16 Dec

6 months ago a pastor visiting from an African country visited our church. We are partner churches with his church.  His word stirred in our minds like thunder and lightening in a storm. A man, a father, a pastor, a brother of ours eating once a day, doing what he can in one of the poorest countries. He was there – in front of us – speaking the Word of God and the truth of his life.  By the end of the service, Dave and I knew we needed to connect with him and help in tangible ways.

As the past 6 months went on, we would occasionally get an email from him and we would share our life and struggles. Due to medical issues, he is back in the US receiving medical care. Today we were blessed to listen to him give our sermon at church and even more blessed to take him out to lunch afterwards.

Imagine a man from one of the poorest countries in the world coming to one of the glutton-ess countries of the world and seeing how we tick.  A menu with 10 pages of words and pictures showing a laundry list of foods that are available with one command to a man who eats one bowl of rice and vegetables and maybe fish a day. Every day. Just one.

We listened to truths of his life – how things work, the struggles, the things lacking, the school life for his children, the people dying of malaria while he had just learned that his 5 year old daughter had contracted it while he was in America and she was in the hospital. Watching him learn tic-tac-toe for the first time, giving up on the menu and asking us to help him order a simple burger, contemplating ketchup for french fries and intently watching as we added all of our sauces and dips and extras. Talking about touching snow for the first time and seeing and tasting a big turkey for Thanksgiving when in his world, Thanksgiving is simply a day where they gather around the table and give thanks for life. Life.

I was embarrassed.

I prayed my kids wouldn’t complain that their food tasted bad.  I prayed that they would have good manners and hear something that would make them see in a real way what a blessed life they lived.

I was embarrassed.

As he was telling me about the school in my town that he visited where he was blown away at the education the young children have.  Books – smart boards – work sheets – libraries – activities.  His children go to a small room crammed with 40 children, one black board with chalk and a teacher with one book.  They do not get their own books.

My kid complains about the books that he has to read each night.  We have so many books in this house that we regularly pack some aside to donate. The boring ones. The ones that we’ve grown tired of.  His kids don’t even have one.

We bundled up a gift back for Christmas for his family. His six children – three biological, one via adoption and two that he has taken into care for when the parents could not.  It was not much that we gave – some baseball hats with our state teams on for him and his boys, a little hello kitty purse for his 5 year old daughter, some jewelry for his daughters and wife.  My boys added a couple of their matchbox cars.  You know, the bucket of about 100 that they have in their rooms that they never play with.

“Do your boys have cars to play with?”

“No they do not. They will LOVE these.”

I was embarrassed.

I struggle very much with living in a land where even the poor have ways to have their needs met almost always.  I’m not saying it’s not hard to be poor in America, because I’m sure it is, but in this land we have food pantries, soup kitchens, places to lay your head, places to get clothing, even if you can not afford.  Where this man lives, he and his family of 8 do not eat more than once a day, ever.

I am humbled when I think about that meal, learning about his country, thinking about ours, hearing that people in his country think of America as the 2nd heaven. There is no greater place than our country.  Yet, how often do we complain about what we’re lacking.

As I sit here, I think about my big house, my two cars, my three beautiful children with more clothes in their closets than they wear, each child a room of their own. I think of my dog who eats twice a day on top of the scraps he gets.  I think about the fact that we would never ever allow a family to keep their child out of school and the kids whose families can’t afford to go to school. I think of my pantry being full of food, yet so often we go out to eat because we “have nothing to eat”.  I think of the meals and snacks and sodas and coffees that come so easily and unexpectedly to my family. I think of the expectation of our children to go to college and then of those who won’t likely finish middle school.

Though humbled, our conversation and fellowship was fantastic.  We learned about some of the inner workings of this country, these people and this beautiful family who are blessed each day too.  We saw great pride in his face as he shared about his country and community and congregation and family.  We are blessed by his friendship and pray he feels the same.

One of the main reasons that we lose our enthusiasm in life is because we become ungrateful..we let what was once a miracle become common to us. We get so accustomed to his goodness it becomes a routine..” Joel Osteen

Praying that our family can keep our eyes on the miracle of our blessings and not forget each day just how blessed we are. When we get annoyed at the little inconveniences in life, I pray we realize just how convenient those inconveniences are in the broad sense of the world.  And I pray that I never mumble and grumble about medical care when my daughter is seeing some of the world’s best a mere 20 minutes away by car.

I am humbled. And blessed.


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