Simon (Part 2)

To understand the significance of my encounter with Simon (see yesterday’s blog post), you must first understand the nature of the education system in Zambia.

There are three types of schools in Zambia:

1) Private schools (which provide a quality education but are prohibitively expensive for most families)

2) Government schools (which are free through grade 7 but require a uniform, shoes, and books in order to attend)

3) Community schools (which serve the poorest families and are run by individuals in the community who charge a nominal fee for students to attend)

Most of the children in our sponsorship program attend community schools.  Unfortunately, while the idea of a low-cost education at the community level is a noble one, the reality is that there are a number of community school directors who are unscrupulous in their methods and are more interested in making a profit than they are in educating the children.  As a result, these directors employ teachers at a very low salary who may not have more than a grade 7 education themselves.  Children attend class only 2 hours per day because often there are 3 or 4 sessions per day in the same classroom to maximize the number of children who attend.  Classes are overcrowded and the facilities are substandard.  As a result, the quality of the education is quite low.

The prospects for employment for a child who has gone through community school are very limited.  Because these children are often unable to pass the national standardized grade 7 exam in order move onto grade 8, their education ends at that level.  With so little education, they are left with few options for work.  The cycle of poverty is repeated from one generation to the next.

This is what prompted Family Legacy Missions to launch Lifeway Christian Academies in various locations around Lusaka.  At these schools, sponsored children receive the equivalent of a government- or private-school education at little or no cost to them.  Their tuition, supplies, etc. are paid for through their sponsors’ monthly contributions.

I had not realized that Simon was one of the sponsored children attending the Matero LCA.  As I reflected on my brief encounter with him on the bus ride home, my mind suddenly imagined Simon sitting in a dark, crowded room with dozens of other students, trying to soak up what little information he could from a poorly qualified community school teacher.  I imagined where his life was headed in that scenario and what the future held for him.  Then I flashed forward to the image of him sitting in a neat, well-organized classroom being taught by a highly trained teacher who was giving Simon the education that he needed.  There was a sweet spirit in the classroom and it was evident that learning was taking place and that the children were EXCITED about it.  This is what education should be!

The thing that really hit me was this: Simon was experiencing this because he was SPONSORED.  By our family.

That thought did not fill me with pride so much as it struck me by its simplicity.  Could it be that Simon’s life was being changed by something so . . . simple?  Could a monthly sponsorship truly impact his life in such a dramatic way?  Could it really be that easy?

Of course, the “easy” part is making the monthly payments.  Being on the inside of the sponsorship program, I know that the process of ministering to a sponsored child (hiring staff, creating and implementing programs, communicating back to sponsors, etc.) is not an easy one.  But when these systems are in place, a sponsor’s financial and prayer support becomes the fuel to the engine that can change a child’s life.

The reality is that the Lord is the only one who can truly change a child’s life.  Every aspect of the Father’s Heart Child Sponsorship program is designed to help these children develop into who they are intended to be in the Lord.  We want them to experience the fullness of His grace and the freedom to experience all that He has planned for their lives – to know the heart of their Heavenly Father.

I am grateful that our family gets to play a small role in Simon’s life through our sponsorship.  In the classroom that day, I caught a small glimpse of God’s plan for His life.  It always takes a little bit of your breath away when you see God’s work in action.  In this case, I am thankful that Simon was on the receiving end.

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