Saturday, December 15, 2012

FIVE: From the Heart of a Child

During our 12 Days of Features, we want to bring people's stories to life, to show how one trip has impacted them.  Some people go, are radically changed, and continue to change the lives of those around them…These are their stories.

Jack’s Walk for Water.

Jack was born looking like a miniature version of a grown up.   Little man.  That's who he has been from the very beginning, and his personality follows that moniker perfectly.  As a young child, Jack was always more reserved. He was cautious about interactions with others. He liked being alone instead of a big crowd. He played it safe.  Even now he still does, but he has found something that overwhelms his tendencies- something he can't keep quiet about.

From the time he could talk, animals have been Jack's passion.  Going to the zoo with him is like having a mini Jack Hanna as your guide.  He can literally play for hours, building zoos and arranging the animals as he deems appropriate.  What is even more wonderful is his recognition of God's creativity and skill in creating each and every one.  So when his father and I told him we were going to Africa on a mission trip with VO in 2010, you can imagine his excitement.  It may have started with wanting to hear about every lion, elephant and bat we saw (or didn't), but God was definitely planting a seed.

As soon as we announce our plans to lead a trip in 2012, he declared that he would be on the team.  God's provision for Jack's funds for his trip were mind-blowing.  It was such a blessing as a mom to see people talk to him and feel his heart toward going on the trip.  He was his normal calm self through the whole time, never once doubting if he would indeed raise the needed money.  But his smiles when he received money were a glimpse of what was yet to come.  Our time in Africa was, as expected, life-altering.   Seeing the ministries from the eyes and perspective of a 10 yr old brought things into focus that as a grown up, standing tall above a sea of boisterous children, I would never have seen.  He was engulfed.  Several times it overwhelmed him- mentally and physically.  But he kept trucking.  And then we went to Mazzi.

Mazzi is an isolated village in the Nakasongola District of Uganda that is served by Ekubo Ministries. It is a dark place, full of witchcraft and needs greater than most of us could imagine.  There is a school of a few hundred children there that we visited and after they sang welcomes to us, we toured the school and were told we would be fetching their water for their lunch.  Two miles down a path we came to the watering hole- a muddy spring.  When we returned to the school, Jack looked at us and said, "We need to build them a well."  I wish I could tell you I heard angels sing or felt a prophetic confirmation, but really I think it was more like a "Aw, that's nice, honey," comment.  I still had no idea what was in the works.
When we returned home, Jack didn't seem to be as affected as we were accustomed to being back in the 1st World.  A part of me wondered if he had really gotten it.  Were the naysayers right, was it too deep for a 9 yr old to "get"?  Never being talkative, getting him to share about his experience was met with one word responses.  But one day I asked him what he wanted to do to continue to serve the people we met in Africa and without hesitation he replied, "We need to build Mazzi a well."  I told him it would cost $8000.  He looked me right in the eyes and with a playful lilt in his voice, said, "okay!”

And that was it.  Jack's Walk for Water was born.  Our family followed his lead and all of us adopted a little bit of "Africa life" as we walked a mile each day to collect our water.  We shared Jack's endeavor via social media, and the local print and television media did stories about him.  And all through it, Jack was still Jack.  His pure joy and excitement with every donation was beautiful to watch.

But I have a confession.  I never thought he would fully fund a well.  I thought it would be a great start and maybe be something others could give to over the next year.  God humbled me, though, because at the end of the week $8,400 had been donated.

On October 17, the village of Mazzi, along with the leaders of Ekubo Ministries and a team from Visiting Orphans, inaugurated and blessed the opening of Jack's well.  Fresh, clean water is now being pumped from deep in the earth and the school children and other villagers have one less worry.  To date, over $14,000 has been given toward Jack's Walk for Water, and the second well is only $1,300 from being fully funded.

Jack recently told the Awana sparks at our church that he is going to raise the funds to build 4 wells.  He literally said, " I figure, if I can raise money for 2, I can do 2 more, because they really need them."  Pretty simple, huh?  Jack went on a trip, saw a need and trusted that God could use him to do something about it.  He never worried about being young, or anything else. It reminds me of the verse the kids all learned at VBS a few summers ago, 1 Timothy 4:12, "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."

I feel like it's important to note that Jack is FAR from a perfect child.  He is pouty and sensitive and leaves his shoes all over the house.  But he was willing.  He knew he would probably have to give something up.  But he has seen that with God on your side, it is ALWAYS worth it.

You can read more about The Walk on our Facebook Page HERE!

~Jack Chlebanowski and Clan

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