The following e-mail was written by Ben Savage. If you missed Monday’s post, Ben and Amy Savage are in Uganda right now with Children’s Hopechest. They have shared several poignant experiences and thoughts so beautifully; I wanted to share them here as well.
Today I walked into a world unlike any other that I have experienced. I arrived two days ago with a team from Children’s HopeChest to visit orphan communities in the hopes of creating connections between our world of plenty and their world of want.
As we drove through the towns, I witnessed a bizarre mixture of beauty, despair and hope. The landscape was truly astounding. There were many imaginative and hardworking people who had used what little resources they could muster to create businesses that were showing signs of success. The next sight I would see would be a child naked, in a ramshackle mud hut with no one to care for them.
In this strange stew of images we pulled into Rapha Community School, a community that is sponsored by a church in Florida through Children’s HopeChest. We were greeted by 150 children in white shirts and orange smocks. The children were not exactly what I expected. True, their situation was more dire than any I’ve seen, but the children shone like the sun. Their smiles were bright and filled with pride and dignity. The children greeted us individually and thanked us for coming. I only wish my children acted this respectfully. After we toured the community, we were escorted to their schoolroom. The room consisted of a small map of the world, a few old posters and rough-hewn benches.
The children sang a welcome to us. They danced and recited God’s words to us. I was challenged and changed by all of this. And then there was Sarah, who read Matthew 6 aloud. Sarah, who, from all earthly perspectives should be disabled with despair for her future spoke of faith. She is an orphan who has depended on God to deliver food, shelter and all other earthly needs. She had suffered loss and pain that people in my community would have spent countless dollars on therapy to recover from, but today Sarah spoke to me of faith. She read:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34
To hear a lovely child of God with a gleaming face recite those words to me was the high point and most devastating moment for me. The thought that Sarah, who has good reason to worry about tomorrow, would unassumingly speak those challenging words to us fairly contented and well fed Americans destroyed me. That we worry more about the news from Hollywood than the desperation found around the world was nothing short of life changing. While our culture is so consumed with anxiety and fear, here was little Sarah exemplifying faith and courage. She read the words but I could see that she felt them too and that she felt them deeply.
I have always loved that passage and thought about it as a cute phrasing of my simple faith. But today I heard it as a life mantra that was spoken from the core of this small-framed girl. It was the throwing down of the gauntlet. And the question that confronts me now as I sit in my Ugandan hotel and Sarah sleeps in her mud hut is “What will I do to respond?” I have been blessed – not so much that I am rich in my own community necessarily, but I am insanely rich in a global context. I have also been exposed to enough of the difficulties that these communities face that I can no longer hide behind ignorance. Do I truly believe that these children are more valuable than my cable television? I am the “I want my MTV” generation.
As Africa burns, I live in comfort and ease while I CAN make a difference in the lives of others, but will I choose to? What sacrifice have I been willing to make to help fulfill God’s promise of care to others? I will live differently from this day forward. Have mercy on me God, though I truly don’t deserve it. I have for too long ignored your call to love those who are broken and abused. Help me capture and hold onto the conviction, sorrow, and joy reflected in Sarah’s eyes today. And thank you for showing me a picture of your heart through these broken but not forgotten children in Rapha. I am devastated and changed. Thank you, sweet Lord.