“If you have an extra ten bucks and want to change someone’s life, this would be an excellent way to do it.”
In 2012, Cynci was about to launch a backpack project. A $10 backpack full of school supplies would be the key for kids to attend school in India. Dawn remembers, “I confess, I had some misgivings about this project as well.” She questioned, “How could a $10 backpack, that’s probably going to fall apart in one month, point people to Jesus?” But then, Dawn met Charlie.
Charlie Abro continues to be a faithful partner of The Hope Venture on the ground in India. For years, he has overseen The Jesus Film for Southeast Asia. In addition, he headed up Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child for the entire country of India. (This is a shoe-box ministry that gives Christmas presents to children in need).
Sometime after this project had taken place, Dawn had the privilege of meeting Charlie and his wife in Lincoln. “I asked him, ‘Why backpacks? How could $10 backpacks point people to Christ?’ He just smiled and told her the story. It was several years ago, and he had picked up a newspaper and read the sad story of a 12-year-old girl who desperately wanted to go to school, but their family lacked the funds to purchase the school supplies. She would beg her father repeatedly for the supplies to go to school. Finally, one day he told her, “Yes, we will go today and get the school supplies so you can go to school.” She was so happy, but her father actually took her and drowned her in a lake instead. He was overcome with depression and the fact that he couldn’t provide the backpack for his daughter that she so desperately wanted that he took her life instead.
This is a sobering story of the true poverty and brokenness in India. Cynci tells a similar story of a girl who only needed 10 rupees, which is the equivalent of about 16 cents, to buy simple school supplies. However, her mother could not get the money. One morning after her mother left for work, the girl took kerosene, doused herself and set herself on fire. She was so desperate that she couldn’t stand it. To this day, a tile mosaic in Gateway Mall in Lincoln, NE contains a Hope Venture plaque of a tree and 16 cents in the heart of the tree attributing to that story.
After that story Cynci said, “If people could understand that your ten bucks really makes a difference…. These kids don’t have 16 cents, they don’t have a backpack of school supplies and when the family sees that you are giving their child, or three children (a backpack), they are amazed and want to know what brought that to our village.”
On the other hand, there are many exciting stories of children who do receive backpacks. Specifically, there was a little boy about seven or eight who just got a new backpack from The Hope Venture. He was pulling out the supplies when his eyes began to bulge. He realized that he could actually put it on—the backpack had two straps. He immediately jumped up and began running around to other kids shoving backpacks on them and thrust the two straps in their faces yelling, “See, it has straps!”
This little guy represents the pure joy that comes from the children that have an opportunity to receive a backpack with school supplies. For many, this is a chance for them to break the mold of illiteracy and allows them to become educated, which will in turn open future doors.
During the summer of 2012, NATS filled over 500 backpacks that The Hope Venture distributed at a VBS (Vacation Bible school). With the faithfulness of The Hope Venture, NATS Detasseling and others, six churches have been planted because the local families wanted to know why these Americans, who gave their children hope, were different. The backpacks have become one of their biggest ongoing projects.
Dawn shared that, “On a side note, I remember praying and praying that summer, (that) the Lord would bring people to faith in Him. I didn’t know that the ones who would hear about the truth of Jesus would be halfway around the world!”