One of the best things about missions and YWAM is the opportunity to get to know so many people. I’m currently sharing a room with seven other girls, a new record for me. We come from Minnesota, Colombia, Canada, Brazil, New Hampshire, Bolivia, California, and Chile. It’s quite the mix, and we end up communicating in some strange combination of Spanish, English, and Portuguese, haha. I want to write about one of these women, Nancy, who is from Bolivia.
Nancy is 29, sweet, petite, cheery, and beautiful. She is radiant with comfort and unconditional love. I often find one of my other roomates, the baby of my school, curled up next to Nancy, absorbing all of the peace and comfort she offers through her presence. This lovely Bolivian woman came here to take a break from her hectic, heavy job of being a social worker. I once asked her what she used to eat for breakfast in Bolivia, but she told me she never had time to eat breakfast. That she was on the go all day every day, working with children and families in need. Since I desire to be a social worker, I’ve often thought of how I hope my life at the age of 29 looks something like that, except, myself and with a nice bowl of oatmeal in the mornings. Basically, I love and admire Nancy so much, and think of her as an example and a role model for myself.
Last night we were in our room talking, and she was sharing with me how she dreams of one day going to India or Africa to work with children at risk, and how much she adores little black kids. She was laughing and telling me how she always thought that if she didn’t marry an African she would adopt an African child. I remembered that I have a picture of a little Ethiopian boy that I’ve sponsored through Compassion International for years, so I showed her the picture, knowing she would be delighted about his dark skin. But instead of instantly crooning about his afro, when she saw the Compassion slogan above his picture she gasped and said, “Brittany, I was in Compassion.” I thought she meant she had worked in their ministry, because that’s the type of woman she is, so I looked at her, not understanding her reaction, and she pointed at the picture and said, “I was here.”
She was a sponsored child. I started crying, and she was crying.. and as I struggled to process what she had told me and why I was crying, she grabbed my hand and told me that what I was doing by sponsoring that boy is something so, so good. I didn’t need her to affirm my sponsorship of him, on the contrary, I realized that I was crying because I carry this perception, which I know is wrong, which I’ve been taught is wrong, which I want so desperately to go away and that I thought had gone away, that I am somehow better than those I long to “help.” That I have something that the rest of the world needs, more empathy, or creativity, or peanut butter, or something. But here was this woman, whom I love and admire and think of as my equal on every level, someone I look up to, and she had come from the same kind of life, the same kind of vulnerability, as the child in the picture that I send my tithe to.
My dear friend Alisha recently touched on this topic in her blog, and I love how she puts it:
“2) A few months ago, God convicted me of something. As Americans, we tend to feel like we have something to offer the world. I guess we know how privileged we are and feel sorry for the people in the world who have less than we do. Yet we forget that we’re not, in fact, better than those who were born into a small, poor community in Africa, or a little colonia here in Mexico. This morning I was looking through some of my notes and I saw something scribbled in the margins: “We can’t go into ministry if we think of the people as less than ourselves.” I’m not sure why we tend to do that.” -Alisha
I believe the other thing, (the prettier, easier to write about thing,) that elicited my tears is that whenever I pray for the little boy I sponsor I pray that he will become a man of God, a man who uses his life to better the world. When I look at Nancy I know that is possible, that God not only works on behalf of the vulnerable, but also uses lives like hers to carry His heart into a hurting world.