The Ripple Effect of Kindness
We bought our three-bedroom house a few years ago with the hopes of raising a family. We decided early on that we wanted this house to be a safe place for family and friends to come and feel both welcomed and loved. Since we don’t have kids yet, the extra bedrooms started to feel a bit excessive. Every now and then, visitors made use of them, but we wondered if there was something bigger God had in mind for the space. We agreed to remain open-minded for how we might use our space to meet the needs of others.
Over the summer, Garry Abbott approached us about an opportunity to host a college student from one of Summit’s partner organizations, Children of the Nations in Malawi. He said he thought of us because Martin, the student, studied engineering, and he knew we both have engineering and design related degrees. Garry didn’t know we had been considering new ways to make use of our home, but God knew.
We wrestled through different fears and questions that came up as we considered whether or not to take the opportunity, but ultimately, we agreed that we wanted to move forward in obedience to God’s calling. To quote Summit, we decided to “use our finite resources to help build God’s infinite kingdom.”
We had no idea what to expect, but we knew we weren’t committing to this alone. As our friends and family found out about the opportunity, they rallied around us and offered to help welcome Martin in any way they could. A member of our Connect group put it this way: “Your ‘yes’ is not just a ‘yes’ for you—it’s a ‘yes’ for our community.”
Our first few days with Martin were full of questions back and forth between the three of us. We started with the basics.
“Do you like coffee? … Yes? Great, us too!”
“What kind of music do you like? … You’re in a band back home in Malawi? You’ll have to meet Dave at Summit Waterford!”
It didn’t take long to realize that despite living in completely different countries and cultures, we had plenty of things in common. As we continued getting to know each other, Martin offered to share his story with us.
We sat around the table and Martin was about to begin, but he remembered he left something in his room. He returned to the table with a wrinkled photograph. It was a picture of a little boy wearing a ragged shirt and standing in the middle of a dirt road.
Now Martin could tell his story, the story of the little boy in the picture. His father died when he was three years old, and per custom in Malawi at that time, the house was pillaged. Martin, his mother, and his six siblings had been left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The family lived in extreme poverty for several years with minimal help from local hospitals and distant relatives.
One day, a Children of the Nations (COTN) representative came across Martin and his family. The children were then registered for a feeding program and Martin moved to live in one of COTN’s children’s homes, House of Grace.
Martin described the shocking adjustments of his first few months with COTN—frequent showers, clean clothing, plenty of food, and a bed! Sleeping in an actual bed was a significant change, and Martin smiled as he told us, “I didn’t sleep at all the first night. I just jumped around on the bed.”
Over the next few years, Martin became the first in his family to receive formal education. He struggled initially, but after the first year of school, he continued to rank top position of his class every single year from elementary to high school.
Throughout his education, Martin was taught about God’s love for us in Jesus. At first, it was difficult for him to understand these teachings because his family had raised him with the teachings of Islam. As he grew older and began the transition to high school, he reflected on the grace and deliverance he experienced through COTN. He knew this grace must be from Jesus, and he decided to accept the salvation he offers. Martin said, “The education and things I received from COTN were all so great, but the best thing I received is Jesus.”
Once Martin had committed his life to Jesus, he shared his newly found faith with his family. For several years, his family resisted his teaching and discredited his faith. But eventually, by the grace of God, Martin’s entire family came to know Jesus as their Savior.
Martin was preparing to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2018, but his program expected students to complete an internship before leaving college. Martin had helped many of his friends find internships, but he wasn’t able to find one for himself. He waited patiently to find an internship and was presented with the opportunity to travel to the United States to studying solar energy and irrigation systems at the University of Central Florida.
Martin finished his story with a big smile and said, “My friends didn’t believe this opportunity was really happening until I sent them pictures of me here in the U.S. It’s all God’s grace!”
After Martin shared his story with us and we shared ours with him, there was no turning back—he was fully part of our family. We lived life side by side for the next two months as we worked together, shared meals together, laughed together, and worshiped together. Martin jumped right in to every activity with enthusiasm and gratitude.
We learned so much from our short time with Martin, but the lesson that stands out the most is that kindness has a ripple effect. Martin repeatedly said, “It’s not about helping just me. I want to take everything I learn back to my community and my country. When you help me, you help all of Malawi.”
We’re so grateful to have had this opportunity to learn from Martin and to be reminded of the greatness of the God we serve. And we have a newly found appreciation for Summit’s partnership with COTN. The vision of “raising up children to become leaders who transform nations” captures the heart of Jesus, and we’re thankful to see how that vision has been woven into Martin’s story.
Kristin and Matt Moore met through mutual friends at Summit. Matt is a designer in the Product Design and Development team at Nautique and Kristin is a clinical analyst at Advent Health. They both serve as Base Camp leaders in the Lodge at the Waterford Campus and love hosting game nights with friends. They enjoy getting coffee at their favorite local shop, Duo58, with their German Shepherd mix, Silas.