My First Encounter with Abdulai
A Story by Shara Johnson
My 1-year anniversary of working on staff at the 25 Project was approaching. After 11 months, I finally found myself on a plane to Sierra Leone. It had been important for me to meet all the kids we serve and experience the country first-hand. It was even more important to meet the child I sponsor.
Months prior, I was compelled to sponsor one of our boys in Waterloo. I kept coming across the profile of one young man who had been in the program since 2012, but still had no sponsor. I tend to gravitate towards older kids. Older kids are the ones who are often picked last, and sometimes not at all. God led me to one of the oldest, overlooked boys, Abdulai.
When I arrived in Waterloo for our first day of camp, I asked each of the boys to introduce themselves. Abdulai was in the back, slumped in his chair, no smile whatsoever. Almost the last boy to introduce himself to me, I asked, “Do you know who am I?” He looked very confused. After a couple of seconds of awkward silence, I excitedly said, “Abdulai, I’m your sponsor!” His disposition changed, and a smile finally appeared. When we finished with introductions, I walked towards him to give him a hug. I was quickly met with the sweetest embrace. Abdulai put his head on my shoulder, much like the way I hug my mom.
I was able to spend all three days of camp with Abdulai. He made sure I always sat next to him. I made sure to applaud and encourage him when he looked at me for approval during activities. On one of our last days in Sierra Leone, we took our Waterloo boys for a special outing to Kent Beach. I knew I wanted time to talk with Abdulai personally about his life and his salvation. This was my last chance to do so.
As we walked along the beach he told me that he was living with his grandfather. When he was just twelve years old, his mother became very sick and was taken to the hospital. She never returned home. Since his mom’s death, he began asking God to bring him a new mom. On the first day of camp when we met, he thanked God for granting his prayer. It was a powerful moment.
This made me realize, as someone who gives financially to this ministry, we aren’t just people in the US sending support to kids in another country. In many ways, we have the privilege of being surrogate moms and dads for these kids who have lost parents. We are their advocates, their cheerleaders and encouragers. We are part of a greater picture of God working in their lives to restore hope and put them on the path He prepared in advance. I’m privileged to know God used me to answer His child’s prayer. I can only hope it is part of God leading Abdulai to Himself. Reminding Abdulai that He cares deeply for him and hears his prayers.
Update on Abdulai
Since this story was written, I was able to spend 2 months in Sierra Leone. I spent lots of time with Abdulai. Much of our conversation was centered on trying to help him understand why he needed Christ. We never force a decision of salvation on our children, so I was prepared to leave without Abdulai doing so. Two days before coming home, I shared the Gospel again with all of our boys in the Waterloo.
I asked those who had accepted Christ to stand, not because they thought it would make me happy, but because they truly acknowledged they needed Christ. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Abdulai still sitting. I had come to terms with that, but a few seconds later I saw him start to rock in his chair. He finally stood very firmly, as if to military attention, and let out an “amen!” I was blown away. God gave me such a gift to see Abdulai choose to accept Christ. Now I have the joy of encouraging him to walk in his faith.
We sincerely appreciate your partnership with the 25 Project. Did you know that your generosity has the potential to be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled? Check with your employer to see if they have a matching gift program. You can also contact Barbara Cross, Director of Donor Relations: firstname.lastname@example.org.