In my last post, I wrote about the feeding program for malnourished children. This week, quite a few new children showed up. A couple of them were pretty severely malnourished, and a couple of them were quite fine and healthy and didn’t need assistance. One of the new children was a two year old named Rachel. A young lady brought Rachel hoping to find someone that could help her. Rachel isn’t malnourished, but she’s a total orphan. In Uganda, there are a couple of terms to describe an orphan. One term is TOTAL orphan, which means both parents have died or both parents are nowhere to be found. “Orphan” can just mean they have been abandoned by one parent, one parent is dead, or they are living with an auntie or grandmother.
Rachel is a total orphan. Her mother died recently, so someone brought her to this young lady to take care of. The lady already has a family of her own that she can barely care for. The addition of Rachel has put her into a desperate situation. If she can’t find a way to feed Rachel and her other children, then these children could easily get to the point of being malnourished or worse. When we see people suffering, we automatically want to help in that current situation. In missionary work and humanitarian aid, what we sometimes neglect to address is the underlying cause of the problem. How did the people get into these situations in the first place? We should be pro active instead of just reactive. Prevention can be just as much or more valuable than treatment. So many factors contribute to people’s suffering. If we can address the root of the problem, then many of the problems can be prevented from ever happening.
Instead of just putting a Band Aid on the things that are wrong, we aren’t doing a service to the people if we don’t get to the cause of the problem. There are so many ways to address the cause once it is identified. The challenge is having the patience, the plan, and the people to carry it out. The Ugandan people are strong and resourceful, and highly community oriented. Many of these issues have to be addressed at the community level through education and empowerment. It’s a collective effort, not an individual project.
Helping people out of their suffering is not an overnight process. It takes time and it also takes creativity. It doesn’t take super heroes. It just takes ordinary people. Throughout the Bible, God chose ordinary people. Imperfect people. Every day I see just how imperfect we are as humans. Every day I get into situations where I don’t know what to do or say. I can’t give everyone money who asks me for it. I can’t make promises that I know I won’t be able to keep. I can’t trust most people until they have proven themselves to be trust worthy. Some of the things I deal with on a regular basis come entirely against my nature. I want to give. I want to promise. I want to trust. If I do all these things freely, I’ll quickly find myself being taken advantage of, misunderstood, or disappointed. Thankfully I serve a God I can always trust. A God that will never let me down. I God that is always honest with me.
So as much as we wanted to help Rachel, we couldn’t right then. We couldn’t promise that we would help this lady take care of her family and new orphan. Promising to help would mean a lifetime commitment to this little girl. Once you give a little to help them get by, you can’t just stop helping before the girl is grown and through school. Furthermore, giving handouts sometimes only disables the people even more. It can make them dependent. You see, it’s a really tough decision to face when you see people suffering. We need your help in praying for the Lord to give us (and missionaries all across the globe) discernment in every decision. It’s not easy when someone’s life and future is at stake.
Maybe you’re reading this and God has put it in your heart to be a part of Rachel’s life in some way. At the very least, maybe you will pray for this precious girl. Every life is important to Jesus. May we all follow His words and “care for orphans and widows in their distress” and be advocates for “the least of these”.