Those of you who have been around awhile know that I started a project about 15 years ago at an orphanage in Lomé, Togo through my dad’s nonprofit. The Basileia Project asked people to support the nutritional, educational, and medical needs of 77 kids. Many of you were early adopters (pun intended).
Over the years, we came to understand the world of overseas orphanages better, and we have been fortunate to work with people of integrity. Our friend, Celestin, has worked hard at finding family and community members to take many of the kids in—essentially creating foster care in an area where that’s not really a thing.
The kids who remain in the CEHBED orphanage are so well cared for—they are healthy, they are in school, they are learning how to be happy humans. Because of the commitment of donors who have watched these babies grow over the last fifteen years, many of our kids are now working trades, going to college, and/or starting businesses. This is what long-term sustainability looks like—it’s a long road, and we have learned so much.
The last time I visited Togo was in 2014, and while there I met a set of twins who had just arrived. Their French names were Jacque and Jacqueline. I snapped a picture and joked with Scott that if we adopted them, we would have a Jack Johnson. (For the record, we know the best thing for these kiddos is to stay in Togo and become leaders in their community—we have already seen what happens when resilient kids are given opportunity to lead.)
This week, our friend Mondji was visiting CEHBED and posted a picture with a sweet baby, and I immediately knew it was Jacque. I asked Mondji what the child’s name was, and he said, “Jack Johnson.” Unbeknownst to us, Celestin had given the twins our surname because they came to the orphanage without one.
Oh, did I mention that Mondji is an orphan who grew up at CEHBED? Did I mention that he is now a pastor in his community doing the dirty work of caring for people? Did I mention that he’s one of my heroes? His wisdom and compassion are the gospel message—good news, beauty from ashes, new mercies every single morning. He is truth and grace and light in the darkness.
I do what I do because of stories like this. I see what happens when we invest in the lives of others. I was 22 when I first met Celestin and the 77 kids living in his front yard—AND I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING. But I believe this wholeheartedly—grace abounds for those of us willing to use fear and doubt as stepping stones to helping make the world a little brighter for those around us.
Step out. Do your little good. It’s worth it.
And I’ll close with the wise words of the prophet and OG Jack Jackson:
Love is the answer
At least for most of the questions in my heart.
Like 'Why are we here?’ and ‘Where do we go?’
And ‘How come it’s so hard?’
It’s not always easy,
And sometimes life can be deceiving.
I’ll tell you one thing:
It’s always better when we’re together.