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By Loretta Fulton
The message projected on the screen was bleak.
“Poverty is not a lack of material wealth; it’s lack of hope.”
The speaker behind the PowerPoint presentation was David Kirika, 27, a native of Kenya who knows all too well what poverty means. When he was 2 years old, his parents separated. He lived with his mother, who married a man who did not love David.
Within a span of 18 months, David lost his brother, mother, and stepfather to the HIV/AIDS virus.
“At this point I lost hope,” David said in a chapel presentation at Hardin-Simmons University on Oct. 10.
But that was not the end of David’s story. Now 27, David lives in Colorado Springs, where he is director of Youth Arise Africa, a nonprofit that aims to instill godly principles in the next generation of Africans through mentorship.
David was rescued from his bleak life through another nonprofit, Compassion International, whose motto is “Releasing Children From Poverty in Jesus’ Name.” He spoke on behalf of Compassion International at HSU, issuing a plea for students and faculty to sign up to sponsor a child–a child just like he was.
The transformation that David went through, thanks to being sponsored through Compassion International, was nothing short of miraculous. David was introduced at the chapel service by Grey Hoff, assistant to the president for university marketing and global engagement at Hardin-Simmons, introduced David.
“This man has the fingerprints of God in his life,” Hoff said.
David knew physical, as well as spiritual, poverty as a child. He watched children die of starvation in their mother’s lap, he witnessed people digging deeper and deeper into garbage dumps in search of food or something to sell. He knew a boy who woke up one morning next to his dead sister.
After David’s mother and stepfather died, he was taken in by grandparents. Twelve people lived in a two-room house the size of an American bedroom. On most mornings, his “breakfast” was a glass of water–that’s all he had to sustain him for the three-mile walk to school.
David went through a long period of doubting God’s love for him.
But at age 9, the miracle began to happen. He was sponsored through Compassion International by a boy a year younger than himself, Aaron Mitchell, who lived in Florida with his family. Through Compassion International, David saw his dream realized–he was going to high school.
And, for the first time in his life, he got new shoes, something that made him so happy he wanted to sleep in them. But he still didn’t connect his good fortune with the God he was doubting.
“I couldn’t understand any of this about God,” he said.
Then, a setback occurred. He didn’t score high enough on the national exam to go to high school. He was devastated but motivated to find his biological father, whom he had heard had money. His grandmother bought him a one-way bus ticket to the town where his father lived.
David found him, but also found another disappointment. His father disavowed him.
“He had replaced me with someone else,” David said.
However, a private school opened in his home town and David was able to attend. When he was in the 10th grade, the pastor at the school issued an invitation.
“If you doubt God has a plan for you,” the pastor said, “come and see me.”
David was not convinced and told the pastor he would give God one week to put in an appearance in David’s life.
“It’s now been 12 years,” he said.
He qualified for college, which was paid for by Compassion International, and now holds an honors degree in business leadership from Pan Africa Christian University in Nairobi. It felt like a movie, David said.
“Compassion gave me that opportunity,” he said.
David stays in contact with Aaron Mitchell, the boy of 8 who, with his family’s help, sponsored David through Compassion International. The final projection in David’s presentation showed Aaron with his family, all of whom are white.
“This is my sponsor family,” David said. “People say we look alike.”