Amy gives a playful giggle as she sprawls out on the carpet, ready to help out the 3-year-old girl color the most beautiful picture. This has become part of her routine since starting to attend house church a few years ago. She loves to help with the little ones, as well as engage in conversation with the adults while eating tacos, one of her favorite house church meals. She loves serving alongside those same adults as they partner together with BOGG ministries and give food to the impoverished in their community. These are opportunities that 11-year-old Amy would never have had, if it were not for her Big Sister, Tami.
Fresh out of college and settling into her new job, Tami Eckhart knew that God was calling her to somehow serve her community. As an elementary teacher, she was exposed first hand to young, impressionable lives, many of which had no responsible adults influencing their lives in a positive way. Being passionate about children, she saw the Big Brother, Big Sister program as the perfect opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child. She wanted to be more than just a positive influence, because Tami was also passionate about sharing the love of Jesus that she had embraced while in college.
They certainly have a lot of fun together. Every couple of weeks they plan something exciting to do, like going to see a movie, bowling, baseball games or their most favorite activity, roller skating. But the special times have been at house church. What Amy has seen and heard in this community that Tami has surrounded her with has taken a young girl from a very rough part of Dayton, where she is often the target of bullies, to a community that loves on her so sweetly and treats her as if she were their beloved daughter. This adoption of Amy is what brings a smile to the face of Tami, and her heart smiles even more as Amy often asks questions about God and His love for her on their thirty-minute drive to her home, and shares with her big sister that she is so thankful for the fatherly role that God has in her life.
Tami shares that not long ago Amy was, “suffering from a terrible lack of sleep. She would have nightmares that would keep her up at night and make her fearful of her home. After my mom knitted her a new blanket and we found her a new bed (she had been sharing a twin bed with her big sister), I spoke with her about the power of prayer. We practiced praying together and I coached her about what to do if fear overtakes her at night. Days later she told me very excitedly when I picked her up that prayer really does work because she doesn't get scared at night anymore. She talks to God and says she no longer has nightmares.”
While Tami rejoices about the changes she has seen in the life of Amy, and in her own life as well, it doesn’t get easier to take Amy back to her neighborhood, knowing the conditions she will be walking into once she leaves her car. There have been those hard conversations about abuse and pain and why God has allowed these things to happen to her. Tami watches her walk away and prays for God to keep her safe and to keep making His presence known to her.
To see Tami and Amy together, you would think that they truly are sisters, as they share many physical characteristics, and of course, there is that back and forth banter that so many biological sisters playfully engage in. But what is most striking about watching them interact is seeing in action the deep love they have for one another. Tami just wanted the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child, and to share with that child the unconditional love of her Heavenly Father. Amy is very thankful she did.
Author: Lori Zastrow
Photographer: Angela Jekeli