Sponsor children from impoverished countries worldwide now have the opportunity to do what they have never been able to do before: choose their sponsors.
World Vision, one of the world’s largest evangelical humanitarian aid agencies impacting the lives of millions of vulnerable children since 1950, announced last month the launch of a new initiative called “Chosen.”
As child sponsorship has become an increasingly popular way for economically stable Christians to provide aid to children in need, the initiative marks the first time in the charity’s seven-decade history that it's enabling the children to pick who their sponsor will be.
Ordinarily, prospective donors looking to contribute every month to provide necessities and gifts for children in underserved populations can go to an online database to select which children they sponsor by reading stories and watching videos giving them more information on the children.
But under the Chosen program, “the power to choose is in the hands of the child.”
According to World Vision, which operates in nearly 100 countries, this change in sponsorship dynamic recognizes the dignity and value of children living in poverty. The shift also represents the belief that children living in poverty have the power to change their own lives and communities.
“Chosen introduces children to the first of many empowering choices they will now have through child sponsorship, so they can become agents of lasting change,” World Vision U.S. President Edgar Sandoval said in a statement. “We are already seeing God move in miraculous ways through Chosen.”
Through the program, prospective sponsors in the U.S. get their picture taken and that photo is sent to a community somewhere in the world where World Vision has a presence. The photo is displayed along with photos of other prospective sponsors. The children can pick their sponsors when their communities are gathered for a special Chosen celebration.
If chosen, sponsors will receive a photo of the child holding their photograph. Sponsors will also receive a note educating them about the child and why the child chose them as their sponsor.
Some sponsors have already been chosen by children in Guatemala and Kenya. According to World Vision, over 431 children in the rural village of Mwala, Kenya, have chosen sponsors from Soul City Church in downtown Chicago.
During a service in late February, a pastor at Soul City Church invited churchgoers to sponsor children through the Chosen program.
“Our congregation has been transformed by the process of being chosen,” pastor Jeanne Stevens said in a statement. “Even from right here in Chicago, we know our lives are intersecting the lives of children across the world who are learning that they are loved and valued by God.”
One sponsor who was chosen is 35-year-old Olayinka Owolabi, an American lawyer who volunteers at Soul City Church. She was selected by 8-year-old Mary Nzioki from Mwala.
Nzioki had waited for over a year for a sponsor to select her. But at her community’s Chosen sponsor selection event, Nzioki was quickly drawn to the photo of Owolabi “because she is beautiful.”
What makes the two a great fit is that Nzioki desires to be a lawyer also when she grows up.
“When she shared that she wanted to be a lawyer, I was so overwhelmed because I really felt God,” Owolabi said. “The fact that I am a lawyer and Mary wants to be a lawyer is not a coincidence. It feels like this is a God thing. Our paths were meant to cross.”
Nzioki was not alone in choosing Owolabi. She was also chosen by a 9-year-old boy named Mutinda Mwingi.
Owolabi said there are things in both Nzioki’s and Mwingi’s backgrounds that “God knew that I’m suited to support.”
“I’m going to have opportunities to learn from them as well,” she added.
Another Chosen sponsor is Joel Barnes, a former nightclub manager from Orlando who was chosen by an evangelist's grandson named Barnes, along with his 12-year-old daughter, who also attends Soul City Church in Chicago.
Barnes was chosen by 10-year-old Collins Kiilu from Mwala.
Kiilu has been raised by his evangelist grandmother since his mother abandoned him as a baby following the death of his father.
“It takes time for the sponsor to make a decision in America. But if we get to choose a picture, it’s much quicker,” Kiilu was quoted as saying.
Collins said that Kiilu’s selection was an “answer to prayer” for him.
“He pinged something in me that was from God saying, ‘You’re worthy’ and I can show you that from across the pond, I can show you that from a different continent,” Barnes said.
While members of Soul City Church got an early crack at becoming Chosen sponsors, the Chosen program was extended in September to churches across the nation and will expand over time to other countries where World Vision works.
Another Chosen sponsor selection has been scheduled for Oct. 21. Prospective sponsors must sign up by Oct. 17 to be considered for the Oct. 21 selection.