I kept my hotel key in my pocket all day today. At first it wasn’t on purpose, just a convenient place to keep it after eating breakfast. Later, as we sat listening to the children sing at the Child Sponsorship Development Program about an hour away from our hotel, I noticed the outline of my keycard in my pants. I started to take it out and put it in my backpack, but something stopped me, and so I left it.
Five hours later, I was on a boat with one of our Compassion trip leaders in a more rural area than yesterday. It was a boat made of styrofoam, fastened together with boards between. It was big enough for three of us to sit on (very carefully) and one person to push in the back, standing with a bamboo stick. It was the only way to get from the road to Emily’s house. I thought it couldn’t get worse than Rose Ann’s house in the city yesterday. Turns out, it kind of can. If you add water.
I keep saying ‘boat’. It was so not a boat. It was more like a raft made of organized trash. You wouldn’t let your kids float on this in a pool, much less have it be the only thing standing between you and a cesspool of water filled with trash and feces. Do you see it there in the picture? Look close.
There on the left is the boat, and I’m guessing on the right is extra materials incase that one falls apart. This boat is important in Emily’s family. It is the only way for them to get into their home and back out again. Sometimes the children just swim over. I said a prayer to the Lord to preserve that boat/raft, and not just because I was on it. They need it. If you have a hard time picturing how that works, Kat has a video up on her blog that shows our visit today.
So as three of us sat statue still balancing on top of the raft, we looked at the row of corrogated tin roofs we were floating towards after leaving Emily’s house. And someone pointed and said “In that whole row of houses live kids who are sponsored by Compassion.” Soon, we start just referring to those type of homes as “Compassion houses.” After that, whenever someone pointed saying That’s a Compassion house, there was a collective sigh of relief.
Because now, I know what that means.
When we got on the bus to drive back to our hotel, I sat numb and bleary eyed, not sure what I was feeling. And Tsh looked at me and said, Just be sure what you’re feeling isn’t guilt. Don’t feel guilty for what you have, thinking you have everything and they have nothing. It isn’t the case.
She’s right. And I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better. Because I was there. I can’t explain it but I also can’t deny it. They have more difficult lives than I will ever know. And some of them die from Malaria or measles or other preventable diseases. But if they meet Jesus, at least they will not die from despair.
It is the only thing that kept me upright today. Because walking through that water in knee high rubber boots, being led by a barefoot boy who was holding our shoes is not something that makes sense. I have been picked up by my ankles and shaken upside down. I have been flipped over like a pancake and flattened like gum on a tire. I have been lost and found and lost all over again.
As we sat in Emily’s house with her brother, sister, their grandmother Lola and their mother Susan, Keely asked what we could pray for them about. We do this at every home visit, and every family asks for the same two things: They ask for good health, and they ask for daily bread. So that is what we prayed for.
“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”
Lamentations 3:19 – 22
And I pat that key card again in my pocket, considering all it represents. Will you join me in praying for good health and daily bread for this family? Would you consider sponsoring a child in one of the homes that isn’t a Compassion home in order to make good health and daily bread a realistic opportunity for someone else? Pick yours out today.