U.S. High School Student Raises Funds for Sudanese Man

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A Grand Rapids, Mich., high school student raised more than $1,500 recently to help a Sudanese man whom she had never met.

Jacki Sikkema, 17, said she felt God nudging her to do something for Zachariah Char after reading about his plight in the newspaper.

In December, Char’s wife was beaten by a nomadic gang in Kenya, causing numerous medical expenses. Char’s wife and infant son have been unable to join him in the U.S. because of immigration issues. Char pastors the Sudanese Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids and studies at Kuyper College.

Sikkema, a member of Plymouth Heights CRC, Grand Rapids, asked her youth pastor, Gretchen Driesenga, for advice. They brainstormed and decided to hold a soup supper at the church. The supper raised $1,500. Sikkema also designed a T-shirt and sold more than 40 to fellow students and church members; she hasn’t yet collected the money for that.

“It’s amazing to see how a little thought can turn into something big,” she said. “So many times you ignore that nagging feeling of ‘I really should do something.’ I didn’t want to ignore it. It feels good, and it inspires me to do more.”

Char was surprised by the financial gifts from Sikkema and others. “I told people at school that I would drop out and work two jobs to pay for the bills for my wife,” he said. “Then my refugee coordinator told me, ‘Don’t do it—people are helping you.’ It looks like God is taking care of me.”

About the Author

Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who lives in the woods with her artist husband James and their five children in Hillsborough, North Carolina. They are members of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham.