[Editor's Note: This SGM Radio feature was published October 2009 and written by Lorraine Walker.]
Strong continues, “Prior to my husband and I getting married in 1990, Keith had attended a concert where a Compassion presentation was given. He decided to begin sponsoring a child and then he linked up with Compassion to become a volunteer to go to churches and speak on Compassion. We were working for the same company and he came to our church to give a presentation. It was at that time that I began sponsoring a little girl in Haiti. Of course, she has since graduated out of the program.
I've honestly lost count of how many children we've sponsored through the years. Between Brenda’s family, and us, there are six children currently sponsored. We'd love to be able to sponsor all of them because the poverty that these children live in on a daily basis is truly horrific. I think most people in America would be appalled to have to live in those conditions for even one day.”
“I visited two boys in Rwanda back in 1987, my first trip, and I visited the girl Donna and I sponsored when I visited India in 1995. In the projects where my kids were, there was a church and a school at the center of it serving the children and their families. In the midst of much poverty, it was great to see the smiling faces of the children and their enthusiasm because they have been shown the love of God and of their sponsors. They have a chance to have a better future.
“Kanzeguakwa was the first child I sponsored, and I took a trip to Rwanda specifically to visit him. I started sponsoring Hakizimana during the planning stage of that trip, so I visited him also. Theirs was a world unknown to us in the developed West. Mud houses, no shoes, lots of kids and lots of poverty. The Compassion projects were impressive, and the kids were obviously benefiting from their involvement. The families were grateful beyond words for the sponsorship of their sons.
“Kanzeguakwa's father was very frail and old-looking. He had some cash with him and wanted to give it to me as a gift of appreciation, as he had little else to give. I did some fast-talking and managed to keep him from parting with his money while still knowing I appreciated and accepted the gesture.
“Visiting Kamala Devi Thoguru, our girl in India, was an especially memorable. I had sponsored her right at the beginning as she entered the program at six years old. She was 15 when I visited her. Since our son was only two months old I hadn't been a parent very long, but when I met Kamala, it was like ‘instant daughter’. She was able to speak English well enough that we could communicate pretty well, making the visit all the more memorable. I got to visit her home, along with her mother, brother, and sister. During the visit, she started showing me things around the house: dishes, furniture, a small set of luggage; apparently all of it was purchased with the birthday and Christmas gifts I had sent her. She kept saying, ‘I'm so happy!’ The trip was touching beyond words.
It is obvious that the adoption of children through Compassion has been a very personal and rewarding experience for the Strongs. They believe in the organization and what it has accomplished.
“I have been sponsoring at least one child at a time since the beginning of 1985,”says Keith. “I have seen several projects in Kenya and Rwanda, as well as the Holy Cross English Medium School in Nandyal, India. So you could say I put my money where my mouth is. I trust and respect the organization, and have seen the great work they do.”
Donna Strong, as a member of a popular and very busy gospel duet, has not been able to visit the homelands of her adopted children. However, she feels very connected with them. She knows that not everyone can go; some must send and help through the funds they sacrifice from a paycheque that needs to stretch farther in this economy.
“Sponsoring a child through Compassion is such a wonderful experience,” says Donna. “Knowing that your financial support provides meals, clothing, schooling, and most of all, hearing about Jesus Christ. Sponsors receive letters from the child and will really get to know the child as his or her own. Pictures can be shared and life lessons can be taught, simply by writing to the child. These days, this can even be done by e-mail, which gives many busy folks a chance to stay in touch with the child even if they don’t enjoy writing.
“Sponsors may also send support for birthdays and Christmas. If sponsors are able, Compassion can set up trips to visit the child. There is no specific requirement; it all depends on how involved someone wishes to become. But keeping in periodic contact is definitely encouraged.”
“We believe we are fulfilling the Great Commission by doing for those who have no other means of escape,” says Donna. “Each child is a creation of God and He loves those children more than we can imagine. We need to be His hands and His feet, sharing His love with those who have not heard.
“To date, we've seen 21 children sponsored through our ministry. We are so excited for each one! It means a child will have an opportunity to not only receive what we take for granted but also see first hand the love of Jesus in action. That not only changes a life now, but for all eternity!”
Hearts of Faith have a strong desire on their hearts to see lives changed in their land as well. Since 2001, they have traveled as one of the few female duets in Southern Gospel, criss-crossing the United States to fulfill 70 dates every year. “We could travel more extensively,” says Strong. “However, we both have children still at home and firmly believe God has also called us to be good moms and wives. Quite honestly, if our families are not intact, we can't truly be good ministers to others.”
The duet’s love for families and children shines through in their music as well. They recently recorded a concept video entitled, “Susie’s Eyes”, that won Video of the Year at the 2009 Diamond Awards.
Donna Strong shares how the video came to be recorded. “’Susie's Eyes’ is an incredible song written by Kenny Webb of Chattanooga, TN. He brought the song to us in 2003 and felt that we were the ones to record it. It wasn't until 2006 that it really fit a project we were putting together. Even when we were recording the song, we wanted to do a concept video of the song so that people would realize how truly blessed each one of us is.
“While attending SINGING IN THE SUN in 2008, we met Kayla-Elise the last night of the convention. At that time, we didn't think about the concept video; however, her mother e-mailed the next week to say that their entire three-and-a-half hour drive home was filled with only one song, over and over: ‘Susie's Eyes’. Kayla-Elise knew every word. We knew Kayla was to be our Susie.
“We didn't market the video heavily because we really didn't have the funds for marketing. So we simply mailed the video to a few TV stations and prayed that God would use it for His glory. When it made Top 10 on the Diamond Award ballot, we were so thrilled. When our name was called for it winning the Video of the Year, we were almost speechless. Brenda's hands were shaking the entire time during the acceptance speech and for several minutes afterwards.
Strong continues, “I think it's so awesome that one song can do so much to touch people's hearts. Many times, we don't realize what one word of encouragement, one smile, or one touch can do to change the direction of a life.”
Hearts of Faith are truly exemplifying the love of Christ by touching lives at home with their music and abroad with their support. As Jesus reached out to gather the children to Himself, this duet is reaching out to children and adults alike with the love of their Heavenly Father. And that makes these ladies “Love Revolutionaries”.
For more information:
Hearts of Faith: http://www.heartsoffaith.biz/
Compassion International: http://www.compassion.com
First published in October 2008 by SGM Radio Website. For current features, click on to http://www.sgmradio.com/