“I Have Never Owned A House Before”

by McKenzie Cunningham, New Story Lead Storyteller

My family has wanted to help build a house in some third-world country for a year now, so when I became the Lead Storyteller for New Story, we decided it would be a perfect fit.

We chose to fund the next family on the list: the Francois family, made up of mother and father Jonesse and Elina, and their six kids.

On New Story’s recent vision trip, I had the privilege to meet the family and tell them the good news.

“You know that we took your photo, put your family on a website, to find a sponsor,” Rachel, our translator, told Elina as two of her daughters and son stood by.

“Oui, oui.”

“The family of madmwazèl decided to sponsor you,” Rachel continued, and all of their eyes turned to me.

With the sweetest smile on her face, Elina said, “Merci, Merci. I want to say thank you very very much, because after God, you have done so much for me.”

Standing in the middle of the tent village, in front of a family in need, I can’t describe the joy of watching life transformation begin and knowing that I got to play a small part in it.

We asked for permission to enter her tent, and she willingly agreed. Inside, Elina gave us more details on their living situation.

Jonesse and Elina’s 14-year old daughter, Jonesse

“I roll out a mat on the floor and my husband and I sleep on it, then my kids sleep in the bed.” Flies buzzed around as she spoke.

In one corner is a bed, with a table, pots and other random items lining the four walls.

“I had a tent, but then I got really sick and I sold it to pay for medicine. That was the only hope I had, to sell the tent. I was so so sick.”

Without a tent, the family had to piece together a shelter with whatever scraps they could find — it was one of the worst tents in the village. After just a few minutes in the place they call home, sweat was dripping down our faces — the heat was unbearable.

“After God, it is you who have given me life,” Elina said, beginning her speech that was the most beautiful expression of gratitude and humility.

“After God, it is you who have given me hope, and now I feel like I really have hope. After God, my hope is now in your family.

God never starts something to not finish it.

“I have never owned my own house ever. But God had a plan for me: we found the tent first, [after the earthquake]. I always wanted to rent a house after the tent but never could. Then I became so sick, so we had to sell the tent.

“So now, the way you see me now, standing before you, after God, it’s you who I’ve continued to hope for.


To be the receiver of such gratitude is the greatest gift. Not every person giving to New Story gets the experience that I had, but I know that each family exudes this gratitude for a new life and opportunity for every sponsor.

What a gift Elina and her family gave me that day! In just the few moments that I spent with them, they taught me true thanksgiving and humility no matter the circumstance.

I cannot wait to see how Elina, Jonesse, and their family start their new lives — their new stories.

“Thank you and I’ll never stop saying thank you to you.”
- Elina

To find out more about New Story, visit www.newstorycharity.org.

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