My name is Lisa Toews and my husband Tyson and I first heard about Project Hope Worldwide around ten years ago at our church. As believers and new parents we felt strongly about answering God’s call to care for orphans and saw sponsorship as the perfect opportunity to have a direct impact. We chose to sponsor an orphaned little girl named Paska in Uganda.

In the spring I felt God distinctively calling me to go to Uganda with the summer team focusing on educational missions.

Finally in Uganda, I remember my heart beating so hard in my chest as we approached the gates of Calo Me Lare. “I’m finally here,” I thought. If you’ve never been welcomed at Calo Me Lare before you are missing out! I can only describe it as “beautiful chaos” as the amazing Ugandan staff, house mothers and over 100 children sing and dance as we were ushered out of our vans and through the gates. There was so much happening that I hadn’t even realized that Paska had picked me out of the team and had wrapped her arms around me until I heard “My Lisa.” I leaned back to look at her face and the moment I recognized Paska my eyes filled with tears. Here she is…right in front of me…hugging me. It felt like a dream, after eight years of corresponding and hearing about Paska from others…it was real and I could hardly believe it.

Our team was treated to presentations, dances and music by the staff and children. Paska was so proud as she gave me a tour of her home, the school, church, medical center and introduced me to her housemom and many friends. It was surreal to walk all over the campus and realize how much God has done here. As the day grew to a close and our team prepared to leave, Paska embraced me in another big hug. As she held me tight I heard her sweet voice say, “I would like to call you mom.” I could hardly believe my ears. I was speechless. In that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks how much we meant to her. As I struggled to respond, my eyes filled with tears and I shook my head. “Yes, of course you can call me mom, I would love that.”

Over the next two weeks, Paska and I would spend every available moment together laughing, learning and playing. As a token of our bond, I bought matching necklaces for us to wear…just like moms and daughters do. I learned Paska’s hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes and the names of all of her best friends. I learned how to specifically pray for Paska and her future. Through all of our time together, one specific truth sank in: Paska was no longer just an orphan that we sponsor in Uganda. Paska was my daughter, deeply loved and spiritually adopted into our family forever.

Through my time in Uganda, I was directly impacted and deeply changed forever. If I can say one thing to another child sponsor who might feel disconnected or curious about the impact of their sponsorship, I would say: “GO on a trip, SEE the work for yourself, and MEET your child.” Set yourself goals and calendar reminders to write your child often. Share with them, and get to know the heart of your child. I’m here to tell you that each of these children treasure every photo, letter or package, and really do care about their sponsors. After seeing the project and meeting Paska, I can say without a doubt that your monthly gift, whatever it is, truly changes lives.