Adoption dream is within reach for DRC orphan

By Christina Cavener, Special Contributor

Surrounded by smiling faces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Brittany Burrows and I ask the orphans, “What is something you would like to pray for?” Over and over the children respond, “I want to give thanks to God for being alive.”

Christina Cavener

No concerns, just giving thanks. Finally a child named Emmanuel Kampalu says that his only prayer is that he would be able to walk one day. Born without legs, Emmanuel was thrust into the world as an outcast and sent into the streets to starve. Alone without parents and crawling with his bare hands and nubs, begging for food, he was found by a social worker who brought him to the Methodist orphanage Jamaa Letu. He describes the orphanage as his saving grace.

Emmanuel is a survivor. He is one of the happiest children I have encountered. He sings praise to God nearly every day, giving thanks. His friends look up to him for guidance and he is always making jokes with them. Emmanuel plays soccer every day regardless of the physical difficulties. Rarely will you hear him complain. Full of resilience, Emmanuel shines the light of Christ to those around him. By just being himself, he is a witness to the work that God can accomplish in this world. Emmanuel is “God with us.”

Moved by Emmanuel’s prayer, Brittany and I decided to act. Serving as missionaries in the DRC, we contacted our families, friends and churches in the North Texas Conference. Soon, money came pouring in and we received funds for Emmanuel to get preparation surgery for prosthetic legs. Two years later, in 2011, we returned to the Congo with resources from the International Foundation for the Physically Disabled and the hospital in Congo called Wote Pamoja. Emmanuel’s prayer was answered. For the first time in his life, we watched Emmanuel take his first steps. With a smile on his face, he exclaimed, “Mungu Bariki!” which means “God bless you” in Swahili. It brought him such joy to know that so many people care and love him all over the world.

In November 2011, I was asked to write an article about Emmanuel for the United Methodist Reporter. A couple months later, Michelle Hilton, the wife of a United Methodist pastor named Gary Hilton in Pennsylvania, contacted me to let me know that they had read my article and were praying about adopting Emmanuel. Brittany and I had been working with Emmanuel since 2008 and this had been our prayer for him all along. I sobbed and couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that email. A rush of joy and peace washed over me. There was nothing more


comforting than to know that my baby in the Congo would be taken care of for the rest of his life. My prayers were being answered.

Finishing the journey

Adopting a child from the DRC can be quite difficult. It is a long, tedious process that is incredibly expensive. There are numerous fees and obstacles to bringing Emmanuel to the United States. Grace UMC of Dallas contributed $2,000. In addition to this, some private donors from across the U.S. have felt called to give. While that’s a good start, we still need to raise about $18,000 more.

The North Texas Conference churches have supported Brittany and me with Project Emmanuel since 2008 by providing funds for Emmanuel’s surgery and prosthetic legs, donating money for mosquito nets, healthcare, education, mattresses, clothing, books, kitchen supplies, shoes, toys and a tutor for the children at the Jamaa Letu orphanage. We are incredibly grateful for the conference and every individual’s support, love and generosity. We have come a long way and now it’s time to finish the journey by bringing Emmanuel home to his new family, the Hiltons.

To find out more about the Hiltons, visit and search for the article, “Call and answer: Local minister took circuitous path to pulpit.”

Emmanuel is incredibly excited and every day he asks, “When do I get to meet my new family?” Visit our Facebook page “Bring Emmanuel Home” for updates, or you can email me at or Brittany at for specifics on how to help.

We have already witnessed the miraculous work of God’s grace. And we look forward to seeing Emmanuel’s dream come true as those who are touched by his story help “bring him home” to the Hiltons and to his growing extended family.

Ms. Cavener is youth minister at Grace UMC in Dallas.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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