I have no metaphors this time. This is reality.
Yesterday (May 24, 2011) we went to a former IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) Camp. When we first got there, we were shown a memorial for 121 people that were massacred at the site by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). I got chills as they described how people were burned alive and/or shot to death at the very site. There were over a hundred people at this camp when we arrived and we all broke up into three groups to have group interviews with them. After the interviews, the people were able to ask us questions. They all broke my heart. In our group, one man asked if we could take back the orphans to America so they can have a better life. Another asked for funds to pay for education, another for health centers and medicine. Another described other groups that had visited who said they would return and help but never did. They asked whether we would be one of those types of groups. A stab in the heart to say the least.
It has been discussed within our group that people in the developing world have an impression that Americans can afford anything, any time. Although we clearly can’t, I can see how they get that impression. We are so incredibly blessed to travel, and to travel in the way that we do. I particularly have seven sets of clothes, all of which are clean, tear free, and stain free. We donate things that are unfathomable to get in a place like this like toys, new clothes, and money.
I am perpetually ashamed here.
After the interviews, there was a brief celebration with dance and music. Then the donations that we brought from the U.S. were taken out. A crazy crowd basically attacked the single suitcase of measly donations. There was definitely not enough to go around and disappointment set in and the cries of children started to erupt.
As heartbreaking as this was to witness, the next thing that happened pained me so.
I saw a mother holding her child who couldn’t have been more than a year old. Loving children, I smiled and “aww”ed as I looked upon the face of the child and held her head in my hand. A man standing nearby (I assume it was her father) informed me that the child was ill. She has malaria. All I could stupidly do was frown and say “ohh.” Then he asked “can you help?” I don’t remember what I said exactly but it was something useless and unproductive. I essentially did nothing. I offered that I would keep in touch with camp leaders to try and establish some kind of funding through inVisible Hearts.
My prayer has often been “let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God,” a quote by the founder of World Vision. Who knew that I would be the very one to break his heart by doing nothing. I had $200 in shillings in my backpack. In wanting to avoid another scene like the kind that just erupted over the donations, I didn’t pull anything out. It didn’t cross my mind to offer to do anything. I looked at the face of God and did nothing. How disgusting.
So now, in trying to actually practice what I preach, I am, and want to offer all of you an opportunity to do something. Network Against Malaria is a non-profit that raises money to buy bed nets that protect against malaria in Uganda by selling unique bracelets, earrings, and necklaces.
Doing something about a problem does not have to be earth shaking. Even the small things help.