This past weekend we visited a family we have supported quite a lot over the last several years. We’ve mainly invested in the one child’s education (the other’s is sponsored by someone else) and we wanted to see them so we could catch up and introduce them to Jacob.
The mother is a very humble lady. We had just paid for some school fees earlier in the week, so she expressed her thanks to us for this. She couldn’t even look us in the eye as she said thank you. My heart broke as she sat there before us. I cannot imagine being in a position of relying on the goodness of other people to pay your children’s way through school.
The mother has a job cleaning for a family six days a week. This pays approximately £34.00 ($54CDN) a month. Her rent for her two-room house is about £47 a month ($75CDN). We don’t know quite how she makes up for this shortfall and buys any food for her family.
After our visit with the family, the daughter took us to her best friend’s house as she wanted to meet us. Her younger brother came as well. There wasn’t anyone home at the friend’s place so the girls had bought a few snacks and drinks for us. They also bought a small toy for Jacob, which was so lovely for them. We had a good time with the girls as they are both very vivacious young ladies with a good sense of humour.
At one point the conversation got serious and the young girl we’ve supported also expressed her thanks to us for the way we have supported her and her family. I choked back the tears as she said that she has hope for her future because of our generosity. It made me realise yet again how important our support is for her and the free education that the Beyond Ourselves schools offer to children that are in a similar position to her.
And then the younger brother mentioned he’d like a pair of Adidas shoes. My heart sank and my mood changed and I got annoyed. There were several other things that were mentioned that they wanted but for some reason this pair of Adidas shoes really got under my skin – how dare he be so precocious and ask for these after all that we’ve done for his family and surely some of the necessities are much more important than a new pair of shoes!
On our way home I expressed my annoyance to Dan and in his wisdom he reminded me of a few things.
1. He’s 10.
2. His friends may have Adidas shoes and so no wonder he wants some.
3. He may be thinking this is the one opportunity in his life to get his coveted pair of Adidas shoes.
4. We don’t know what it’s like to grow up in extreme poverty, how can we really judge this request.
With this new perspective my annoyance fell away and compassion arose – the kid just wants some shoes…
So I had in mind that upon returning home I’d pop onto facebook and see if anyone in the Loughton area had a pair of size 3 Adidas shoes kicking around in their home to pass along to friends of ours who are coming to visit next month. Surely that’s a good compromise – he’ll get the shoes he wants but they might not be new.
I read a book before we left that was all about how if we give handouts to people we aren’t actually helping them. As I read the book I found it very convincing. Things like education, job creation, industry etc etc need to be invested in as they are the long term solutions. This is all well and good when I’m sitting in the UK but then the need or even the wants are right in front of your eyes, this all seems so much less convincing.
Earlier in the day when we were in town there was a street boy that lingered around our vehicle as we got in. He didn’t ask for money or food, he just sort of hovered around. There are loads of street kids in Kitwe so this isn’t abnormal at all. Admittedly, we didn’t do anything other than just get in our vehicle and leave. As we drove away and I just couldn’t help but feel like Jesus would not drive away. I felt sick to my stomach. Surely Jesus would do something practical. I could pray for him but when I’ve got money in my pocket, I’m pretty sure it would be shameful to pray but not fill his tummy. Even if it is a handout, surely Jesus would feed them?
And even with the shoes, I can’t help but think, surely it’s the heart of God to bless this child with new shoes. Surely to honour this boy means giving him new shoes. Or doesn’t this type of theology work here? If it doesn’t, it means it’s not good anywhere.
I don’t think I can let another street child walk away hungry. Jesus gave and gave again. If he did it, then I should too.
I can’t quite figure out though what Jesus would do about the Adidas shoes…