By Melissa Macaya-Ponikvar
I first heard about Align Ministries a year ago and remember thinking what a wonderful ministry it was. During the Mariner’s Mission Viejo Outreach campaign last November 2013, my husband Brian and I assisted in passing out to our church community Thanksgiving food bags and child Christmas gift sponsorship cards for less fortunate families. We were stationed across from the Align Ministries table. In between passing out bags & cards we had the opportunity to speak with Elaine Herr and Erica Estrella and learn more about the amazing ministry. The more I learned the more my interest piqued. By the end of the 11AM rush we were able to visit the table and look at the many faces of the children and adults needing our support. My heart was captivated by the many stories of children and adults in need. We selected a darling 9-year old boy with a radiant smile named Derrick. Derrick’s parents had both died of HIV/AIDS and he was living in severe poverty with an elderly woman who had taken him in. We were also drawn to a 51-year-old man named Disan, who was suffering from cancer and, in addition to living alone, had no family and lived in major poverty.
I had so many questions about the children, widows and individuals needing sponsorship and ministry in general. Dozens of ideas rushed through my mind of ways that we could help change the lives of these impoverished people. As soon as we got home I got on the Align Ministry website (www.alignministries.org) and made it official by linking to the Sponsor A Child page at www.alignministries.org/sponsor-a-child. I looked at the pictures and read the profiles of just about every child and adult on the website. I couldn’t believe the need and desperation that so many endured in this day and age. I printed out the pictures of our two new family members and posted them on our refrigerator so that we could keep them close in our thoughts and prayers. My husband, Brian, and I discussed the importance of our sponsorships. We committed, with God’s grace, to support Derrick through high school and even college, if he desired to attend, in order to support him until he was able to support himself. We weren’t exactly sure about Disan’s future due to the severity of his illness but we likewise committed to supporting him as long as he needed assistance. Disan passed away to be with our Lord on March 1, 2014. While we were sadden, we were also overjoyed that Disan is now pain free and healthy in the presence of Jesus. We were able to sponsor Shadia Namuli from Kakooge Uganda.
Over the next several days I saw the heart-warming faces of Derrick, Shadia and remember Disan as we prayed for them and talked about them with family and friends. Each time I reached to grab something from the refrigerator I was reminded that my husband and I were blessed with all of the food that we could want and that Derrick and Shadia underwent hunger daily. As the days passed I found myself feeling a deep sadness and an uneasy spirit. How could we be so blessed and how could these two sons of God be going hungry and living in such poverty? It just didn’t seem fair. What difference could our prayers and two sponsorships make?
Each month I received updates about how God was working through Align Ministries (growing sponsorships, Life Homes being built, school desks and chairs donated, playgrounds built, etc.). I eagerly read each newsletter from start to finish. We learned how Align Ministries was founded and how God’s love and hope were impacting the sick and impoverished people of Uganda. Once again, I found myself inspired to get more involved. I attended a Align Ministries meeting and God undoubtedly stirred my soul. I feel led to participate in a mission trip in June 2014 and my desire to be God’s hands and feet to spread his love, encouragement and message of hope to His beloved people in Uganda. I want to help make a difference.
The sponsorships not only change the lives of the people we help, they also change us. By embracing these children and widows and making them a part of OUR families, by praying for them daily, by including them in our regular conversations, by setting aside sponsorship funds each month and by genuinely creating a place in our hearts for them, we are receiving a beautiful gift. We are blessed by the opportunity to be extensions of Jesus Christ…His hands and feet here today… loving and caring for His cherished people! God has changed my life forever by going to Uganda and through sponsoring Disan Kigudde who died 3/1/14, Derrick Lubega and Shadia Namuli.