By Grace Harmon
“Just like any child, the older girls wanted to do nails, the boys wanted to play soccer and the little ones just wanted hugs and to be held.” While visiting an orphanage in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jennifer McCullough made this observation as she took in the view of the orphans surrounding her.
In a population of roughly 65 million people, there are over 4 million orphans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The 30+ children Jennifer encountered were only a few of that large number and it wasn’t long after her first visit that she became active in working to help this orphanage fill the demanding needs of the growing orphan population.
She claims after her first visit, “I knew I HAD to do something.” To idly sit back after encountering orphans who were forced to sleep in the dirt and drink dirty water, who were stricken with malaria and other illnesses, was not an option.
Jennifer knew that the Lord impacted her heart for those kids specifically and she would do what it took to ensure their health and safety. However, orphanages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo do not get support from the government which means that all their help has to come from themselves or outside donors. After discussing the orphanage’s main needs, Jennifer realized she needed help from the church body and her community.
“I knew I could not do this alone,” she said. “So I reached out to friends and family on Facebook as well as the US military community.” She understood that it would take a community, or multiple communities, to help this community. In her own words, she says that it “takes a village”—a beautiful metaphor to describe how the body of Christ can work together to bring His light and transformation to the world. It happens through a body of believers (a village) deciding to compile their resources and different skills to see how they can use them together to impact a community for the sake of the gospel and meet their physical needs.
The common goal is to spread the gospel message and share Jesus with those who don’t know, to those who seem to have no hope. In this case, it’s the orphans living in this orphanage. By doing so, villages across the globe can and will be changed for the better.
Jennifer describes this wonderfully by saying that ultimately “we are all God’s children. We come from different walks of life and different cultures, but we are all the same…we need to help when we can.”
After reaching out to others, Jennifer received a surplus of responses.
“The first donations started coming in from friends and family and from there spread like wildfire,” she said. “Once people knew that 100 percent of the donations were going to the kids they started posting about my mission on their Facebook pages.”
Jennifer said this happened because those who gave and supported the orphanage trusted that the Lord would work powerfully. They were willing to have a trusting heart to know that the Lord in his promises and faithfulness would provide for those kids and that he would make a difference in their lives. In one way or another, those who helped and continue to help the orphanage care deeply for the orphans Jennifer encountered and still encounters.
The children in the orphanage were so overwhelmed by the love shown to them through the generous donations. They are happy to know someone cares and loves them even though those people giving to them do not even know them or live in the same country as them.
Jennifer recalled the story of one little boy, “At our second visit, one of the children came up to me and in broken English said, ‘Thank you for caring for me.’ He had tears in his eyes and he was just grateful that someone who has no ties to Congo or his tribe cared enough to come out there, bring them items they needed and give them love.”
But this encounter of love holds another meaning in their heart. If so much love can come from anonymous people, and can be felt so strongly by the orphans, how much stronger is the love of the Lord toward them and for them? The love of God far surpasses the love humans can have for each other and these orphans all encounter the love of the heavenly and ultimate Father.
Jennifer said that the faith of the orphans and the orphanage astonished her, “It amazes me that these kids and caretakers have been through so much (sickness, loss, poverty, no water/food, etc.) and yet they never lost faith.” The orphanage is grounded in prayer, and thankfulness towards God abounds in their daily life. “They pray to God several times of day for what they do have and what God has given them,” Jennifer said.
There were many times when it would have been so easy to give up and shut down the orphanage. Jennifer said, “I do not understand in these conditions how they continue to stay strong and continue to have faith.” But they did stay strong and persevere through prayer and trusting in the Lord, and He blessed them because of it and provided for their needs. And He continues to do so.
Jennifer said that the most help the orphanage can get is for the church to spread the word about their needs.
“If the church could spread the word about this orphanage and the mission that would be great as spreading the word is powerful!” she said.
It’s important for the kids to know they are loved and cared for, that they are not forgotten when someone comes to the orphanage and then leaves.
“These kids think they are forgotten, but they will never be forgotten in my book,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer followed God’s calling in her life to help those around her, wherever she is, and as a result she has encountered this orphanage in Congo that has needs of its own.
Jennifer said, “I knew I could not change the world, but I knew I could make a difference for the two years I would be in Congo.”
This is a beautiful statement because the willingness of one person to make a difference where they are at, ultimately does change the world—one orphan at a time, one orphanage at a time, one village, one city, etc. The hearts of the people change and contribute to meeting the needs of the bigger world around them.
“I just did what I could to try and change the world while I was there. These kids have really touched my heart and I could never forget about them,” said Jennifer.
A challenge to you is to ask the Lord how you can make a difference where you are, what has he placed on your heart or how does he instruct you in the Bible to actively be involved in a community? Like Jennifer, where is your orphanage or place of service? It doesn’t have to be a faraway place, it could be in your own town or neighborhood! Ask the Lord about your personal role in slowly changing the world for his glory.
If you would like to give towards the orphanage you can find various items they need on an Amazon wish list found at this link: http://ow.ly/T58MN.
For updates on the orphanage and Jennifer’s mission join their group on Facebook at http://ow.ly/T59ce.