I both long for it, and resent it. Everything about my life is safe, and for that I am truly thankful. I’m free to move about as I please, and so are my children, and there are moments when I truly, genuinely do not take that for granted.
But there are more moments when I do take it for granted.
Like everyone else, I have been captivated by the photos of a little boy washed ashore. I think about his parents and their longing for safety, and the journey they took that was anything but safe, and my heart breaks because it was just so hard.
I think about the family who recently brought home a little girl from a Chinese orphanage, and they now sit cocooned in their home because they need her to know that they aren’t going to leave her. She’s barely two, but she’s conditioned to believe that everyone leaves, and so they must build trust. And how many children are living that way in this world?
I think of the young woman in Ukraine who spent the last two Christmases with us. She wants family and safety. She wants to be known. She wants life to be easier.
And then I think of my own children swimming in opportunity, and I worry that I’m failing. We have a house bursting with “stuff.” So much stuff. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and we have enough clothing to last us at least a month, maybe more, if needed.
Food piles in the pantry and fridge, but still I run to the grocery store almost daily, because I can. And because these people in my house eat like it’s going out of style.
We’ve tried to expose them to the suffering of this world, but as they bicker over who gets to play the PlayStation next, I fear we’ve done a poor job.
We took them to Walmart on Monday armed with a list of needed and necessary items for Syrian refugees. Our sole purpose in the store was to purchase for others, not for ourselves. And yet, in every aisle they asked for something. We reminded them over and over, gently at first, and then with more urgency, that this trip wasn’t about us – it was about suffering people.
But even I had to restrain myself from grabbing a few things for our family while there.
We brought all the items home, and they’re piled in the corner waiting be boxed.
“That’s really not that much stuff,” my oldest said last night as I pulled it all out and began organizing it. “How many refugees are there?”
“Thousands,” I replied. He raised his eyebrows.
“That will only help a couple of people.”
And so it is that my heart constricts again, because this box I’m putting together feels so small. I know that for the three or four people who benefit from it’s content, the gesture won’t be small. But this feels like a single drop of rain in a vast desert. Everything feels so small.
A solitary box fill with clothes and shoes is small.
Bringing “K” into our home for two months is small.
My children live in a world that is bursting with need, and I do know that they’re aware of this – they’re not clueless. Nor are they indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, when given the opportunity, they are more gracious and giving than I am.
But it all feels so small.
I placed the sweatpants and tennis shoes, socks and underwear in the box, and before closing it up laid my hand on top of it and prayed.
“Lord, multiply this offering so that it isn’t small. This isn’t enough, Father. But it’s something – it’s a start. Make it sufficient, Oh God.”
My one box is small, but it’s something. It’s a start. And maybe if we work together as a collective whole we can make that offering a big one. Like the loaves and the fish, the offering can be made sufficient for the masses.
I tell you these things not to bait you for encouragement, but rather to let you know that I get it – what we have to offer feels small. But a lot of small can equal a big, so maybe we can join forces.
My small box combined with your small donation, and her box, and his donation all come together to clothe and feed the desperate.
My orphan hosting combined with their adoption, and your sponsorship, and their mission trip to paint the orphanage, and build shelving, and offer clothing all work together to show the fatherless of this world that they’re not alone – their lives matter.
[Tweet “Small can be big. It just needs a little boost.”]
Want to be small with me today?
A list of small things you can do to make a big difference:
Three years ago today, my feet were caked with the red dirt of Tanzania. On May 7, 2012, I wrote this post and it is still, to this day, my most shared post. It’s been read thousands of times over the last three years, and of course it has because the message is universal.
People need Hope. They crave and long to know that Hope is alive, and indeed it really is.
As we ambled back up the rutted dirt path it finally happened. I knew the emotions would take over at some point, but I honestly didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed my second day here. On both sides, children scrambled about watching us with bold curiosity.
“How do you handle seeing this all the time?” I asked Shaun as we stepped gingerly over a stream of muddy water flowing through the red soil. My throat burned and eyes watered as the images of the family we just visited ran through my mind. It wasn’t the condition of their home that left me so affected, though the small, concrete structure that housed two adults and nine children did leave me a bit shocked.
The situation this family lives in is dire in more ways than just physical. There was a hollow emptiness in the eyes of the mother that struck me. A desperation in the grandmother’s voice that tore through me. Abandoned and alone, these women now work only when they can and pray for daily bread in the most literal sense.
Currently, two of this young mother’s five children are being served by Compassion – twins, Doto and Kuluwa. One is sponsored, the other is still waiting. They were all quiet, eyes downcast, shy. When asked what she hopes for her children, this mother replies, “I hope that they can grow up and do business so that they can take care of me.”
Doto is sponsored. Her twin brother, Kuluwa is not.
I left this home with a quivering chin. “How do you see this all the time and not feel overwhelmed?” I asked. “It just all seems so much, like it’s impossible to ever meet all the needs.”
It’s been two and a half years since I boarded a plane to Tanzania. Two and a half years since I walked through the red dirt and cried, the images of abject poverty almost too much for my heart to comprehend.
Two and a half years ago, I learned that Hope is Slow, and that is, perhaps, the most valuable lesson the Lord has taught me. I’m still grasping hold of what that means even today. Hope is so very slow, and I get weary in the waiting, but God in His Mercy is not bound by my impatient timeframe.
Hope may be slow, but it is alive.
The work that Compassion International does worldwide is humbling. I’ve seen firsthand the impact this ministry has on communities, the hope they are bringing to families living in poverty, and I have wept.
Over 2 million children under the age of 5 die each year in India. In the small community of Gujarat, where many of the mothers are teenagers, most do not have the resources needed to provide for their children.
Today we can change the lives of an entire community. We can reverse the trend of hopelessness, of illness, and of childhood death. Opening a Child Survival Program in Gujarat means:
– training and preparation for young moms to help care for their babies
– helping mothers learn to read and write
– giving children a safe place to learn and grow
– ensuring lifesaving medical care for babies and moms
– proclaiming the hope of God to families living in poverty
Today, as we step away from the blessing of Thanksgiving, and move into the beauty of Christmas, we have the chance to bind together and offer Hope. We can wrap it in love, and breath new life into a community that wonders if Hope is real.
It is real, friends, and it is actively moving through willing hearts across the ocean, and into the arms of young mothers who are more accustomed with fear than they are of Hope.