on a child in the World Help program, we could possibly save the life and soul of a child who is in deep physical and spiritual need.”
And while most sponsored children will likely never meet their sponsors in person, it doesn’t make their sponsorship story any less special. Sponsorship creates a connection that transcends the miles.
Larissa and Tim are ensuring that more children like Tabitha are sponsored. “Now that Tabitha has grown to adulthood and no longer in need of sponsorship, it only seems right to sponsor more children,” Larissa said. “I now have three children of my own, so I thought it fitting to sponsor three new children. Now my sons can correspond with them and learn at a young age what it means to invest in the lives of others.”
Families like Larissa and Tim’s have been called to sponsor children in impoverished areas around the world. As a result, these children are happy and healthy with bright futures.
Are you hearing the same call today?
“For someone considering sponsoring a child, I’d like to encourage them to do it because it really does help,” Tabitha said. “And you’ll have a very close relationship with somebody [in another country].”
To learn more about child sponsorship or to sponsor a child today, visit worldhelp.net/sponsor.