For some reason, I think it gets harder to blog as we're approaching a time in the U.S. Not sure why. But we definitely feel our brains making the shift towards home. (It's not the kind of thing that just sneaks up on a person, at least for me.) And I think it's partly because I start to think more about what's different in my life, how I've changed, as I imagine home.
On Saturday morning I got a call from Eunice. She and her twin sister, Eunie, are 19 now; they are the heads of their household, living with and caring for their 8-year-old nephew Gradually. You might remember them from a couple of previous posts. In the last two years we have gotten to know these girls very well. We buy them groceries periodically, have them over to watch movies and jump on the trampoline. Nothing so special. Anyway, on Saturday morning, Eunice said over the phone, her voice strained with anxiety, "We need to tell you something. We have no food." The night before, they had to ask a neighbor for a little bit of corn meal so Gradually had something to eat, which he must have in order to take his medication. And today, there is no food in the house.
Can you imagine? They're 19. They're in 10th grade, since like many orphans, they're a bit behind in school. They're working hard to graduate high school...they have no electricity so they do their homework by candlelight most nights. They have no money and can't get jobs if they want to finish school. (Even if they did want to quit school, they would struggle to find work...the unemployment rate is around 30% in the area.) The thing is, no child should worry about where she will find food that day. We sometimes become desensitized to the idea; we get used to all the melodramatic TV commercials and people asking for money. But these are children I love and care about. Imagine if it were your child, only with no auntie or uncle or grandma or social worker to run to for help. They have a few neighbors who are sometimes kind to them, even though they have very little themselves. And consider that in many places, including here in Africa, there is almost nothing standing between that desperate hunger and prostitution, if you're a 19-year-old girl.
I remember years ago a friend asking me how God could bless me with so much and yet allow others to suffer. I told her I believed God blessed me in order to bless others. Don't get me wrong; there have been times when I've cried out at the injustice of it all. When I close my eyes, I see their faces. I see grannies who have lost four out of five children. I see two-year-old Peggy, her listless eyes and her cold little feet, whose sick mother was driven to prostitution in order to buy food. I see Gift and Lorraine and Nora and Daniel and so many others. I'm not sure you can feel the magnitude of the problem until you walk in the village and hear the stories. HIV has ravaged Africa, devastated Africa.
I absolutely still believe that God expects me to do something about it, whether I'm here or living in Minnesota. After all, the Bible says, "True religion is this, to care for the widows and the orphans in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James isn't saying be nice to each other and that's enough. The command "care for the widows and the orphans" isn't mean to be symbolic in any way. He's saying go do it. Love God and love your neighbor. Not deep down in some pink, sweet, cloudy way, but literally. Take care of the poor. Feed, clothe, visit the orphans and widows. If you're serious about it, re-read the story of the Good Samaritan, which takes it a step further. (Our pastors and priests are too often watering this one down.) Not only should you not ignore the poor. Not only should you not be satisfied giving them a dollar as you step over them in the street. But cross the street. Seek them out. Go out of your way to help...even dirty, smelly, sick strangers. Even the ones who don't deserve it. This is serious stuff.
Another thing I've learned (and when I say learned, I think I mean more like a teeny tiny revelation into God's character) from being in Africa is that Jesus was a man of sorrows, well-acquainted with grief. The only reason my heart breaks for these children is because God's heart is breaking even more. He's asking all of us, pleading with us, to be part of the solution, to bring justice to the poor and oppressed, even though it's difficult. Jesus was pretty radical, and he's calling us to be radical, too.
Whew! If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I certainly don't have all the answers. And I'll be thinking a lot in the coming months about how to translate all of this into life back home. For now, I'm happy to be around to take the girls grocery shopping when they need food. And their story is one of the more hopeful ones, since their older brother is currently attending university on a full scholarship and has good job prospects as an accountant when he finishes in June. It won't be the end of their struggles, but it sure could be a new chapter for them. Just as a footnote, Eunie and Eunice and Gradually were featured in a video that was part of the Living Truth telethon in 2008. If you want to hear more about their story, I think you can link to the video here.
4 years ago