Saturday, October 08, 2011

Our Two New Children

In the fall of 2005, I went on a short term medical missions trip to Guatemala.  I was about 8 weeks pregnant.  There had just been a mudslide. Devastation everywhere.  That trip changed my life in so many ways.  One of the ways was the perspective it gave me on just how ridiculously spoiled we are in the United States.

Americans tend to walk around with this attitude like the world owes them something because of their US citizenship.  We whine because our TV is too small.  We're upset because we can only afford one car or smaller house than we'd wanted.  We all know (or if we don't all know this, we're not all paying much attention to what's going on around us) that even our poor are better off than most of the world. (Don't read this wrong.  I'm not against helping the poor in America.  My family is involved in stuff here too- mind your own yard first.)  Knowing that American is rich is easy on an academic level, but it's life-altering on a personal, experiential level.

A little girl named Christina ran up to the bus one day.  She saw me stepping off and she charged me, taking my hand and just saying "Gracias, Senora!  Gracias! Senora, gracias!"  I hadn't done anything but step off the bus.  That little girl was glued to my hip that afternoon.  She chattered and played like any other 5 year old girl, except that the doctors and nurses showing up in her town was something that hadn't happened before in her lifetime.  She was beautiful, tattered clothes and all.  She drew me pictures and gave me something that among the children there was a hot commodity- her only piece of bubble gum.  I will never, ever forget that girl's face.  Her eyes are etched into my memory for the rest of my life.  

We saw entire villages that had been covered by mud when heavy rains came and caused enormous mudslides.  We saw babies who were going to die in a matter of days or even hours if clean water didn't get to their homes soon.  You would think that at a time of such devastation, a medical team would have been exactly what they needed there, but the truth is that people were either dead or alive and there was little in between.  The things they needed were shelter and water- things we could not provide at the time.  It's terrible to be in the midst of that sort of devastation and know that the only good you can offer is prayer.  The physical needs are so great that it feels as if tending to the spiritual side isn't going to help.  

If God would say to my husband and I, "Get up and go.  I have you a flight to (fill in just about any developing country here) and you're going to start a church there." I'd be packing before the sentence was finished.  I knew I was gong to be a missionary when I was 8 years old.  There was a missions presentation at my church and my heart leapt up in a way that said, "Here it is!  This is what I made you for!"  Yes, I was only 8.  My husband and I had a talk last night about how I tend to put the cart before the horse and I want to do do do do do when God is saying, "Stop!  Sit!  This is a holding pattern so stop flittering around like a maniac."  He worded it differently, but that was the gist.  I have to say that I think a twenty-four year holding pattern feels like a bit much, but I keep reminding myself that A) I've found things to do here in Pittsburgh that are important and that God needs someone to do (and noone but me is willing to do) and B) God has his reasons and he doesn't have any obligation to fill me in on them.

A big way that I have made peace with all of this in my poor little head and heart is to get involved with child sponsorship.  Not a short number of years ago now, Tim and I picked up a card at a table on Compassion Sunday and looked into the eyes of a boy who has been a part of our lives ever since.  Leme lives in Ethiopia.   He is becoming such a handsome young man.  He's 16 now and I'm amazed that we've been able to watch him grow up like this.  He has become part of our family and has blessed our lives.

A couple years ago, we decided that sponsoring one child was a drop in the bucket and we could do more.  Besides, it would be great for Lexi to help find a child and to write to him or her and be an active part of it.  So we went online and helped her decide which child we would sponsor next.  Karen became a part of our lives that day.  There are few things that give me more joy than to see the look in Lexi's eyes when she gets a letter from Karen.

Last night, World Vision was there at the convention.  All I can say is that their appeals are highly effective.  By American standards, I have every right to say "We're doing our part." and walk away with a completely clear conscience.  But when I looked into Ahmed's eyes. . . Just wait until I have his picture available to share.  He has the same look of joy in his eyes that makes Levi so irresistible.  I do believe that in my mission to save all the children last night, I may also have put in a request to sponsor a child with a physical disability.

Are you sponsoring a child?  If you're not. . . why not?  I'm pretty sure that you can give up $35/month.  That's one family meal out.  That's a cheap family meal out.  That's cutting back your cable bill or driving just a little less.  Stop making excuses.

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