I still remember it like it was yesterday. I got to the airport way earlier than everyone else and waited, rather impatiently, for the group to show up. It was one year ago today and I was going to Ethiopia to work with an organization called Eyes That See.
The city, Addis Ababa, sounds like the distant land of a children’s fairytale. I had to stop watching the news before the trip. Between the fear of Ebola and several plane disappearances it seemed like travelling to Africa could be a mistake. However, I have a pretty good sense of adventure and so I said a quick prayer and boarded the plane.
Five years ago I had the opportunity to spend the summer in the Philippines working with Nehemiah Teams. While I was there I worked with orphans, church plants, taught school, and met some super cool people. I’ve always had a heart for children, but that trip changed my life. It opened my eyes to the needs of the world, both physical and spiritual, and I was hooked. How could I not go back overseas and tell more people about Jesus? The need is HUGE and even though I am home for good, I can’t seem to look away.
Stepping into the unknown will change you. It changes the way you view the world and how you think about things. It changes your priorities and makes you question so many things about life.
In my travels, I’ve seen the exceptionally good and the devastatingly bad. Today, I want to share my experiences with you as well as encourage you to get involved.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned about being on the mission field.
It changes your definition of ‘poor’
Working as a church secretary, I meet a lot of people who are ‘poor.’ At least by American standards that is. I’m not saying that these people have it easy, because they don’t, but there is a level of poverty that I haven’t found to exist in America. Poverty, to me, looks like an entire city with sewage flowing through its streets. Women are cooking and bathing in this water. Children are catching diseases. Children are starving. They don’t know that their water is dangerous and they won’t stop drinking it because there is no other water source. There is no education. Homes are fashioned out of tarps and scrap metal. There is no hope because no one knows any other way of life.
It changes your perspective on different
When you see pictures of foreign children on TV you probably imagine that their lives are very different than ours. You are incorrect. Kids are kids. I’ve taught children who are extremely wealthy and those who are extremely poor and let me tell you, they are not that different. All they want to do is play! In the Philippines, I witnessed several children didn’t have toys so they dug cups out of the trash and made their own. If it rains they want to jump in the puddles. If they have homework they try to put it off. Likewise, I’ve met women who were rescued from a life of prostitution and have danced with them as they celebrate a new life and a job that makes them proud. All they want is to succeed. Our cultures may be very different but deep down we are all the same.
It changes your understanding of needs vs. wants
The other day I told Brian that I need new curtains for the master bedroom. I also told him I need to go to a pumpkin farm because it’s fall. I feel like I throw this ‘need’ word around all the time when in reality these are things that I want. Maybe my curtains don’t match the bedspread, but they mean that I have a home with nice glass windows. I have a whole house full of ‘wants’ that I consider ‘needs.’ I don’t think it is wrong for me to have these things, but I do understand that I don’t need them. New curtains might make me happy but only until I realize that I ‘need’ a new rug to match the curtains.
In reality, the only thing we need is Jesus.
I met a few women who lived in Ethiopia in a one room home. The three women shared one bed and had a small fire in the corner on which they cooked. Their bathroom was communal and the walk to their home was treacherous. Their pasts were dark but their futures were bright. To us they may seem poor but they weren’t. Their most basic needs were met and they had Jesus. Honestly, what more do we need? We can learn from them. We need Jesus, a home, and love. The rest is just fluff.
It changes your responsibility to help
Now that I have seen the needs of the world, I am responsible. I don’t mean that I caused the problems or must fix them on my own, but I do have a responsibility to tell others what I have seen.
I remember walking through a city in the Philippines while a small shoeless girl begged me for my shoes. I couldn’t give her my shoes because my feet were not accustomed to the rough, possibly diseased streets. I couldn’t tell her to wait while I went home and fetched another pair. I remember another day when a woman tried to give me her tiny baby. Of course I couldn’t just take her baby. From the look of things, that baby probably didn’t make it. I couldn’t help them. And I think of them all the time.
But I’m here now, and I will fight for these girls in the only ways I know how. By sharing their stories. By refusing to forget. By praying desperately that God would send them help, whether it be from me or you or someone else.
Please, I beg you, do whatever you can to help them.
Remember the words of Acts 1:8:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
The need is great but God is greater. As long as He goes with us we cannot fail.
If you can go, then go. If you can send money so that others can go, send it. If you can pray, then pray.
The need is too great for us to turn our eyes away from those who need us. What are you doing to make a difference in the lives of our world’s children?