“Ever since I was young, I knew I had been drawn to African children,” said Lydia, “I started sponsoring a child at the age of 15 and since then I [have] loved Africa and the joy of the children just blesses my life. I believe every child has a story before they speak.”

Lydia Preusser is a recent high school graduate from Ohio who felt called to take some time off before attending college. She is currently devoting six months to the community of Zirobwe, Uganda.

“It was so sweet and I have never, and will never, forget that day,” said Lydia as she was recalling the very first day she visited the village of Zirobwe. She said that 50 kids flooded the vehicle door as it opened. “I was surrounded by kids, hugging, screaming and smiling so beautifully. It felt like home away from home, even when I missed home.” Lydia recalled.

Lydia arrived in Uganda last September. She arrived with concerns that many volunteers in her position have, missing the familiarity of home, her friends and family, fears of the language barriers and how she would communicate with the children.

God faithfully led her to Jeremiah chapter one and she knew that He was going to give her the words to speak. However, “I learned that God never wanted me to speak,” said Lydia, “but instead, touch, love and share His joy with the kids.”

During this time Lydia was spending with these children, her sister was praying for her. “Her prayer was that ‘I don’t choose them,  [but] they get to choose you.’ I didn’t understand until I remembered this one girl who held my hand.”  Lydia said.

This little girl’s name is Edisa. She is nine years old and lives with her grandmother in Zirobwe. She chose Lydia.

“By God’s grace, I singled out this one girl who was attracted to me and we began to do life together.”  said Lydia, “I was a witness to her joy.”

“My favorite time with her was two months ago when I got to purchase a mattress for her” said Lydia. She traveled to Edisa’s home with one of Empower a Child’s staff when Edisa was just recovering for malaria. Her grandmother was overjoyed with gift of a mattress. “It was at this point that I discovered that Edisa lost her parents to HIV/AIDS. That was the turning point in my life when I developed a deeper hunger to love her so much more.”

“The one thing that will forever remain memorable was the day we were both strolling from her home back to Empower Community Church and as we talked, laughed, played, and were singing praises to God. She called me ‘Mama,’ that day.” Lydia was humbled and overwhelmed this little girl, who lost her both parents to a terrible disease, felt so connected and loved to call her that precious name.

She added, “Until this day, she has never stopped calling me ‘Mama.’”

Isn’t it wonderful how God does the same? In the midst of our loneliness, depravity and the like, He is still our father. God adopts us as orphans, but most of all, he chose us, and will never stop choosing us.

We can pray, serve, and donate to causes, but until we see the need in a sweet child’s face, we are incomplete. We should be finding complete joy in restoring humanity and giving love to those who aren’t aware of it.

“Edisa is one little girl in my life whom God has used to teach me to love without expecting anything in return,” said Lydia.  “The Lord is faithful and if you don’t step out, you will miss out on experiencing a love you will never experience anywhere else.”

In the same way, let us unconditionally love others the way God does, without expecting a return.