by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven
HOLTON — Lila and Milton Krainbill of St. Dominic Church here recently returned from a trip of a lifetime to Australia and New Zealand.
Perhaps the most extraordinary sight of all, however, was the face of one of the nine children they currently sponsor through Unbound, whom they were meeting for the first time. They visited with the child at their final stop in the Philippines.
Unbound, formerly known as the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, was founded in Kansas City, Kansas, by siblings Bob, Bud, Jim and Nadine Hentzen and their friend Jerry Tolle on Nov. 20, 1981.
“Guided by faith and rooted in Catholic social teaching, the founders envisioned a program that would invite people to partner with families to support, encourage and empower them,” reads Unbound’s website. “When you sponsor a child through Unbound, you help an entire family start on a path out of poverty.”
The monthly donations go to help the child and his or her family receive proper nutrition, health care, improved living conditions and education.
Currently, more than 260,000 sponsors across 70 countries are helping more than 310,000 children and elders in 18 different countries through Unbound.
The Krainbills’ journey with Unbound began in 2001, when a visiting priest came to their church and talked to the parishioners about sponsoring a child.
Milton and Lila didn’t hesitate: their first child lived in the Dominican Republic.
“It’s just a need,” Milton said. “We’ve traveled enough to know in any Third World country there’s huge needs.”
Then, in 2003, while traveling to Costa Rica, they made arrangements to meet with Unbound representatives there and help with a project they were working on at the time. In the process, they met another family and were soon touched by them as well.
“We thought, ‘We can’t walk away from this family,’” said Lila.
After learning that one of the daughters was eligible for sponsorship, the Krainbills took on their second child.
Since then, Milton and Lila have always sponsored at least two children through graduation from the program, meaning the children and their family have progressed sufficiently as to no longer need assistance.
The Krainbills have also been able to meet all of the children they have sponsored, visiting Costa Rica three more times, India, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines.
“We have seen the progress that Unbound has made in their lives,” Lila said. “You see that the money gets to where it needs to get.”
“Just seeing the difference that it makes in the family’s faith and their belief that somebody is going to help,” she said, “they’re just so appreciative and it’s just so heartwarming.
“We’ve been blessed that we’ve been able to travel and meet them. Once you meet these kids, they’re like your own and you can’t go away and not help. Anybody that could do a mission trip I think would be such a believer in not just Christianity, but Unbound itself and how they operate.”
“To us, we see the progress; to them, they put a face to who we are,” Milton said. “We become real when they see a body. It’s not just a name at the bottom of the letter.”
Lila has had many people ask her why they feel they have to go out of the country to help people instead of helping those in the United States.
“We volunteer at the Rescue Mission in Topeka, but there’s many programs that help homeless and the desolate in the United States. You don’t see this kind of poverty [in the United States],” she said. “There might be close to this, but I haven’t seen it or heard about it. I think the government pretty much takes care of getting people to a certain level here.”
“Our dollar goes so much further,” Milton added. “Would $35 take care of health care, education and food [in the United States]?
“[With Unbound], you sponsor one person per family and it helps the entire family.”
Now, Milton and Lila are passing the ministry on to the next generation, having taken on seven more children in December 2017 for their seven youngest grandchildren to write letters to.
“We did this to hopefully carry on another generation’s caring and respect for the ones that aren’t as fortunate, and trying to teach them,” Lila said. “We can bring back these pictures and show the grandkids, but this, No. 1, makes them realize how fortunate they are; and No. 2, they are old enough to communicate with somebody and they can have this feeling of gratitude and excitement.”
Each of the grandchildren was able to search through pictures and read the biographies of different children to choose from.
Colton Klecan, 12, said one thing stood out when choosing his child, a 12-year-old boy in Guatemala.
“My guy, it said, had been waiting for over one year,” he said. “I was, like, ‘Geez, if I was him, I would be so sad.’ I write letters just thinking that every day they probably wait and wait and wait for a letter.”
Colton’s sister Keira, 9, is also corresponding with a child in Guatemala: a 9-year-old girl.
“I just like doing it because people don’t get stuff that we get,” she said. “We’re thankful for the stuff we get.”
Paco Wertin, Unbound church relations director, said the Krainbills’ sponsorship of nine children and the effort they make to create a deeper connection directly expresses who they are as people.
“The Krainbills are expressing the goodness that is in their hearts,” said Wertin. “They are sharing their resources with those in need and, at the same time, getting to know the ones they are helping.”
“As these relationships grow,” he continued, “the Krainbills are open to receive what their sponsored friends and their families have to offer them: mutual support and encouragement. They are living out what they believe.
“‘I believe in you’ is a powerful message that they send to their sponsored friends. And their sponsored friends certainly believe in them.”
For more information about Unbound and how to sponsor a child, visit the website at: www.unbound.org.