When a sponsored child becomes an archbishop

In 1974, one family made a decision to sponsor a 10-year-old boy named Jackson from Kenya, a decision which helped change the course of Jackson’s life. Jackson’s father died when he was only four years old, leaving Jackson and his brothers and sisters to help their mother take care of their cattle and help with chores at home.

Jackson is a part of the Maasai community – a nomadic community who walk their cattle along the Great Rift Valley in Kenya and Tanzania. Children rarely get to go to school in this area because most parents don’t believe in formal education, as boys are meant to herd cows while girls work around the house.

When Jackson’s father died, Jackson’s step-brothers forced him out of his home and stole his land and cattle. He lived with his mother, siblings and his uncle and every day his mother walked from house to house to ask if anyone could spare a bowl of porridge for her children.

When World Vision partnered with Jackson’s community, it transformed his life. Thanks to his sponsors, he was able to go to school and receive a new school uniform and books. He was given his first pair of shoes and shoe polish to keep them shiny. He loved the smell of the shoe polish so much that he slept with it at night.

In 1976, there was a severe drought and hunger crisis and the Maasai people were struggling to survive. World Vision supplied oil and beans to keep Jackson and his family from suffering the most severe effects of malnutrition and hunger. They learned how to prepare for drought, and then when the rain returned in 1977, World Vision helped his family plant seeds and grow their own crops.

Jackson excelled at school but struggled through his high school exams. While he still finished in the top 10, he chose to give up on school and became a cattle trader, walking 10 days to Nairobi to sell cows.

During this walk, he had an epiphany as he rested in the forest with his cows. He felt an immense sense of gratitude for all the opportunities he had, in particular those given by World Vision and his sponsors, and decided then and there that he would dedicate his life to making a bigger impact for children like him.

Archbishop Jackson of Kenya
“I went home singing,” he said, telling his mother: “I have seen God in an amazing way. He’s going to change my life.”

Not long after, a Christian missionary in Kenya took Jackson under his wing and he became a translator for her, translating between Swahili and English. Then, with the encouragement of pastors who could see his potential, he decided to become a priest. He soon graduated from St Paul’s Theological College in Nairobi before receiving a Masters in Social Development and Sustainable Livelihoods from the University of Reading in the UK.

In 2016, Jackson was elected as the sixth Archbishop of Kenya. He travels to every county of Kenya preaching peace and harmony as a spiritual leader for more than five million people. He even met with Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan, imploring him to end civil war.

Back in 1974, when that one family decided to make the decision to sponsor a child, they never would have expected the effect that their donations would have on a young boy on the other side of the world. With the help of World Vision and his sponsors, that young boy received the skills and opportunities to empower him to become the person he is today – Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit.

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