Last week a small group of us stood in Juan’s yard in Ciudad Sandino , Nicaragua , to learn more about his and his family’s life. The air was hot and still, with some pesky flies and mosquitoes buzzing around. His wife, Brenda, did most of the talking. They had 3 children and all of them were sponsored in the local Compassion projects. 3 is the maximum number of children from one family that can be enrolled, so that alone told me they were in a desperate situation. A few from the group sat in some plastic chairs in front of their 12x12 single-room house made of scrap boards, some cinderblocks and a rusting tin roof, as we asked questions about their kids, their jobs, their hopes and dreams, etc. One of their sons and 2 other local boys were high above us in the branches of the mamon tree, gathering the small fruit to eat or sell.
At most homes we visit on these trips, we are welcomed inside. It was different here. Brenda was embarrassed about how little they had; ashamed of their poverty. We all knew that Juan and his family were not less than us; they just had less than us. Despite that, their poverty had begun to work in their minds and hearts to cause feelings of shame and embarrassment over their situation.
When we realized this, it was uncomfortable and we quickly tried to lighten the conversation. We asked how we could pray for them and specifically for Juan – and even then it was Brenda who answered for him. Not wanting to make the meeting so one-sided, we encouraged them to ask questions of us. Most times, the questions we get are pretty light: does it snow where we live, what church do we attend, etc. I wasn’t prepared for the weight of the question Juan asked:
“For you, when you help take care of our children,
is it easy for you, or is it a sacrifice?”
We get caught up in life in America , the richest country and culture in the history of the world. And by American standards, perhaps I am sacrificing to help children like Juan’s. We don’t have cable, we own and share one car, and we try to curb our desire for new clothes or other things, buying stuff second hand when we can.
But looking at Juan and Brenda and all they have to do to care for their children, because they have no other choice, the truth, the absolute truth, is that I know nothing of sacrifice. I have never faced the choices they face daily, and I probably never will. I brush up against poverty on these trips, we sponsor several children and donate in other areas, but looking at their lives it is clear that what we do is pathetically easy and requires no true sacrifice on our part. It is I who should be embarrassed and ashamed, not Juan and Brenda.
Lord Jesus, show me more and more how I can serve you with all I am, how to truly sacrifice, how to truly lay down my life for others, for You.
Tomorrow is a day of Prayer and Fasting for the Global Food Crisis. Please join in! Go to www.compassion.com/pray to learn how this crisis is affecting those in poverty and to add your name to the list of those who will be in prayer for Compassion children and their families during this time.