Gerald Masinde was just one of many children in Uganda who struggled under the weight of living in poverty. Gaining access to basic materials like food, proper shelter, medical attention and even school supplies was a struggle for his family of 10 children.
But a small act of compassion changed everything.
Getting Connected with Compassion International
Masinde became available for sponsorship through Compassion International, an organization dedicated to bringing children out of poverty by matching them with a sponsor. And halfway across the world in Alaska, the Zachary family saw 6-year-old Masinde’s photo – which they said depicted him with “a deer in headlights” look on his face – picked up his packet and became his sponsors. “Gerald immediately melted into our hearts,” said Sharlyee Zachary. “And [he] became an eternal member of our family.” When Masinde found out that he had been chosen, he was overwhelmed. “I cried tears of joy,” he said, recalling that day. “I couldn’t believe what I was told!”
Above: Masinde’s original sponsorship photo. The family captioned it, “Our Ugandan Son.”
That simple act made a world of difference in the life of a vulnerable little boy. Because of their sponsorship, Masinde was provided with meals and much more. “I was able to go to school and get education!” he said.
Meeting His Other Family
But it was the connection with the Zachary family – Daniel, Sharylee, Adora, Arlynn and Ava – that brought about lasting spiritual impact on Masinde’s life. In fact, Sharlyee was quick to add Masinde to her list of children! They began writing letters back and forth, swapping stories and getting to know each other more. “Every time I wrote, I prayed that God would guide me in all I shared with Gerald,” said Sharylee. “I wanted the words to jump off the page to him, personally, and be real to him and that his heart would grab them and he would believe the truth of who God has made him to be and hold them dearly in his deepest being.”
Masinde treasured the letters he received from the Zachary family, and God used their words of love and encouragement in tremendous ways. “In their letters, they called me their “son” which had a huge impact on my self-esteem,” he said. “They wrote things like, “we love you” and “we know God has great plans for you.” This changed the way I looked at myself.”
Above: The Zachary’s traveled from out of state to attend Masinde’s graduation.
In 2015, Masinde and the Zachary’s were finally able to meet. “During our time together, Gerald shared with us that he had saved EVERY LETTER we had written him,” said Sharylee excitedly. “The first letter we sent, he said, told him something he had never heard or known: Gerald was not ‘dirt’, he was not a ‘waste’ – he had great value to us and to God; God had created Gerald in love and for a purpose. No one in his whole life had EVER told him ‘I love you’, nor that he was ‘worthy of love’ in any way, shape or form.”
Today, His Life is So Much Different Than He Ever Imagined
That support, love and encouragement that Masinde received from his sponsoring family spoke truth into his heart and helped to transform him in incredible ways. Today, Masinde has his Masters of Arts in Ministry from Lancaster Bible College | Capital Seminary & Graduate School and was one of the college’s first-ever graduates from its partnership in Uganda with the Pastors Discipleship Network. At the Lancaster campus’s May commencement ceremony in 2017, Masinde was invited to share his testimony – and there, standing in the crowd, cheering him on as he walked across the stage, was the Zachary family – his family.
Masinde now plans to continue his ministry as pastor, passing along the training he received from LBC | Capital to his brothers and sisters in Uganda. “In the past, I was limited simply because I didn’t have training in certain ministry aspects,” he explained. “Now, I can use what I have learned to be a better leader and minister of the gospel. The education I received from LBC | Capital is a great investment in my life and ministry. Now I believe I am well-equipped to lead and disciple others.”