Sponsorship Comes Full Circle
By Ken Walker-
Second of two parts
In my last blog I wrote about the cover story in the June issue of Christianity Today and economist Bruce Wydick’s research that validated the effectiveness of child sponsorship.
No sooner had I wrapped up my research and writing on its historical aspects for a related feature than an editor contacted me about doing an additional interview, with Moses Pulei.
Pulei has a fascinating story. Born in northern Kenya 40 miles from the border of Tanzania, his father was a Maasai tribesman who raised livestock for a living.
Farming and raising animals has such a strong appeal that one of his brothers refused to even enroll in school. He wanted to follow the family tradition carried out by his father and uncles.
World Vision’s Help
Moses wanted to go to school, though, a quest enabled by World Vision. Money from two different sponsors (when one dropped out, another replaced him) helped him buy textbooks and school uniforms, get health exams and obtain year-round nourishment.
The Seattle-based ministry did more than that, planting trees in his community to address problems caused by deforestation. Instructors also taught his father to raise healthier livestock and earn more money for those he took to market.
“My dad had a flock of sheep that he called his ‘World Vision sheep,’ because he got them as a result of a Christmas gift,” Pulei told me. “To me, sponsorship meant a lot. First of all, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been sponsored. It meant a complete change in how I lived.”
Strang and his wife, Cecily, were missionaries working in Africa in the latter 1980s. They took a special interest in three young men and a woman who displayed spiritual leadership.
Pulei grew so close that he lived with the couple for a year and became good friends with their children.
The relationship could have easily ended in 1990 when the Strangs returned to the U.S. for church pastorates, but it wasn’t.
The Strangs remained in touch and encouraged Moses to further his education. He finally agreed to do so, enrolling at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, in 1993. Prior to starting school that fall, Pulei moved to Augusta, Georgia, to live with the Strangs.
“We helped him get acculturated to the U.S.,” says Fred, who started the Maasai Special Projects Fund (you can find it on Facebook ) in the mid-1980s to help students from the tribe. “We were facilitators. Our church in Georgia and (a former) one in Florida helped (with tuition). We’re just average people. We don’t have a lot of money.”
Back at Home
Those “average” people are a reason Pulei is back in his home area today. His journey wound through Washington, where Moses earned his bachelor’s degree; and California, where he earned a master’s and doctorate and found a wife. Then it returned to Spokane, where he taught theology at Whitworth.
However, in 2010 World Vision offered him a position in Tanzania, not far from his home village. Prayer and memories of past promises beckoned Moses back to Africa so he could help children in the same position.
“I always made promises that I would not be one of those people who were a token,” Moses recalls. “I made a lot of promises to people who helped me go to school that I would come back to Africa.”
Reconnecting With Protégé
Now a college professor in Tennessee, Strang looks forward to reconnecting with his protégé. With his last child raised, he will be able to travel more often to Africa. Fred looks forward to Moses’ help with a new theological extension center at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“It’s an exciting thing,” Strang says. “I’m so glad he’s in Africa rather than in some college in the U.S.”
If it weren’t for Americans who helped a young boy from Kenya mature into the spiritual leader he is today, the world might never have heard about Moses Pulei—nor would he be back home now.
One gets the feeling that only in heaven will we know the full impact of this story.