Mistaff stands in front of the child development center he attends in Uganda.
Mistaff paced in front of the Muzahura Child Development Center (UG-236), his shoes wearing a path in the dry grass. Every few minutes he stopped to peer down the street for a moment and then resumed his pacing.
For Mistaff, this day was the most important of his life. More important than any holiday or celebration. More important, even, than the day he was registered at the Compassion-assisted center. This was the day he would finally meet his sponsor the man who had become a father, a friend and a rescuer.
No Backup Plan
Mistaff's own father abandoned him soon after his mother died. Overcome with grief and unable to provide for his son's most basic needs, Mistaff's father took him to live with his aunt, Perusi. While Perusi loved her nephew, he was another mouth to feed.
She grew enough produce in her small garden to feed her own five children, but the leftovers didn't bring in enough income for school fees or doctor's visits. "We were in bad condition," Perusi recalls. "We had no soap, no beddings. We used to sleep on dry banana leaves, no light to light the house, no money to support or treat or even educate the children."
To make matters worse, Mistaff's health deteriorated rapidly. His immune system was weakened from a hereditary condition, and he quickly caught every disease that plagued the neighborhood, constantly battling colds, the flu and malaria. Perusi had no backup plan, and she feared that her nephew would not live.
"I thought he was going to die," says Perusi. "I just prayed for the mercy of God. He was my only hope."
An Extended Family
In October 2002, when Mistaff was 6, Perusi's prayers were answered. That year, Mistaff was registered at the Muzahura Child Development Center. Much of the financial burden of Mistaff's basic needs was lifted from his aunt, and his life rapidly improved. His immune disorder was treated, and he began attending school for the first time all because of support from his sponsors, Bevan and Tamlyn.
From the moment Mistaff received his first letter from his sponsors, he considered Bevan and Tamlyn an extension of his family. And Bevan says he and his wife felt the same way. Mistaff was not simply a child across the globe he was their son.
Bevan soon decided he wanted to meet Mistaff in person, so he arranged a trip. When the center workers told Mistaff that Bevan would be visiting, Mistaff and his entire family were elated. They spent the morning of the visit carefully sweeping the dirt floor of their one-room home. Perusi picked colorful hibiscus flowers to hang in the doorway. They carefully spread clean and newly dried grass on the ground as a carpet for their guests.
A Man of His Word
And now Mistaff waited. All around him other children chattered excitedly. But Mistaff was quiet. When the van pulled up, one of the center workers pointed Bevan out to Mistaff. He shyly walked over to his sponsor and tapped him softly on the shoulder. And from that moment, the shyness was gone. Six years of correspondence, six years of prayers all culminated in this moment.
"I had been longing to meet him for so long," says Mistaff. "Now I can see he is real, and my neighbors can see that he is real and my friend. He is a man who keeps his promises because he said he would visit one day and now here he is, and I am blessed."
Mistaff and Bevan's visit lasted only a few hours. After talking and playing a game of soccer, it was time for Bevan to leave. The two hugged again, their faces wet with tears. But despite the sadness of goodbye, neither would trade the meeting for the world.
"My day spent with Mistaff has certainly changed my relationship with him," says Bevan. "This meeting has inspired and motivated me to stay faithful with what God has entrusted to me."
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