By Deana Hartman
Stela came to be a part of our family in an unusual way. I did not give birth, nor was there a foster care period or hearing for an adoption. Instead, I found Stela online. I placed her biography in a shopping cart and ‘checked out’. This process took about fifteen minutes through the Compassion International website.
A few weeks later, as promised, information about Stela arrived by mail. Stela will be five on August second. She attends the Kigurunyembe Student Center in Tanzania, a part of Africa struggling with HIV/AIDS. She lives with her father and mother and two siblings. Her chores are carrying water and running errands. Her father and mother are sometimes employed as farmers. Stela likes to play house, hide-and-seek and other group games.
Compassion International sent a picture of her standing in a stained pink cotton dress and flip flops among the forested area of Tanzania. She is a beautiful child, but there is such sadness in her eyes. I fell in love with that face and her picture made me cry.
Perhaps it may look to someone like a tax deduction or easy charity from a distance. I do not see it that way. Yes, Stela lives a half a world away, approximately 8,870 miles to be more specific. But Stela is already teaching me much more than charity in the name of Christ. She is teaching me to be grateful for the abundance in my life. I am grateful that both hot and cold water is piped to our house along with electricity. I am grateful for soap and clean towels. I am grateful that nutritious food is available everywhere from grocery and convenience stores to restaurants. I am grateful for plenty of clothes, gas for my car and that I have a car. I am grateful for an excellent public school system for my daughter, Kayla. I am grateful that my husband, Wayne and I can provide for Kayla’s needs. I am grateful for a safe place to worship God.
Stela is also teaching me how one person can help another and truly make a difference. What is a small commitment on my part will give Stela the basics of life such as medical care, school, hygiene education, additional nutrition, Bible study, and more of a chance to simply be a child. It will not only change Stela’s path, but the trajectory of her whole family of five. Indeed, Stela teaches me that I am not as independent as I think. My dependance on God may not be as apparent as hers. Through the blessings and abundance I’ve received from God, more than my basic needs are met, but my dependence on God is no less great.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Christ in action is transformational not only for those in need, but also those assisting and helping the needy. For what I give Stela and her family in funds, prayers and small gifts, I am learning more about how to be a better disciple of Christ. As Stela depends on my keeping covenant with my responsibilities, I am learning more about depending on God and less on myself. This is a lesson that I hope is apparent on our Youth Group’s mission trip next week to Chicago. I am anxious to experience and witness others experience more of what Christ taught through this trip.
If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence. 1 John 3:17-19
Deana Hartman creates modern art quilts saturated with color, stitched texture and beaded embellishment. Her artwork, patterns and custom-mixed bead stews can be purchased on her site. Lectures and workshops are also available for organizational and conference bookings. She lives in the Kansas City Metro area with her husband Wayne, daughter Kayla, a Cairn Terrier named Zo, two tanks of fish, and a herd of cats. No, really, they are a herd.