His Name Is Latyr. He’s Mine. Sort of.
His name is Latyr. He lives in Sénégal, 5,240 miles from us in Dallas right on the other side of the vast Atlantic Ocean – and a world away in so many other ways. But he is with us all the time.
Yes, he calls another woman ‘Mama’ and another man ‘Daddy,’ and that’s OK. God didn’t give me the role of being his mother. No, I never held his hand on a long walk or taught him how to read or watched him kick a soccer ball. When he draws his pictures that he sends to us, and he has to figure out where to add the bird or the chimney, I don’t know if he tilts his head and furrows his brow or if he just sketches until something feels right and goes from there. I have no idea what makes him laugh or how he comforts others when they cry.
But he’s part of my heart, and I suppose he always will be. Brian and I may not be his parents, but we are his sponsors. And we love and pray for him as if he lived in the next room. The pictures we’ve accumulated over the years tell his story, and we have seen him go from an unsure, unhealthy-looking little boy to a tall, fit, confident young man. He is not ours, but he takes up space in our hearts just the same.
He is such a part of our story that it’s hard to believe we didn’t even know his name a decade ago. But God did. And a little more than nine years ago, God wrote us into Latyr’s life in a beautiful way.
It was January 2005. Amelia had survived to her first birthday in spite of several terrifying near-death experiences, and we wanted to find a concrete way to express our gratitude to God for repeatedly sparing Amelia’s life.
We had heard of World Vision but at the time knew few specifics, and yet something told us that World Vision would be the right vehicle for a gift in God’s name. A quick look at the site showed picture after picture of children waiting to be sponsored in some of the poorest, harshest parts of the world. Our eyes were opened to a world that we thought we already knew existed, but there is something about seeing that world on the faces of children.
One after another after another told the same story, just by how they looked at the camera, just by how they stood to be photographed.
And then we saw Latyr. His dirty clothes and filthy skin made me want to take him someplace where he could have a proper bath and put on freshly laundered clothes; but it was his eyes that really drew me in. They pleaded through the picture in a way that made me want to climb into the computer and wrap my arms around him in the kind of hug that tells a child that everything is going to be OK, that they are safe now.
We looked at him and realized that we couldn’t not sponsor him. And so we did. We’ve been receiving art and pictures from him and sending him letters, cards, and photos ever since.
Our tiny amount of money we send to World Vision specifically for Latyr’s care – a little more than $1 per day – provides him clean water, school fees and the cost of his books and other supplies, vaccinations, and nutritious food. His family benefits by extension.
But really we are the ones who benefit from him. To us, Latyr is a living reminder of our faithful God because we would not have found him if God had not saved Amelia so often during that first year. Yes, ultimately, God called Amelia Home, but we had three and a half more years with her – getting to watch her spirit, getting to see her almost walk on her own, learning more about her likes and dislikes – than we would have had she not survived those first twelve months.
It’s more than that, though. Here is Latyr, living in what had been squalor and is now at least livable, and he is such a reminder that our God is truly Jehovah Jireh, The God Who Provides. Through Latyr God has shown that He uses His people with to give to His people without. (OK. I know. That was a strange way to phrase it, but it’s the only way I want to say it. So go with me.)
Latyr is the embodiment of the care that our mighty, huge God has for every. single. one. of His children. He doesn’t care if we are in Sénégal or Spain, Albania or Amarillo, Haiti or Harlem, Burundi or Boston; He just cares about us. Deeply. And now and then, He lets us do the caring in His behalf.
It’s been nine years, and we now have a number of children through World Vision in a host of countries across the globe. After all this time, it has occurred to me that God lets us who love Him care for those kids – and so many other people He puts in our path – quite a bit more now than then: He wants to use us all the time if only we are listening and seeing.
He’s ready for your help. Are you ready to give it?
World Vision is an awfully good place to start.