A few years ago the PathLight staff were reviewing applications for the high school sponsorship program. One of the applicants, Jeymi, did not fit into the profile you might expect. She was older (19), married, and had a 3-year old son. Jeymi had dropped out of school for a variety of reasons, but now she wanted to go back and hoped we could help.
It was an odd situation. Most of the applicants are 13-14 years old or so. They’ve just completed 8th Grade and are looking to move on to high school. We hope that a sponsorship will keep the boys from going straight to work and the girls from getting married and pregnant. Jeymi … well, Jeymi was different. How did she fit?
PathLight Directors Adrienne and Mark Parcher were impressed with Jeymi. They liked her and thought she would be a serious student. Still, we knew that it would take a special sponsor, somebody who understood hardship, marriage at a young age, being a mom, and having to give up your educational hopes for all of that.
I knew the perfect person to be a sponsor for Jeymi. In fact, I’d known her all my life. My mom.
Mom (Dee) went to Belize years ago and visited Armenia Village where Jeymi now lives. Mom grew up in a small town in rural Oklahoma without indoor plumbing or electricity, so she resonated with the feeling of Armenia right away. Even though an excellent student, her education ended at the age of 18 when she married my dad. Not long after that she had my older brother.
Mom knew about hardship, she knew about lost dreams for education, she knew about marrying young and raising kids. Best of all, Mom has a pure form of spiritual maturity that inspires those around her. She quickly and eagerly embraced the idea of being Jeymi’s sponsor. She loved the idea.
It didn’t take long for Jeymi to sense that she had somebody special as a sponsor. Somebody who did more than just send a check, somebody who really cared for her as a person. Jeymi could feel the prayer and the encouragement from thousands of miles away.
They swapped letters, notes, even the occasional gift. Mom learned about Jeymi’s life and relished every story. Jeymi learned about this woman of deep spiritual strength who was praying for her regularly. No doubt that Jeymi’s dedication and hard work in school was the result of knowing what a special person was helping her.
It was a perfect match. It worked for both of them. Each took something from the relationship, and each gave generously to that relationship.
Jeymi graduated from high school last Spring. It was fun to see her husband and son beam with pride. My wife D’Aun and I had the privilege of sitting next to Jeymi at the graduation party (Mom is 88-years old and unable to travel). We were impressed with this young woman, smitten by her cute son, and thankful for the loving husband who supported Jeymi throughout the past four years.
But most of all, we were touched by how much Jeymi wanted to express her appreciation to my mother. She cried as she tried to find the words to express herself. Handing us a bouquet of flowers, she said, “These are for Dee. Tell her I love her, I can’t thank her enough, that she’s an incredible lady….” And at this she began to cry again.
Later Jeymi said, “I’m so sorry your mother could not come. Please know that I will do anything for her. I will go to her home and live with her, take care of her, comfort her. I will do anything for her.” And then, again, she began to cry.
It was a memorable night, a beautiful moment. Being called Dee’s son has always been an honor for me. Now I’m honored to be called Jeymi’s friend. Even more honored to see how Christ brought these people together and did something truly magical.
I wanted to share this story for a few reasons. First, it is a wonderful example of how the PathLight model works. People are partnered together to create hope. Christ enters the mix and one never knows what eternally beautiful thing will happen.
Second, it’s the kind of relationship we all need. We need the poor in our lives. We need relationships with people who are facing hardship. We need to share our hope with them. And they, in turn, model perseverance and faith for us. As my mom would say, we can learn a lot from the special people that God sets aside for hardship.
Most folks think of a sponsorship as a one-way exchange. You give the money; the student gets the benefit. But that is not how it works at PathLight. It’s about partnerships and relationships; it’s a Christ-centered exchange of hope.
Last June, twenty new students were accepted into the sponsorship program. Like Jeymi, they all need support. Yes, they need your financial support. But they need more than that. They need encouragement, prayer, and hope.
It’s not a one-sided relationship. Those students have a lot to offer us. Jeymi certainly did for my Mom.
So let me present a curious idea: becoming a PathLight sponsor might be even better for your life than it is for the student.
Please think and pray about that. And if you feel so led, please sponsor a student. They are waiting for their next Dee, just as you might be searching for your next Jeymi.