Children left on the streets as beggars, some almost killed by their parents who thought it would be less painful for them to bleed to death than to starve–these were my roommates, companions, brothers and sisters this summer.
When I signed up to serve in the Philippines as a media missionary, I never imagined living in the realities I experienced during the two months I was there. It wasn’t the stifling heat, lack of air conditioning and toilet paper or strange foods that surprised me; it was the times when children would take me by the hand and tell me the stories of how they came to live at the orphanage that wrenched my heart.
I spent the summer traveling between three orphanage teams on the island of Mindanao taking pictures and writing stories of what God was doing through the women assigned there.
Traveling by yourself definitely makes for an adventure, including a few marriage proposals and several new acquaintances. But I didn’t go for the adventure because the excitement of experiencing a new culture wore off around week three.
It was about obedience and self-sacrifice in order to serve the Lord that brought me there and kept me going all summer.
You are probably aware of the needs of children like the ones I met. Compassion International often visits campus with pictures and information about their lives, but it’s easy to walk right by without even taking a second glance.
You have probably also seen commercials where a child with a protruding stomach walks barefoot searching for food before the spokesman disappears behind a train flashing by. But it’s also easy to pick up the remote and quickly change the channel or forget about it when the next commercial fades in with a catchy jingle about some must-have product.
But when you sit and hold a 4-year-old whose mother tried to kill him and his older sister so she would have fewer mouths to feed, you can’t escape that. You can’t walk past him like you do a table covered in pictures because he will run after you and grab your hand. He will speak to you in the Visayan language you can’t understand. Then he will smile and run away, leaving you wondering how many kids are still on the streets or living with abusive parents.
You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to meet a need.
Skip lunch one day. Buy cheeseburgers or sandwiches and head to downtown Temple. There are plenty of people living on the streets there who would love a meal.
One of my favorites is a veteran who hangs out around South 8th and Central. The toothless smile spreading from one side of his dirty, rugged beard to the other will confirm that small sacrifices on our part make deep impacts on those we reach out to.
It’s not about an enormous undertaking of living in a foreign country for a summer. It’s about the small task of seeing a need and meeting it wherever it may be.
Robert E. Speer, a religious leader of the early 1900s, put it like this, “Listen for a moment to the wail of the hungry world. Feel for one hour its sufferings. Sympathize for one moment with its woes. And then regard it just as you would regard human want in your neighbor, or the want that you meet as you pass down the street, or anywhere in life.”