Written by Jimi Izrael
Even though Muhammed lives in another country, the Rev. John Randlett helps him get ready for school every day. Randlett and the Women's Fellowship of First Congregational UCC in Murphys, Calif., are sponsoring Muhammed through the Child Sponsorship Program and have been for the last three years.
Children of the Rawdat el-Zuhur Center in Jerusalem are supported by the Child Sponsorship Program. Lourdes Garcia photo
The Child Sponsorship Program "is not widely known about in the UCC," Randlett says, "but my feeling is that it's a better way to channel help and relief directly to the children abroad, without too much bureaucracy. We've been delighted to expand our sights and extend our mission as a church to include a global mission."
The program is part of Common Global Ministries, a common witness of the Division of Overseas Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the UCC's Wider Church Ministries. It provides direct assistance to poor and homeless students in 11 centers in such places as Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Prospective sponsors are sent a brochure describing the children at the various program centers. The children helped by the centers are street kids, refugees or family court referrals who range in age from 2 to 18 years old.
After applying for the program, sponsors receive brief biographies and photos of their children and begin correspondence. The letters are coordinated through the Child Sponsorship Office, with translation provided as necessary by staff members at the centers.
Sponsorship donations help provide children with school supplies, adequate food, clothing, health care and sometimes housing. Costs can range from $21 a month to $40 a month.
The cost varies according to the cost of living and the services provided. Sponsors can choose between a long term or short term commitment.
In addition to their monthly sponsorship, Randlett and the Woman's Fellowship gave a $1,000 gift to the ministry of the Rawdat el-Zuhur Center in Jerusalem. Randlett also has been to Jerusalem to see the progress in Muhammed's school first-hand.
"I am incredibly impressed with the work that the ministry is doing in the community," he says. "I feel that this kind of gift-giving is vital to any nation-building in that part of the world. With all the strife and struggle in that country and abroad, we are obligated to spread the love of Christ all over the world, to those that need it most. In many ways, the Child Sponsorship Program has helped us create a more effective ministry."