by Ellen Tuthill, contributing blogger
A couple of years ago, my son came home from Sunday School with a small brown card from the Zeway team. It had the picture of a teenage boy on it. He was handsome and thin, sitting on a bed, alone. His name was Ibsa.
The card instructed us on how to pray for Ibsa, who was forced to be dependent on his not-entirely-dependable older brother. My son, being the dutiful first-born, was upset to hear that a big brother wasn't taking good care of his younger sibling, since Baker spends lots of time doing just that. He quickly fell into a pattern of praying for Ibsa, unprompted by us, in his bedtime prayers. He often prayed for Ibsa's brother to "do the right thing", because that's the way his own heart leaned.
Sometimes there would be weeks or months when he forgot about Ibsa, but then the young man would pop up again in Baker's prayers. It seemed like Ibsa had become very real to him, even though he lived on the other side of the ocean and lived a very different life. As my little son grew and developed over the last year, he started to be more concerned about Ibsa's emotions. We would read updates from the Zeway team and talked about how we wished we could give him hope. Baker began to pray against Ibsa's loneliness and for God to help him not to be afraid. And he always asked God to give Ibsa a safe place to live.
There isn't anything so sweet to me as seeing a 6-year-old start to understand that the world is much bigger than what he can see, and that God asks us to care about -- and for -- those who are far away and in distress. Whereas I can become despondent and overwhelmed at the thought of the great suffering in the world, my son is very comfortable just taking up the needs of one young boy in prayer. He feels that this is his job, and he does it, happily. He doesn't worry about what he CANNOT do.
I hope that I can learn from him how to shoulder not EVERY burden -- that's God's job, isn't it? -- but the ones that the Lord lays before me specifically, the children whose names I can know and speak out loud and pray over, and maybe even someday visit. I have a prayer list of Zeway's orphans on my fridge, and over time, I have gotten so familiar with their names that it almost seems like I know them.
Names are powerful things. We can't really know an individual until we know his name. I love supporting the Zeway partnership because there are real live children with beautiful Amharic names "living" on my fridge. There are real live friends from Grace going to Africa to meet these children, comfort them, pray for them in person on our behalf, and meet their many needs. And there are dedicated Christian social workers and pastors on the ground, every day, tending to these precious ones. These adults have names and faces too, and the team has asked us to pray for them as well. What a privilege. I'm so grateful that God has given all of us -- even my son -- a way to partner with Him in His mercies.