By Kerry Drager, Correspondent
Grace Anderson of Long Prairie knows where she is heading in her life. It is a challenging journey that will test her culturally, financially and spiritually, but she is bold, determined and ready to face her dream head-on.
As a junior in high school, Anderson became interested in helping orphaned and abandoned children. She adores children and wanted to do something to help those who needed love and family.
“I’ve always had a love for children, especially young children,” said Anderson. “I wanted our family to do foster care. With my mom having multiple sclerosis and where we were in life, I knew that wasn’t possible. I started researching orphanages. I got my passion for orphans and I tried to figure out a degree where I could work with them.”
Anderson was homeschooled for the majority of her life, spending only the last few years of her education in a public school. She excelled academically and received several college credits and scholarships while still in high school. She went on to college and started out in Early Childhood Education.
Although college offered a lot of information, Anderson felt she was not accomplishing her goals while sitting in a classroom.
“I thought that Early Childhood Education was the closest thing to an orphanage degree, but by the end of December 2013, I was not satisfied with my major. I just knew I wanted to go out and serve, and I was feeling stuck at school. I already knew what I wanted to do with my life. I could be helping kids right now, and I’m sitting here trying to get a degree instead.”
While in college, Anderson visited grade schools as a student teacher. She came to the stark realization that she didn’t want to be a teacher. She wanted to be something more.
“I want to be there for the kids that don’t have parents and be that loving influence. I don’t want to be just a teacher. I want to be more than that.”
Anderson feels that teachers are required to have barriers between them and the relationships they can develop with children. She wanted to be more involved in their lives than this. Her homeschooling taught her to have a place for faith and God in her life, she very much wanted to incorporate this into her relationships with orphaned children.
In the fall of 2013, the correct path was shown to her when she met her brother’s roommate at the university.
“I went to hang out with my brother in his room but he wasn’t there, his roommate was. We started talking. He told me he grew up in the Philippines and that his parents worked in an orphanage,” said Anderson. “It’s so hard to find a connection to an orphanage to work for because they don’t know what kind of commitment you’re going to have. He encouraged me to talk to the president of the Children’s Shelter of Cebu.”
The Children’s Shelter of Cebu (CSC) is located in the Philippines, but the headquarters is in Cambridge, making it a possibility to meet with the president directly.
After a few weeks of prayers, Anderson was given the go-ahead to visit the orphanage to prepare her for her new job. For 10 days she explored the orphanage, met the children and staff and experienced the culture in tropical southern Asia.
“I loved it so much. The shelter is just amazing. It supplies so much for the kids. The city itself was eye-opening. It is so impoverished. There are people everywhere. Most of the houses are shacks. You would never think of it as a house,” said Anderson.
“There were a bunch of kids on the street playing butt naked and no parents in sight. I was thinking, do they even have parents? Seeing that and thinking about what I have here. Do I need all this stuff?” she said.
“Since I’ve been back, it has been hard at times. The lifestyle here is so different from there,” Anderson said. “When I don’t have things to do, I feel down. I could be helping or having an impact with the kids, but I can’t, because I’m still here.”
In order to become part of the CSC team, Anderson must raise $28,000 to help cover the cost of her joining the orphanage in Cebu. She is still in need of donations but has been working hard this summer to raise the money so that she can follow her calling.
If all things go as planned, Anderson will be overseas by the end of the summer helping young orphans so that they may develop into the happy children they were meant to be.
It is a challenging quest, but it’s for the right cause and Anderson said she knows she has the determination she needs and God’s blessing at her side.