This blog comes with a warning to its readers. Do not read this if you do not want to be stretched, challenged, and maybe even convicted. I write this not to point any fingers anywhere- except at me, myself and I. Yet I have felt compelled to share this for some time. I wrote most of this last month but didn’t post it because, to be totally honest with you, I felt so guilty. I see the poverty all around me. I hold these orphaned children in my lap.
But because I am embarrassed to have blankets on my bedroom windows, I went and bought curtains when I could have helped someone in need. I only need to walk out my front door to meet hundreds of them. Yet a friend’s recent post on Facebook (which I will soon share with you) and spending the past two days crying and praying with the woman who works in our home about her desperate situation have prompted me to not sit on this any longer.
This is what my friend recently posted (to the tune of 10 likes and 3 comments):
It’s almost Christmas time. I remember reading an article several Christmases ago by an economist who theorized that if each and every one of us took all the money and energy we spend each year on Christmas stuff and focused all of it instead on appropriating food around the world, we could end world hunger almost overnight. Easily.
Think about that. The world having the power and the ability to celebrate Jesus’ birth, if even for just one year, by ending hunger on this planet. Right now. That’s pretty powerful. But would we?
For some, this might start to sound like a real sacrifice. Give up Christmas?! Surely not. But Jesus’ parable gets serious and challenges many of our easy assumptions of what sacrifice looks like when we live in abundance compared to those who have nothing.
I wonder if the parable in Mark’s Gospel might challenge each of us to imagine how Jesus would want his birth celebrated this year. Just something to think about. Marc van Bulck
I read such things like this and think the same things you are thinking right now to yourself. And then…I go on with life. The problem for me now is that I just can’t go on with life, or with Christmas. I can’t go out and buy decorations, cards, presents, gift wrap, supplies for baking cookies, an extravagant Christmas meal, etc. anymore. These starving, struggling people are now part of my daily life. I laugh with them and cry with them. I cannot ignore them and their needs anymore. Let me just share a few of their stories with you.
Let me start with our caretaker, Juliao. Juliao is a lovely man. He is gentle, intelligent, dependable, and trustworthy. He comes and cares for our yard every day, rain or shine. He is the father of 9 children. In order to provide for their family, his wife lives and works in Inhambane, about 4 hours away. She lives with two of their children there. She farms and sends food back here for their family. Juliao sees his wife only once each year. He takes leave for the month of December to spend time with her. This is an all too common situation for many families here.
Berta is the woman who works in our home. She has such a heart for others. Her husband was hit by a car and died 9 years ago, leaving her with 7 children, the youngest only 2 months old at the time. Berta has the biggest heart of anyone I know. She takes in all kinds of needy people and provides for them with the little she has herself. For example, she took in and cared for an elderly widow who was ill and had no one to care for her. Berta also took note of the children in her community. They had nothing to do and spent time rummaging through the garbage behind her home, looking for things to sell or eat. She devoted a fourth of her small home and began a project. The children come each day and learn Bible stories, songs, and verses. They learn dances and songs. They learn how to make simple crafts like baskets and jewelry to sell. Berta lives in two small rooms that make up about one-fourth of her home. She has only three children at home with her now. She rents out the largest section of her home, the equivalent of half the building, to a family. She does this so she can give the money to her oldest son for the rent on his home and food for his family.
Berta came to me this week very troubled and asking for prayer. The husband of the family she rents half of her house to, abandoned his wife and three children at the beginning of the month and went to Tete in northern Mozambique. He left her with no money, no food… nothing. Berta has been caring for them, but she has nothing herself. Her pastor and godfather have spoken with her about her situation. They told her that God knew what He was doing when he brought her a woman like herself- a woman with no husband and children to care for. They tell Berta that she should care for this family. The problem with all of this is that Berta has nothing herself. She is really struggling and does not know what to do. She does not have enough money to provide for her own family. Just last month she came to us a week before her pay day and asked for money. They had no money and no food in the house. Can you and I even relate to this- having not a single thing in our cupboards to feed our children? And now, her church is asking her to care for another family as well.
Today I was at the Iris Matola-Rio children’s center. I had taken Lieza and Herminia for shoes. Lieza had been sad all week because she did not have any. So I told her we would take a Girl’s Day Out and get her new ones. I brought Herminia along for company. As Lieza began trying on and selecting a pair of shoes, Herminia stood by us in an old, beaten up pair of shoes that had seen much better days. I realized that I would need to buy a pair for Herminia as well. Lieza chose a pair of sweet little Mary Janes made from flowered canvas material. Herminia had her eye on a pair of very dressy white shoes with little kitten heels. I talked her into a more everyday kind of shoe. She chose a cute pair of blue plaid high top canvas sneakers. At the register, they were eyeing up the candy bars, so we took home a chocolate bar as well. At home, I treated them to Cokes to enjoy with their chocolate bar. And yes, this was all before lunch. But, hey…they are orphans, okay? Just to add- I did have them eat a banana first so that they did get some valuable nutrition in them. When I brought the girls back to the center, I realized how quickly news travels there. I was met by about a dozen children showing me their battered shoes, telling me that they also needed new shoes. They wanted to know when I would take them to the store. They stood before me in their dirty, tattered and torn, over- and under-sized used clothing. It made me just want to weep. They need much more than shoes.
As I was about to leave the center, Joaninha came running telling me that the tias (the term for the women who care for the children) wanted to see me. They were gathered on the covered veranda to escape the hot midday sun. They cleared a space and asked me to sit with them. They shared with me that they needed my help. A young woman that I did not recognize was with them. She quietly sat amongst the other women with tears rolling down her beautiful cheeks. I learned that she is building a cement block home in the area. While it is being constructed, she was living in another home that belongs to someone else. For whatever reason, the owner of the home suddenly decided today to put her out. She came home from work to find all of her belongings in the yard and the door locked. She now has nowhere to go. Her immediate need is to find a place to live until she can finish her home. After her home is finished, she can bring her four year old daughter to live with her. Her second need is to get the funds to finish her home. She needs 300 cement blocks, seven chapas (metal sheets) for her roof, and the wood to provide the support for the chapas. All of these items would most likely cost the amount we drop at the grocery store or mall on any given day. At the very same time, Pastor Helena and I both said we must pray. (Pastor Helena herself is right now in a fight for the home she and her children live in. Her husband has abandoned them as well and wants to sell the home. She is fearful because he is using witchcraft against her to get her out. My struggle in this is…the cost of building her a new home is even less than the amount of the cost of a plane ticket to bring our daughter, Cassie, over to spend time with us at Christmas. My dilemma- a home for Mama Helena or a week with my daughter.) Praying with Mozambican women is such a privilege. They begin by singing- Pastor Helena leading and the group echoing. Then they all simultaneously break into fervent, heartfelt prayer. When we finished, I shared words of encouragement with Delcia and told her that I would not forget her. I don’t know where she is tonight, but I know that she is the daughter of the Most High King and I know that He sees her tears and I have faith that He will provide for her in her time of need.
The part that can overwhelm and discourage me is that these stories are repeated in most of the lives here. I can’t help everyone. These people look to us for help, thinking that because we are white we have loads of money to give.
The poverty is so real and so widespread. It can really overwhelm me. This, however, is why we are here. Not to give handouts, but to give a hand-up. Through the Sunshine Approach, we will transform lives one community at a time with jobs, education, health care, and basic needs like water. Please join us in praying that God continues to provide favor with the needed business and government connections and the funds to bring His vision for the people of Africa to completion. And please keep the poor in your prayers as well.