FIRST GLIMPSE: The Last Letter
“This will be your last letter…”
While I knew the day would come eventually, I am surprised by the surge of emotion as I read these words. After 13 years and nine months of “sponsoring” a child from Tanzania, the monthly letters—106 of them—are a highlight of the Thomsen-house routine.
The lines of his letter blur as my mind wanders back through the years to the first picture that introduced us to Emanuel. Four years old, with a round face, mischievous smile, bare feet, and electric blue, floral print pants—what a character! That smile won our hearts, and not long after his fifth birthday, we began sending a few dollars each month to provide food, clothing, basic hygiene products, and a Christian education.
Our church youth group joined us in supporting him, and together we enjoyed watching Emanuel mature and grow into a solid student, an avid soccer player and fan, and a talented artist. Though half a world away, as we read his letters and posted the drawings he sent, Emanuel almost felt like one of the group.
In 2007, however, not long after his tenth birthday, we received the best letter of all. “You will be happy to know that I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior,” he wrote. He had no idea! Sadly, in the same letter, Emanuel also begged, “For my mother and father, please keep praying to accept Jesus and stop drinking.” Our hearts broke, and we accepted the challenge.
The years blurred as primary school gave way to secondary school and the normal adjustments of adolescence. While his grades dipped slightly, Emanuel remained a strong student and completed his education, earning a diploma. The monthly letters gradually evolved from child-like observations regarding family, school, sports, and weather, to an adult understanding of the world around him and Emanuel’s desire to become an influential member of Tanzanian culture.
Not long after he earned his diploma, a letter arrived from Emanuel’s mother. She shared that it would be some time before her son would have an opportunity to write, because (and I could hear the pride in her words) he was away at police academy, preparing to become a member of the local force. Then, in answer to years of prayer, she acknowledged her own faith in Christ and shared her life’s verse. She thanked us for supporting Emanuel and begged us to continue praying for him. She didn’t need to ask.
My mind returns from the past, and I glance down at my final picture of Emanuel. The big-eyed four-year-old has been replaced with a tall, broad-shouldered, confident young man. But that mischievous smile will never change.
Would you like to make a difference in the life of a child?
Partner with Village of Hope Uganda to provide housing,
education, food, medical care, counseling, and salaries for teachers, nurses, and other staff members.
Sponsorships start at only $30 per month, and 100% goes to the child you sponsor.
Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.