Choosing the One You Least Expect

I wasn’t planning to sponsor a child in Uganda. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea, obviously. I already sponsor Pinky in Bangledesh and Stacey in the Philippines. But that was why: we sponsor two children already. Should we add a third child?

compassion uganda bloggersThe reason I was even considering it was because I had agreed to travel again with Compassion International to Uganda – this time with Jeff, Joy, and my sister. Whenever bloggers travel with Compassion, we are given the opportunity to sponsor a child from the country we will be visiting. When the email came asking if we wanted to sponsor a child in Uganda, I didn’t pay much attention to it. And by the time I remembered to think about it, the deadline had passed.

But then Shaun emailed on Friday a few weeks ago to say we still had a day or so to decide if we wanted to sponsor with the possibility that we would  maybe get to meet him or her. He included in the email a link to the page with the children’s photos. I didn’t click the link.

I didn’t think of it again until that Sunday night while everyone on Twitter was watching the Golden Globes but we weren’t because our digital antennae doesn’t pick up NBC (we have since ordered a better one because Olympics).

I mentioned to John how the deadline to sponsor a child was that night if I wanted the possibility of meeting him or her once I got to Uganda. John’s exact words were, “I trust Compassion. It’s a good use of our money.”

He didn’t need to say more than that because we have already had many conversations about how we feel about child sponsorship through Compassion. It wasn’t an issue of trust, it was an issue of timing.

Should we sponsor a third child? John just left his job as a pastor in June and our financial situation isn’t as predictable as it has been in the past. And even though I had already agreed to join the team traveling to Uganda, I wasn’t convinced we were to commit to sponsor again.

I still didn’t click the link.

That night after Downton Abbey was over, we walked through the house turning off lights and locking things up. Before walking upstairs I decided to check Shaun’s email one more time.

Y’all. I clicked the link.

The children looked back at me on that page and in that moment, unplanned and undecided, I did something completely counter-intuitive. I forced myself to focus on the one I was least naturally drawn to.otwii paul

It was a ten year old boy named Otwii Paul. His face seemed harsh, his gaze unreadable, his jaw set against the world.

I hope it’s okay I’m about to say this, but it’s the truth about my first impression of him.

At first glance he looked a little bit like a bully.

I closed the laptop, uncertain.

I went to bed that night thinking of Downton Abbey, of the kids schedule the next day, of my jaw that won’t stop clicking and should I go see someone about that again?

Just before the sleep came, right on the edge of the darkness, an hour before the deadline to sponsor was up, I was awake. And not just “in-and-out-of-sleep” awake. I was wide awake, like it was morning. Except it was not.

There was Otwii Paul again in my mind – his furrowed brows and unreadable face. I couldn’t shake him.

I pulled out the laptop again, ready to click the link for the boy called Otwii Paul.

As I waited for the site to load, I thought of how we have two girls and a boy at home. Why not add a boy to our two sponsored girls around the world? 

I clicked on his photo and signed up to become his sponsor. Immediately I wondered what took me so long?

Why all the back and forth? I slept easy that night.

That was two weeks ago. On Saturday, I left my home in North Carolina, took a plane, another plane, another plane, another plane, a bus, another “plane” (The-Tiniest-Plane-I’ve-Ever-Ridden-On-Which-Is-Why-It’s-In-Quotes kind of plane) and another bus.

Tiny AirplaneAnd this morning, we arrived in a little village just outside of Lira in war-torn northern Uganda.

East Africa.


our airplane over UgandaAs soon as we landed on the red dirt landing strip, when got off the “plane” and the engines went off and all was quiet, when Grace, our Ugandan companion, came to greet us all – I felt something like an exhale.

Lira Day OneNot from me, (although I understand why you would think that seeing as how we, fully grown humans, had just landed safely in a Barbie plane).

No, it felt like the land around me was in the middle of a long exhale, like we landed right on top of her moving chest, like she has been holding her breath for too many years of war and fear and only recently has she begun to breathe again.

I felt her exhale in my soul, ever so slight.


An hour later, we’re sitting in a little church, home of the Compassion center in Lira. We’re listening to the kind, soft-spoken voice of the director telling us about the work they’re doing there, about the kind of care child sponsorship provides for the spiritual, economic, social and physical well-being of the children in this center. While she speaks, a small group of children walk into the room, sitting down quietly behind us.

I turn around and guess who sits directly behind me?

It’s Otwii Paul.

Soon he’s called to the front of the room where I go to greet him with a half-bow and a two-handed handshake because that seems like the most awkward and American thing I could possibly do in the moment.

Lira Day OneGuess what Otwii Paul is not?

A bully.

Guess what he is?

I can’t wait to tell you.

The others meet their sponsored children too, pulling white chairs into small huddles, looking at photos of families from home. I learned that Otwii Paul had a sponsor before me but they had to stop their support for some reason. I ask him if I write him letters, will he write back. He nods that yes, he will.

meeting Otwii Paulphotos for Otwii

me and otwii paul

otwii paulWe only have a few minutes together with the promise of more time tomorrow. For now, it’s time to head outside to meet all the other children registered in the program.

all in a rowThey have us sit in the very front of all the children, the best seats in the house. Or the field, if you want to get technical. We all introduce ourselves and when it’s my turn, Wess points out the fact that I am Otwii Paul’s new sponsor.

He goes on to tell the children we have come on behalf of all of their sponsors, to let them know their sponsors are praying for them, to tell them how beautiful they are, to tell them we have hope for their future.

Wess Stafford and Otwii PaulAs Wess speaks, he keeps his hands on Otwii Paul’s shoulders, and then director of the Compassion Center, the same soft-spoken woman as before says the words I will never forget:

“Otwii Paul is our spiritual leader.”

What? The boy with the scowly face and the unreadable expression? The boy who I thought, based on his photo, I was least likely to connect with? This boy was the spiritual leader of this group of over 200 kids?

I wanted to know what she meant by that, how she knows that, what he does to make her say that. About five minutes later, I find out.

Before we leave, Wess calls out to the children, Could you sing something for us before we go?

Without hesitation, Otwii Paul takes his place in front of his peers, and starts to do what Otwii Paul does (if you’re reading in email, you may need to click over the see this 55 sec video):

And in those few moments, listening to those children sing through the leadership of Otwii Paul, I thought of my husband back home who left his job as a youth pastor but in a way, because of the ministry of Compassion and the opportunity for us to sponsor, we are able to support a youth who pastors.

They told me if I give him my prayer requests, he’ll pray for me.

They told me he mobilizes the children for activities.

I couldn’t have known any of this about him from his picture. And I didn’t necessarily get any of this from our first shy conversation.

It wasn’t until I saw him in his element that I knew what she meant.

Are you ready to choose from one of these future nurses, mothers, doctors, government workers, farmers, and right-now-spiritual leaders to sponsor?

You can visit this page right now to see photos of children still waiting for sponsors. 

I wonder which child’s photo you’ll least connect with?

I wonder what dreams the Lord has for his future?

I wonder how your sponsorship might help those dreams come true? Will you sponsor a child today?

We will be writing from Uganda everyday this week. We would love to have you join us by following our posts. Here are all of them from day one:

Joy the Baker

Nesting Place

Goins, Writer

Shaun Groves

Brianne McKoy


  1. says

    Beautiful, friend. I love everything about this. It is, essentially, the Gospel. I’m grateful he chose us when we were the least likely to be chosen. And now, he calls us to do the same. Grateful for your example.

    • Hlumisa says

      Well put Jeff. Indeed this is all, essentially, the Gospel (John 3:16)- giving up a treasure for what seems to be dead (no life), be alive.
      I, too was touched. I prayerfully cried.

      Dear Emily I was reminded of the scripture when the Shepperd David was to be anointed King of Israel. 1Samuel 16:7.
      “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

      God sees with the eyes of Grace, unlike us.

      Thanks for sharing this Emmy. It’s amazing how God fulfills His written scriptures once again through us. When King Solomon says “Nothing is new under the sun, indeed, nothing is new under the sun”

      This was the story of David re-told by God through you Emily. In this case you were Samuel and Otwii, David.
      Otwii is a Shepperd (as David was), He is King (as he is their spiritual leader there in the children’s home), nowadays he is a Pastor who will take God’s sheep to green pastures.

      oooh what a true bible story.
      Thank you Emmy, may God use you more for His glory*

  2. says

    Ohmahgravy, Emily, this made me cry. What a beautiful story God has woven ~ and how beautifully you tell it. Incredible.

    Praying for darling Otwii and for you, friend. Love you so much.

    • Twila Bennett says

      Well, yes she did make us cry!!! Emily, just wow. The song, the story. Keep on, friend. Tell the world. Love you.

  3. says

    You are in LIRA!?!?
    Our little Anna is in Lira!

    I think I read most of this with my mouth agape — you are such a storyteller telling The Story, all of our stories. Pure Gospel. Jesus chose us, even us, the one you’d least expect.

    Yep, brushing away what ever is squeezing out my heart, leaking a bit down my face here.

    Going now to choose one of you’d least expect.
    Heart bursting happy. You are all so loved.

    • says

      You have one in Lira?!

      This place – it is not what I expected. I’ve used up all the words for now, but it is not what I expected.

      Thank you for reading along, for praying and supporting and encouraging. Love to you, Ann.

  4. Karen says

    My heart is beating loud and fast as I read this. In just 2 weeks, my hubby and I will be heading to Africa to meet 2 of the children we sponsor. WE CANNOT WAIT!

    Too many thoughts….no real way to express them right now! THANKS

    • says

      Oh fun! I’ve met two of our three and so far both times have been awkward and I’ve been weird and twisty. But I’m always so glad to have met them. And it makes it all so real – this face on a photo? It belongs to a person with a family and a past and dreams for the future.

      What a trip you are about to have! And lucky you to be able to go with your husband. I’m here with my sister and it makes all the difference having family.

  5. says

    Oh man, I was just thinking “wow, my hormones are way out of control,” but I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who cried while reading this! haha

  6. says

    Love how you gave into that prompting from God to sponsor this young man! And what an amazing young man he appears to be! We never know all the details when we say ‘yes’ to God, but I just love how at times He gives us a glimpse into the parts of the story He wants us to know more about.

  7. says

    In all my years of reading these posts and following these trips, I didn’t think a post could surprise me anymore. I know Shaun, I KNOW. But this one? Emily, speechless. And my kids, I brought them in and read the whole thing to them and showed them his first photo and what were their impressions? And then I kept reading and showed them the photos of him meeting you and they were all grinning and yes, all of us nodding our heads at how easy it is to judge outward appearances. And then the singing? When I showed them — see – see how he is leading those other kids? Yes, all us Bakers clapping and singing and remembering our way back to Africa with you. Thank YOU thank YOU for taking so many of us along – in that awful tiny plane and three day old clothes and the tired and the hot and just thank you for telling the story of how what happens at 3am in America in the boring ordinary click of computer screens changes lives a world away. #Favorite

    • Lindsay says

      Lisa Jo! I know, right? (About the didn’t think you could be surprised anymore part. Exactly.) Also, what a GREAT idea to bring the kids in on this particular post. Our kids know our Compassion kids very, very well, and Rabuma is graduating this May, so we’ll be choosing another Compassion family member soon. This is such a great post for them to read and experience before we do that!! Thank you for sharing one of the ways your family experiences Compassion together.

  8. says

    oh, emily.

    i just can’t even with the pictures and the song and my short people and i-we just listened to Otwii Paul lead others in praise and apparently i can only write in run on sentences.

    i’ve been praying for you, friend.

  9. Christine says

    Beautiful. Somehow, God gives. When we aren’t looking and when we least expect it, which is just about all the time. How blessed you are that He gave you Otwii Paul…

  10. says

    Emily, I can’t stop tearing up. The world is so very big and so small at the same time. Thank you for helping us see how God loves, how he puts a song in the heart of man (and boy:)) in every corner of the earth.

  11. Kendra says

    This is the greatest story I’ve ever heard. Because it’s part of the greatest Story I’ve ever heard.

    You’re my favorite, I love you like crazy, and I’m obsessively checking your site because your words are Jesus. Be well, sweet friend.

  12. Jenn says

    Wow, just wow. What an experience and what a beautiful way you’ve explained it all! Thank you for being so very honest! Praying for a good night’s sleep and an amazing week. Looking forward to seeing tomorrow’s post!

  13. says

    I am sitting here with my three-year old and he’s saying “what is that, momma?” as I play the video and I tell him it’s something that so wonderful it makes me cry, like really cry, like funny little burpy gaspy sounds type cry, because I’m proud of you and humbled by God and so damn happy for all of you to experience such true beauty.

    Emily – what a GIFT!

  14. Mary Geisen says

    Praying for all of you and the children who will be blessed by your visit. As the tears were flowing, I felt joy in knowing that the children have such a beautiful leader in Otwii Paul and also discomfort that not all children have been chosen by possible sponsors such as myself. I will be praying and listening to what God wishes for me to do. Many blessings for your journey and all that God will reveal to you during this time.

  15. says

    I already sponsor two children in Uganda and I’m afraid to click on that link because I just know I’ll end up with a third one. Otwee Ambrose is in a project near Lira as well–if you happen to see him, I’d love for you to tell him his sponsor said hello!

  16. says

    Oh Emily, this is SO beautiful. I’m in tears at that precious Otwii Paul – WOW. I sponsor a boy in India – I’ve sponsored him since 2006, he’s now almost 19! Whenever I receive a letter from him, I can tell that he is this type of leader, just like Otwii Paul. He loves Jesus and leads people to him. Thanks for sharing this!

  17. says

    What a fantastic post, Emily! I met my sponsored child in Uganda a few years
    and will never forget that life-changing experience.

    If you have the opportunity to visit the Compassion center in Kasangati, outside Kampala, please extend my greetings to Pastor Stephen and the staff there. Our church has a number of sponsored children there. May God continue to guide your steps!

  18. says

    what a picture won’t show…

    When we chose our Compassion child it was from a group that had been waiting the longest. We chose Arafat believing that North AMericans could well be holding his name against him!

    I know God will continue to break and rebuild your heart and you will be forever changed by the red soil of Africa. I know we were.

    We are now in the planning and preparation stages for long term work in Malawi!

  19. says

    We have chosen many of our children based on their expressions, whether sullen or smiling. The one face that haunted me for days was that of the young lady who eventually asked if she could call me Mom. Kwagala Deborah was a Ugandan orphan who was abandoned for much of her life. Finally clicking the Sponsor This Child button was such a powerful moment and one that changed both of us.

    If anyone reading is on the fence, I urge you to take a step of faith.

    That beautiful orphaned girl eventually had a baby boy. My husband and I were beyond honored to learn that she chose to name her baby boy Michelle Jason….after two people who have committed to support her.

  20. says

    I just finessed reading your sister’s post, and now this. Good grief. I’ll just plan to sob through the rest of tonight’s posts.

    You are, indeed, a spectacular word weaver. Thank you for doing what you do with such excellence.

  21. Pam says

    This is a wonderful expression of your experience – as Kelli said, “a spectacular word weaver”. Thank you.

    If you travel to Lutete Child Development Centre in the central region of Uganda perhaps you will see, or hear of, Kyaterekera Geoffrey, a young man I have sponsored for a few years. He just turned 16. It has been longer than usual since his last letter so he has been very much on my heart. If you would happen that way and would see him, please let him know I say hello and I pray for him. He asked me in his last letter to pray for him to have wisdom. And he prays for me and my family all the time. :)

  22. says

    Emily- I’ve been a bad blog reader for months now, and just clicked on yours to get caught back up on the beauty of your blog, and was just amazed at how God has used your ‘yes’ to bless all of us back here in the States. It was a needed reminder for me to act in obedience and bravery, trusting Him for the outcome. So lovely how He works. I am excited you are traveling with Compassion, my friend Mike is also with you guys I believe. He does video for Compassion and is in Uganda right now too… praying for the rest of your trip. Blessings to you!

  23. says

    Really? On the first day?

    Oh friend – above you said you used up your words for the day and through that, you’ve opened up another world I “thought” I knew.

    It Never ceases to amaze me how He uses those words. Thank you for letting him.

    I had to chuckle at the last post about your apology to the others that will be traveling with the “sisters.”
    Oh that made me smile. All the car rides I’ve had with you sisters, I can only imagine. :)

    Blessings, pure blessing!

  24. says

    i did that too when i chose my last child, chose the one i was least drawn to. i was more drawn to girls, but i chose boys both times. i prayed that god would choose them for me, the ones who needed me most.
    fabrice from rwanda wrote me today.

    i love your compassion posts.

  25. Sherry Penley says

    GO OTWII PAUL! They were singing, “I’m gonna praise my Lord!”
    I sponsor a little girl in Rwanda and at first was hesitant. But the Lord planted such a beautiful seed in my heart that day and it has blossomed beyond what I could have imagined for this child.
    How I love to see how God works when we will just take the first step in obedience & faith!

    This story & video so blessed me!
    Thank you for sharing!

  26. Nicole says

    Emily, this is INSPIRING; I am speechless and crying tears of pure admiration. I am moved by both you and Otwii Paul. Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience with your readers. I look forward to reading more about your time in Uganda.

  27. says

    Stop it. Right this minute.
    This is perfection.
    We picked the last child we sponsored based on the same sort of thing – which one seems least likely to be picked by someone else? Oh my word. I wish I could meet her!
    Thank you for doing this thing and going to these places to teach us and lead us and to be teachable yourself. And humble, and still pretty even in Uganda and ALL THOSE THINGS.
    Adore you and thankful for your life and your obedience.
    God is WOWING me right now, through your words.

  28. says

    HEY!!!! WOOOHOOO you’re there!!!! I’ve been praying over alllllllll your travels, and have been so excited for today. And, been coming to check your site all day today!! Oh, my, that Otwii Paul…what a blessed young man you have there. Through tears of joy I loved every bit of this post, and praised the Lord that you are there, and that we get to see you there. Love you so much, sweet friend. Can’t wait to hear more!!!

      • says

        Yes I was dying about the Barbie plane…and then I completely went to heaven when I saw the shadow…that baby little plane. Oh heavenly days. The Lord is with you and holds you fast!! Just remember…”you’re flying through the air!” haha :)

  29. says

    I was determined not to cry because everyone was saying I would. I did. I cried. And then I clicked the link too. We are now supporting a little boy named Isaac with the same birthday as my little Isaac! Thank you for sharing this post!! Praying for you all!!

  30. Nancy H says

    Oh My Goodness!!!
    Ottwi Paul is my hero. I want to play this video everyday. I sponsor through Compassion a beautiful 5 year old girl Kesta in Haiti. I hope and pray I can meet her someday. This post and this little man is amazing. I truly believe he will do great things. Thank you for sharing and blessing me so.

  31. Susan says

    Love this! The music took me back to my trip to Uganda to meet my first sponsored child. It makes my heart sing & I am reminded, once again, how powerful music is! What a blessing & a privilege to follow along on your journey…Thank you :)

  32. Jess says

    This is my favorite blog post in history. Thank you for sharing this beautiful, beautiful story. God has given you a great gift, Emily!

    p.s. Our Compassion child lives in Ethiopia and his name is Abdissa. My husband began sponsoring him before we were married. We’ve watched him through his photos grow from a serious, wary looking little guy to a smiling young man who seems full of confidence. I so wish we could meet him.

    p.p.s. We trust Compassion too.

  33. says

    So glad you arrived Uganda safely and got to meet Otwii Paul. The picture of you two together are so precious, holding each other’s shoulders. That smile of Otwii Paul, something that compassion international couldn’t capture in his profile picture, shows what a kindhearted person he must be. Looking forward to hearing more from the journey.

  34. says

    Well, I started reading this blog post determined not to sponsor another child, but I lost the battle with my practical side. I just signed up to sponsor a little girl! I’ve been so blessed by the two little boys we sponsor through Compassion, and it is without reservation that we continue to support this organization. Blessings to you and your fellow travelers as you continue to find sponsors through the stories you will be sharing.

    • says

      It is the best money we spend every month. I don’t regret sponsoring multiple children for a second and it sounds like you don’t, either! I’m so glad you chose a little girl to sponsor, Jennifer.

  35. Heather Payne says

    This is absolutely beautiful. The video of the children singing praises to our Lord almost brought me to tears. So thankful for all that you’re doing in Uganda.

  36. says

    Tears running down my face. What a wonderful Jesus to hand pick such a special young man for you to sponsor. I’ve not been to Uganda, but have been to Ghana,West Africa where we work with a local pastor…this video made me want to go back right now. There’s nothing like the way an African worships God!

  37. Lindsay says


    I’ve been trying all day to think up the right words to express my appreciation for this post, and I just couldn’t. So I’ll just go with a classic:

    Thank you.

  38. Melanie says

    No words, just tears. Thank you. I’ve been waiting for this post all day.
    Humbled by Otwii Paul and his beautiful smile.
    Humbled by your obedience.
    Humbled by His grace .
    Eagerly awaiting my sponsor package from Compassion and praying for all of you.

  39. says

    oh my my my….. tears. I want to share this with everyone! How amazing is our God?! We sponsor through Compassion…. our daughter (16) also sponsors … a little girl from Uganda named Rachel. I will see where she is from. Praying for all of you. Following every day…. praying for Otwii. Much much love. ~Teena

  40. says

    Tears are pouring down my face, Emily. As you told about your perceptions of Otwii, and then coming face-to-face with him, I was given another piece of the peace puzzle as we’re about to meet our new son. The unknowns are great, the perceptions are swirling, but God’s peace is here.

    I can’t wait to hear/see more of this adventure.
    P.S. We love Compassion.

  41. says

    Emily, this was a lovely, lovely post. Like your books (am reading the new one right now), it’s full of truth, yet so relatable.

    I’m excited to be following along on your trip, because one of our sponsored children (like you, we sponsor three since we have three children in our family) is from Uganda! Her name is Violet Miracle. We were planning to write to her today. No idea if you’ll meet her or even see her, but it’s fun to think you all might.

    Thanks for letting us take the trip through your eyes!

  42. says

    I’m following your journey like a momma watching her children…..laser focused! I traveled to Uganda last summer for the first time and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about the people. I feel like I am right there with you through your words and pictures.

    I’m praying for you all. For sponsorships to come in abundance. We sponsor sweet Sarah somewhere in Uganda. I’m thankful for the opportunity to provide hope to this precious girl.

    Praying for your journey!

  43. says

    I have sat here and cried like a baby. God is gracious and merciful to us when He certainly doesn’t have to be. Looking at that video, I wondered if I was looking at our LUCY IKEE that we sponsor from Uganda. She has the same birthday as my Emma and we sponsored her after the first blogger trip to Uganda. We love her so!

    Thank you for your words! Praying for you all during your journey and waiting daily for more words!

  44. says

    Oh, Emily! What beauty! Even from the pictures of the kids we sponsor I think the same thing–what are they really like? Are they happy? nice? sad? bad attitudes?

    But God is at work in them! And how cool that we get to be a part of their lives, too!

    I showed the video to my kids (with tears in my eyes–thinking of the small group of kids I lead in singing at church each week) and they hope that our sponsored kids in Burkina Faso are doing the same!

    Praying for you all!

  45. Lisa Johnson says

    As I watched the video my 2yr old foster daughter started singing along. Then I cried. He leads children even here through that video. A sweet and precious moment this morning. In 6 short weeks my daughter and I will travel with Compassion to El Salvador to see our 3 children we sponsor. For Anna it is a return trip, but for me it’s a first. I’m sure there will be ugly tears. I can’t wait!!!


  46. Rose says

    Oh my! I am so excited to read this post. I’ve sponsered a precious boy in Uganda named Moses Wandera for a couple of years now, but don’t know what area of Uganda. If you meet him, please tell him his sponser loves and prays for him.
    LOVED this post, and don’t even remember how I just happened upon your blog…

  47. says

    Only God could orchestrate this. Reading this story strengthens my faith and renews my spirit and makes me want to clap and sing like those Uganda children.

    This is one of my favorite posts ever. I’m praying for you, friend. : )

  48. says

    Oh Emily! I have tears running down my cheeks. I love that child so much even though I’ve never met him. I loved seeing that video of him leading the song! The voices of those children touch me so deeply. I wish the children of our country could have even a ounce of the joy and kindness that those children possess. I’m praying for so many children to be sponsored through your posts. I’m praying for you, Emily. God bless you!

  49. says

    Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an e-mail.
    I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested
    in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward
    to seeing it develop over time.

  50. says

    Ah, Emily, you’ve discovered the gaping void that is the difference in the way Americans/Europeans relate to the camera, and many Africans. Whilst you’re there, you’ll see why your lovely Paul stood so stiffly for the camera – its the way they do it there. He looks so lovely. What a great story. Its a great lesson to us all to go against our natural instincts to choose ‘the best’, the perfect. Something I write about in my blog. Its so God, and yet something we often struggle to do. Enjoy the rest of your time in Lira and Uganda (PS Hope you drive back to Kampala/Entebbe for your flight home and get outta that Barbie plane!) S

  51. Kristi says

    magic water flowing from my eyes. deep deep emotion with this post… making me think about my desires to glorify God. i’m a teacher so you’ve touched me at the center.

    i’m living in next door kenya, where i grew up as a missionary kid. what a blessing your words are to many who don’t know about children in uganda and who need to hear your written words.

    your blog and most recent book have been from God in my life.

    the lord bless you and keep you, barbie planes and all.

  52. Carolyn says

    Yes! Of course that’s how you should do it! I’ve been thinking of sponsorship for so long now but every time I look at those pages and all the possibilites, I’m overwhelmed, I just can’t pick! I think too long about it, about the ones I don’t choose, and then I don’t choose any. THANK YOU for this beautiful story. I can do it. Now I can do it!

  53. Julie Pizzino says

    This is beautiful…so like God to do this for you as you serve him there! We love Uganda and my husband was just there last week. Blessings on your journey!

  54. says

    I agree with the others, could you pul-EEZ stop making us cry??
    Seriously, thank you for sharing. It is snowing here, but while I was reading I felt like I was there with you on that red soil, just for a moment. Someday hope to be. God bless Otwii Paul and them all. Thank you for what you’re doing.

  55. says

    Oh my. This is so beautiful. I love Compassion and am so blessed to be able to follow along this journey through these posts. My hand came to my mouth and tears fell down my cheeks as I read “Otwii Paul is our spiritual leader.” and down. As I sit here looking outside to snow falling {in Georgia, what?!}, my heart is with you all in the red soil of Uganda. Prayers are with you all.

  56. says

    Wow! I couldn’t not cry watching that video of Otwii Paul — and all the little ones — singing and praising. God just good. And He’s God there like He’s God here, and I’m so glad you’re there on behalf of all the sponsors. Make sure those kids know we love them! <3 My two are in Ghana and Ethiopia, but they could easily have been any of those kids. Thank you for choosing the one you least connected with. We are praying about adopting and have been looking at "waiting child" lists, thinking how weird it is to choose a child from the photo. How do you do this? So your story hit so close to home. Thank you!

  57. says

    Wow. To say this impacted me doesn’t cover it. I lost it during the video. I had to share it with my husband last night. This morning I got the text from him saying he knew he was going to be done in when he clicked on the video. We are telling our girls tonight that we are sponsoring a child! I can’t wait! Thanks for being obedient to the tug at your own heart and for choosing the one you least expect because it made all the difference.

  58. says

    When I saw the pic of him smiling, I thought “he’s just perfect.” Like, the thing you say when you meet your newborn baby for the first time. Is that weird?

    But I guess if God’s orchestrating all of this, he is–perfect for your family, for this situation, this time. Excited for the plans He has for this little one’s life–and the rest of your trip!

  59. says

    Oh Emily…this is simply the kind of beautifully epic story that only the God of the universe could’ve written. I just love and know we will get to hear many more stories in the future about this very special relationship. Oh. my. word….Also, while you are in Uganda, if you happen to meet a beautiful girl named Norah, please hug her for us! We love Compassion!

  60. Jessica says

    Wow Emily. Thanks for sharing. That is quite amazing how the Lord lead you to that precious little boy. Look at all that he is already doing for the KINGDOM. Praise God.

  61. Susanne says

    This is so beautiful! I am envious of you in the best sort of way……wishing I could meet my two Compassion children in Africa. Thank you for representing those of us who are loving our sponsored children from afar!

  62. Samantha says

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story~ ^0^ / I’m so happy & glad that you listened to God’s gentle tugging at your heart, rather than that first glance! ^-^

  63. Lori says

    Amazing! So touched by all of this and this young boy. This video brought such deep joy to my soul. I cannot wait to show it to my little’s tomorrow morning after they wake up as I know it will bring them joy as well. I love seeing and hearing of Jesus with skin on people!

  64. Steve Jones says

    Oh my, rocked my world. What a story and what a gift to tell a story! Thank you for using this gift again to help release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

  65. Laurie says

    Beautiful…so glad that you listened to God pulling on your heart. So glad that God sees us and our potential through His love. I love what God is doing through Paul. Praying for you and those precious children.

  66. says

    Oh Emily — the snow is melting all around outside my window, but your story has melted my heart. Blessings to you as you bring hope and God’s love to these beautiful children. (And can I add that I’m glad I didn’t bother with make-up today because it would be gone after watching Otwii Paul transform from a frozen-looking boy in a still picture to one so full of life and warmth and God as he leads other children in the video?) Thank you.

  67. says

    Em, I’m bawling like a baby reading this beautiful testimony and watching that precious video! :’)

    I only wish I were there with you all. Praying for continued safety and may you return home with your cup overflowing. xoxox

  68. says

    I can hardly see the words I’m typing for the tears streaming down my face. I love the way God works. I know you will be blessed as much by your sponsored child as he will be by your sponsorship. Thank you for sharing your story!

  69. says

    through your blog and jeff’s blog.. I hv sponsored a little girl today, her name is Sarah in Uganda just like my eldest daughter’s name, Sara. Her smile spoke to me in the photo. And i loved her name. I’m exited.. you guys are doing great things.. I hope to take a trip with u all someday.

  70. Margaret says

    Your blog has touched my heart and I am now sponsoring my first child in Uganda. Thank you for sharing the gift of your presence with the children and their families and sharing your adventures with your readers. God bless.

  71. Sherry Cates says

    I think that I see my Narweiso Esther in that crowd! How I long to see her, but God’s timing has not come yet. She will be 13 next month.

  72. says

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I appreciate your honesty, and I so pray that God continues to bless you, your family, and your sponsored children so that many will know of God’s love because of your obedience. All the best!

  73. Jan says

    WOW!!! You blew my mind… and bought me another sponsored kid… you know, the smiling 12 year-old boy who somehow has managed to be an above-average student, while living with 10 other kids and only Grandma’s support… Thank you for reminding me that this is God’s heartbeat!

  74. says


    Thank you so much for your words…and the video. What a blessing! So glad you “clicked the link” so that we can learn more of Otwii Paul and what God is doing with your YES, helping us see what God will do with our YESes too. Can’t wait to read more.


  75. Abbey says

    Praise the Lord for what he has, is and is yet to do! Using His children to minister to His children! My family lives and serves in Kampala. Thank you for coming to Uganda and ministering too.

  76. says

    Love this so much. I think my biggest hold up is always, “will this make a difference?” and “will they spend my money the way I want it to be spent?” which is probably not the question I should ask. It’s been very important and meaningful to see these posts over and over over because I think I’m finally ready to do this with my family this week. Thank you for your example and PLEASE, I would love to be a part of this trip someday :) Take care, and nice work!

    • says

      Amy those are actually exactly the questions you should be asking. Those questions are why we went on this trip – to see, to ask, to discover.

      I can tell you with all the integrity I have – this money is well-spent. Compassion takes their responsibility to use the money from sponsors extremely seriously. They are wise stewards of your contribution, keeping meticulous records of everything.

      I can say with full confidence – this 38 a month saves lives. And the letters you send as a sponsor builds lives. Truly.

      Thank you for reading and I hope you decide to sponsor!

  77. says

    That is a beautiful story. I sponsor an older girl in Cambodia through CCF. We email often and recently I was even able to skype with her and her translator. I never forget that she has parents who love her dearly, but cannot provide for her. I am blessed to be able to come alongside them and be part of the team who support her. She wants to be a doctor. I hope she can fulfil that dream. I never believed in sponsorship for various reasons, but obviously my heart has changed on that matter. Bless you for sharing your story. I was deeply moved by the singing, and by the leading of your little boy. Asta xxx

  78. says

    I want to thank you for sharing this story, Emily. I’ve been slow to act but last week I began sponsoring a teen boy in Uganda. For me, it was the number – he’d been waiting 363 days for a sponsor and I could NOT let that become a full year that he’d been waiting for someone to care enough to help him and his family. I am grateful to be in a position where I can be part of their life, and am looking forward to seeing his smile.

  79. says

    I love this!! Especially the video. There’s something about the innocence of kids worshipping Jesus, especially those who know him for their survival in a way that we just can’t. We sponsor a little boy through Compassion in the Dominican Republic; we don’t hear from him much but pray for him often!

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  84. Alisa says

    I just wanted to say that this post made me cry. What an amazing story!! These children are so much more than their picture or a few sentence description shows us. They are dynamic individuals who each have so much to offer. What a blessing for you and this little guy that you chose him.

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