rebelling against low expectations

These Are Real Children. They Need Your Help. Don’t Turn Away.


When I was a kid, I never wanted to be a ballerina or a princess. I have always had a heart for missions. When I was five years old, my parents sponsored a little girl in Guatemala so she could go through school, have food to survive, have clothing, and learn about Jesus.

When I was eight, I got a letter from the organization, showing pictures of more children who needed sponsored. I sobbed and sobbed while looking at their faces, realizing those were REAL people who were hungry and who didn’t know Jesus.

My mom would tell me, “Julianne, you can do something about it” and that’s exactly what I did. I created a group with fifteen of my friends and we sold cookies, candy, candles, and pictures that we drew. We spoke at our church, and went around town getting loose change for children who needed sponsored.

Most people may think, “Awww, that’s so sweet. A bunch of 8 and 9 year olds trying to help a few kids get sponsored.” But that’s just the beginning of the story for me.

I sponsored a child of my own the day before I started my first job. I created a group on Facebook to raise awareness of poverty around the globe, raised countless amounts of money for organizations like Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade, Compassion International, 30 Hour Famine, and Speed the Light. And most importantly, I got to go on my first missions trip last year to Zambia, Africa.

Who knew that ten short days in Africa could flip my life upside down? I could rattle off lots of statistics that would break your heart, but love is not about numbers. Love is about real people.


Vice is a 7 year old girl. She and her three year old brother Nathan followed me the entire time I was in Zambia. I became in love with both of them. They could not stop holding my hands, playing with my hair, or sitting on my lap.

The very last day I was with Vice, I helped her make a craft out of a brown paper bag. At the end of the day Vice sat next to me and ripped up the brown paper bag and began to eat it to ease the hunger that burned in her stomach. The thing is, Vice is a real person. She is my friend. And she is God’s child.


Lauren is a 3 year old girl. She is an orphan because her parents died of AIDS. Lauren and I played with a Frisbee together. I could tell she was sick, but most of the children I saw were sick. I watched her chase after this Frisbee for a good five minutes.

Then suddenly she started coughing, and coughing, and coughing. Then she leaned over and threw up all this white stuff.

I knew that her running was not a good idea if she was sick like that, so I sat Lauren on my lap. As she fell asleep in my arms I realized she had an extremely high temperature. I asked a team member who went with me to Zambia what was wrong with this little girl. He told me that Lauren had worms which could be prevented for $1.25.


That’s how much I spend on a candy bar! I knew my life had to drastically change to help people like Lauren. Because Lauren is a real person. She is my friend. And she is God’s child.


Lubona is a 73 year old woman. She had 5 children who all died in a car accident. She not only had grief from the loss of all five of her children, she also had to take in her 18 grandchildren the same day.

Lubona could barely survive before, and now she has 18 more mouths to feed.

In order to feed all her grandchildren she has to rotate their meals — giving six of her grandchildren breakfast, six of them food at lunch, and six of them food at dinner. Lubona and her grandchildren are real people. They are my friends. And they are God’s children.

As Americans, when it comes to missions and the poor it’s so much “out of sight and out of mind,” that we don’t really think much about it.

We may think a little bit about it when a missionary from another country comes to our church, but do we rarely do much more than throw a few loose dollars in the offering plate for them?

I mean, let’s be honest, most of us go and spend more on lunch after church than giving to the missionary that just stood in our pulpits.

Jesus says that if we love Him, we are to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to visit and care for the sick.

I think one of the hardest things for me when I came back to America was when I looked online at pictures of all the children who needed to be sponsored. I saw the children I had held and I had played with. I saw that they needed sponsored. I realized they really are REAL people.


When you look at a picture of a child who needs sponsored or a video of a starving child, they aren’t just videos or pictures. They are REAL. They are the faces of Jesus. And they are hungry and naked and sick and they are asking us today: Will you feed me? Will you clothe me? Will you take care of me?

I will say yes. And I am asking you to help me.

I am asking, will you help your church support your missions program?

There are millions of people all across the world in desperate need. What are you going to do about it?

Are you going to sit back and enjoy your comfortable American lifestyle where you never think about where your next meal is coming from? Or are you going to see the face of Jesus in people who are desperate for help?

Are you going to ignore the problems in the world because they are so overwhelming or are you going to offer hope to the hopeless? God may not be calling you to feed and clothe the entire world, but you can feed and clothe ONE of His children. So what are you going to do about it today?

Will you answer His call?

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Photos courtesy of Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) and Flickr Creative Commons.
Photos merely represent the people referenced in the article.

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About the author

Julianne Fortney

is a 17-year-old senior at Connections Academy, an online public school in Indiana. She spent the last year working as a teacher's aide in a preschool. In 2013 she went to the Africa and worked with kids. In the future she wants to move to Tanzania to work with orphans and widows.


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  • Hey, did you know, there is this awesome organization out there – it’s called 80,000 Hours ( – and it helps people to choose the careers in which they would do the most good (that’s right, the most good). There is some great information on the website. It says that a lot of the advice out there on how to choose an ethical career is bad advice. It also says, that it can be a good idea, rather than getting involved directly in a charity, to get a high-income job so as to be able to donate a lot of money to the charities.

  • Oh, all the gorgeous babies! I wish i could hug them all! I will be praying for them!

  • Hey, did you know, there is this awesome organization out there – it’s called 80,000 Hours (
    – and it helps people to choose the careers in which they would do the
    most good (that’s right, the most good). There is some great information
    on the website. It says that a lot of the advice out there on how to
    choose an ethical career is bad advice. It also says, that it can be a
    good idea, rather than getting involved directly in a charity, to get a
    high-income job so as to be able to donate a lot of money to the

    • Jon,

      Yes, I have thought about how a high-income job would be useful, but as a missionary kid in Papua New Guinea, I clearly see that money is necessary, but not the only thing that’s needed. I could raise money for a new basketball court, but I won’t because the hospital cannot spare workers, cars or equipment to build it! Money can be raised for scholarships at the international school, but cannot be used It’s a complicated issue, and I’m not sure what the solution is. Definitely, money is needed, but something else has to go with it. However, in the context of this article, money would be great to sponsor children when a program is already running.

    • Yes I understand money is suuuuper important! I also agree that going is important!! That’s why God doesn’t call everyone to leave their families to go be a missionary in a third world country! I believe that we are all called to go or called to give to those who are going. Because in the bible it is veeeeery clear that God’s heart is for the orphans, widows, poor, and needy… like there are over 2000 verse just on those. Not to mention verses that say go into all the world to preach the good news to the unsaved. So I believe both are very important. In fact, I think they are equally important. However I am one who feels called to go. 🙂

  • Hi, Julianne, like you, I’ve grown up with a dream of working with children. My goal is to start Christian schools (to give a proper education to children and adults), hospitals (to give proper care to sick people), orphanages (for homeless children and/or orphans), mission homes (for homeless adults), etc. in places that don’t have the Gospel.

  • thanks for this… i needed to be reminded of all the pain and the need… and i want to do something about it too. Its easy to forget that we were put n this planet for a reason — to serve.

    • Yeah go and do! Don’t let this just be a nice little article you read, now is the time to stand up and do something 🙂

      • yep I agree, and am trying to do something:) When i get everything set up, I might submit an article. Me and my friend have been working on it for a while.

  • Wow thank you so much for sharing! This is beautifully written! I totally understand you and feel the same way. Like you I have wanted to do missions since I was younger, and had been on a few short term mission trips. Well after one year of college when I was 19, I decided to go as a student missionary for one year. You can look for opportunities on I went to Peru and volunteered at an orphanage, medical clinic, and with children in poverty. I loved it and now I have so many dear friends and family there who I miss terribly and understand missions and the world so much better. I encourage you to check out my blog at as I wrote during my entire journey through lice, worms, and a hand disease. Anyways, I definitely encourage you to consider volunteering after high school for a year to see what you think of long term missions and what areas you would like to help.

    • Actually thats what I am doing I leave in a couple months for a year, just trying to raise the funds! And ooooh I can’t wait to read your blog!

  • Hi, I am a freshman in high school and I just started sponsoring my first child (a little 9 years old girl in Ghana who likes to run just like I do!) through Compassion and started the 100 hard things challenge. I’m excited to see how God will use me.

  • Wow.
    You’re right. What’s funny is, the message from my church gave close to the same message as you did in your article. I guess I really need to hear this. Thank you.
    – Trent

    • Oh my goodness it is SOOOOOO overwhelming!!

      My very favorite quote from Mother Teresa is “If you can’t feed a hundred than just feed one.”

      When I think of that quote I think you have to just stop for the one that is right in front of you. You have to start with the needs you see and do whatever you can to help. All you have to say is “God use me.” And he will! Don’t get overwhelmed just be the change for one at a time. 🙂

  • Thanks for this article. I hope more and more young people will begin to think this way. We need Christians who care about more than good careers and high paying jobs.

  • Julianne, Thank you for this amazing post. I
    read it the other night and shared it with my family today. I am a mom to
    a 6 year old girl and a 4 year old boy. My daughter has always loved
    giving to others. As we talked about this blog post in our family time
    tonight, my daughter decided that she wanted to give $2.50 to help Lauren get
    rid of her worms. Do you know of any way that we can send this money to
    help out the people in Zambia? Our family would love to send some more if
    there is a place to send it. Thank you for showing us these Real
    people! We sponsor 2 children with Compassion, but I don’t always think
    of them in the way that you wrote about these sweet people. Thanks for
    using your gifts to inspire others! To God be the Glory!

    • I am so so glad and encouraged this touched your family! My family sponsors 3 children through Compassion. And it was so easy to just look at pictures of kids who needed sponsored even a few times I would think, “Aw this one is cute.” Almost like I was picking out a puppy! Which is crazy when you realize this really is a real child, with a real family, with real emotions and they are dying or they have nothing to eat tonight! Like my perspective completely changed!

      I’m not quite sure how to get it specifically to Lauren because I met her a little over a year ago! But there are many programs that help people medically that you can give one time to! I met Lauren when I went with Horizon International if you want to give to them here’s a link to their website

      Also, Compassion also has a page you can donate to help medically!

      • Julianne, Thanks again for your post and for replying to our family. I passed this on to my daughter and she was thrilled to hear back from you. We will look into Horizon International and check out Compassion’s gift catalog area too (medical area). Thanks!

  • Well, this post got me totally out of my comfort zone (in a good way)! I had already thought about all that, but used to ignore the topic everytime it would come to my mind because I knew it would disturb me and require some action (it’s hard to admit, but gotta do it). Your final questions were incisive in the right points, and now I’m thinking crazily. Where should I start? How? When? All these questions make me crazy and impotent, and also don’t take me anywhere. I don’t know what’s my “place” in all this, you know? But feel, anyways, that I gotta find it fast so that I can move.
    (sorry about the orthography. I’m from Brazil!)

  • It makes my heart beak to see things like this. If only everyone in America sponsored a child.

  • So cool! My aunt’s a missionary in Pfunananae, South Africa. Her works are amazing. I wish I could be as amazing as you, Julianne, and my aunt.

  • So cool! My aunt’s a missionary in Modjadjiskloof, South Africa. She is so amazing. I wish I was as good as you, Julianne.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →