It has been said that more people in the world have access to a cellphone than a toilet. In the country where I live, a new, low-end smartphone easily costs half of one’s monthly salary– if they have a good, stable job. Many don’t, and even a basic “dumb phone” can strain their finances.
So yes, I know people without a toilet. I know people without a phone. People who can’t afford the $12 taxi ticket to travel to the capital city, six hours away. People who don’t even have their own moto for transportation. People who can’t afford to buy fruit or vegetables to cook with their rice and just eat whatever the cat dragged in today. Let that sink in.
It breaks my heart to see it.
Three months ago, one of my fourth-grade students, Ounnang, was driving home from school on the moto with her little brother on the back. It had just rained, and as they went around a corner the moto began to slide. Ounnang put her foot down in an effort to keep the moto from tipping over, but it didn’t work. The moto went down, on top of her leg.
A couple of our teachers were driving by, saw it happen, and stopped to help her and contact her family. They told me about it that evening, and I decided to visit. It is customary to give fruit when visiting sick people, to help them recover their health and as a gesture of love (fruit is considered somewhat expensive here, most between $0.50 and $1.00 a pound, except for some imported luxury fruit like grapes or apples, which are even more.) Knowing this, I bought a kilo of grapes to take, a fruit most people love but can’t afford.
I had been told she was at the government hospital, so I went there first. There is nobody at places like this to give directions, and the doctors generally don’t remember names, so I ducked my head into each room looking for her– and didn’t find her. I figured out she had gone home, got directions, and got back on my moto. It was raining again. I pulled up in front of the house, and her little brother, followed by her mom and grandmother, came out to see who had arrived. They took me to the back of the house where she lay on a sort of porch, where she could watch the dogs and chickens running around and see her mother cooking rice. The operation at the hospital would have been too expensive, probably a couple hundred dollars, so they had a traditional doctor set her leg and put a makeshift cast on it (think “witch doctor” if you’ve read mission stories). I gave her the grapes, and her family tried to give me food– fried banana, sweet beans, and sticky rice, wrapped in banana leaves. I said I didn’t need it, but they insisted. They were so grateful for my visit. I stayed for awhile, talked to Ounnang, prayed with her, and left.
She shouldn’t have to go through this kind of thing. She’s only ten. And without proper medical care. It’s not fair.
And yet, she was happy. Bored perhaps, and in pain, but happy. Because happiness is not based on what you have: it’s a choice.
When I remember my friends in the village who can’t afford to buy vegetables, who just eat what the cat catches, whose children may never grow as tall as they could have if they’d had proper nutrition; when I remember the children who can only dream of having one of the flimsy plastic toy trucks from the market; when I remember Ounnang and so, so many others like her… It hurts. I want to do something, anything, to help. I long to see them come to know Jesus as their heavenly Father. But I only have one mouth to teach with, only two hands to cover their wounds. And there’s thousands in these villages… These tiny villages which are like specks on the vast planet where we live.
I’m not asking for help. If you gave me even a thousand dollars I wouldn’t know what to do with it… Because it’s simultaneously too much and not nearly enough. My two hands can’t bind a thousand wounds, no matter how much money is in my pockets.
What we need here, around the world, even in your neighborhood, is more hands to heal, more voices to share and teach.
After returning from spending two months visiting my family in America, when I first pulled up in front of the school, several students came running to hug me before I even reached the door. One was Ounnang.
Someday, very soon now, I can’t wait to stand with you before the throne and here the King say, “‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then [we] will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'”
I long to see His tender smile and hear His reply: “‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'” (Matthew 25:34-40 NKJV)