I looked up the word “family” tonight in the dictionary and I'd like to make a suggestion to Mr. Webster if at all possible. You see the definition of family goes like this: a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household. I'd like to add an addendum to this if possible .

Today I was treated like family by people that I have never met, quite possibly will never see again, and have no blood ties to at all. We took a 2.5 hour drive down into the Rift Valley and had some of the most meaningful interactions I've had in a long time – especially with people I've never met.

There's something special about people bringing you into their space and not holding back. In fact there's something amazing about people making you feel as though you belong with them. That you aren't indeed an outsider invading their space, but yet that you belong there too. The church we visited today welcomed us into their congregation as if we were one of their own. Never mind the fact that most of us are white, and all from America – they treated us as if we were family coming for a visit.

In fact they showed the most hospitality I've ever received from a culture when they presented us with our very own Maasai Shuka. I have never felt more loved by people at church in my entire life. Each of us had a beautiful woman standing in front of us giving us a piece of their culture to keep as our own. This seemed so personal to me, and as if it was something that bonded us together. They were giving us a piece of themselves, and for that I'm forever grateful.

As the pastor talked about how we are all in the same family because we love and serve the same God in America and in Kenya the tears began to swell up in my eyes. It's true. It is so true, and it was so evident in this moment.

As she wrapped me up in my very own shuka I knew one thing to be true – we were family. Family in the truest sense – family where no blood or common household is shared. But family where we all serve the same God and love the same Church. The pastor said that we now looked like the Maasai in our shuka. I'll never forget this family on the other side of the world every time I wrap up in this blanket.

This church on the other side of the world, welcomed us into their fold, they treated us as one of their own, and for 2 hours we saw a small glimpse into what forever will entail. We may look different, but we all sing to the same God. We may talk differently, but we're all singing the same praises.

From there we went to visit the home of Brayan, who is the little boy that my family just recently committed to sponsoring before this trip. Deacon has been the most excited about this day of the trip, and let me tell you it did not disappoint. Brayan is our third child to sponsor with Compassion. Aaron has met our sponsored girl, Kiara, in Peru, and we have both met Wonsli in Haiti. There is great joy in sponsoring a child, but let me tell you NOTHING compares to looking that child in the eyes and hugging their neck.

The moment I stepped out of the van to meet Brayan and his family I knew that we were going to be welcomed with open arms into their family and their community. The dad greeted us first, and he is one of the most vibrant people I've ever met in my entire life. He loved to yell my name and tell me that I was a part of his family now!

Brayan is four years old and has a twin sister. Him and his sister are the oldest of four children. His mom and dad own goats and that's how they make their living. Now that Brayan is a part of the Compassion program, he will receive education, medical care if needed, family needs will be met, and most importantly he will hear about the love of Jesus every single week. What Brayan will receive now that he has a sponsor was not lost on his dad for one moment. In fact, his dad was beyond thankful for Deacon and I and what we are doing through the work of Compassion.

At one moment Brayan's dad looked at me in the eyes and said, “Now Brayan has a mom in Nairobi and a mom in America”. They declared us family no less than 856 times today. They looked us both in the eyes and said “you are a part of our family.”

And we believe them. We felt their love towards us. Notice the small amount of necklaces I have on in the above picture, and take notice of the next pictures. They showered us with gifts.

You see family shares what they have. This family did this for us today, and we are beyond honored to be able to share every single month what we have with them. We don't get to do that through tangible gifts necessarily, but we do get to do that through our monthly support. Every  month our $38 donation goes directly towards Brayan. The money we send goes to his specific Compassion project, and then he receives what he needs with that fund. It's like we are family.

(Deacon said the kiss was too much and over the top! I can't help myself)

I have zero regret in sponsoring Brayan. After today that $38 will never get removed from our line item in our budget. You know why? Brayan's family looked at me and said “we love you – you are family now!”

You see friends, Mr. Webster isn't always right. Family is not tied to blood and household, but family is tied to merely love and dedication. I'm not certain if I'll ever see Brayan's family again this side of eternity, but I am certain of this – family means more to me today than it did yesterday. An entire church, and an entire family looked me in the eyes today and said WE ARE FAMILY and that friends was the best thing I could have heard today!

Would you consider sponsoring a child today from Kenya?

If so, please click HERE.


Jamie Ivey