Thursday, May 8, 2008

News from Shinyanga

My sister has been in Tanzania since January. Her first few months were a part of a program doing a semester of college abroad. Now her semester is over and she is working with a Dutch woman who's under AIM. She sends letters often e-mails amazing pictures, like these:

I read her most recent letter yesterday out loud to my grandfather (who is now living with my parents). She wrote of the numerous challenges that are faced in the very poor place where she is living. There is terrible Aids/HIV devastation, and if that wasn't enough the ignorance about Aids/HIV destroys the people even more.

The widows that can't care for themselves or their children. The mismanagement of money given for the needy. The orphaned children.

This is not anything new out of Africa. But it hurts my heart just the same.

The woman she lives with is 58 and has "adopted" 4 children into her home. I say "adopted" because they are not legally hers. They belong to no one and she is not allowed, as a foreigner, to adopt the children. But she has opened her heart and her doors to children left for dead - quite literally. The youngest, who is now 3, she found as an infant wrapped up, tied in a bag, thrown into some brush at the side of the road.

As the letter came to a close, my grandfather sort of shook his head and could only find the words to say "Well.. I think I'm off to bed now." I gathered my own 5 little ones and came home to put them to bed as well. We went through the getting ready routine, I tucked them in, and read a chapter aloud from the chapter book we're reading. At the end of the chapter 5 little heads were sleeping soundly and I walked out to our living room.

I sat down and cried. I cried for Africa. I cried for my sister. I cried for the woman she works with. I cried for all the babies who are abandoned to die. I cried for the widows. I cried because I often think I have nothing to give. I cried because I was born privileged and for 95% of my life I have only thought of my own wants and needs, how everyone infringes upon my comfort, and didn't hear the cry of the suffering.

I read this verse this morning Proverbs 28:27 "He who gives to the poor will lack nothing....."

So I trust God's word that I can give even when I don't see how. But then I pray because I wrestle this inner turmoil of how to give. How do I give? And to whom do I give? Do I give to the crisis pregnancy center in my own town? Do I give to the food pantry in our church's community that is struggling to fund a building project (they currently work in tiny quarters that are not handicap accessible)? Do I sponsor a child? Do I give to humanitarian aid? Do I give to a homeless shelter?

I start to feel the weight of the whole world so heavy on my heart..... there are so many, how does one choose?

Who do you give to? And how did you choose?


danica said...

I'm with you on feeling absolutely overwhelmed by how much need there is, and where to start.

I've supported different things over the years, and I guess one thing I've always done is just make fairly short commitments. Sometimes I renew my commitment, but sometimes I've become aware of another need, and feel I want to give to that, instead. Anyway, I don't sign my life away, and don't feel obliged to any one organization.

Ryan and I are talking now about just having a monthly "give" budget, and each month, decide where to send it. Obivously that doesn't work for sponsor children type situations, but you get the idea. I think being aware of how God is calling you in each season is important. More than simply our finances, He is interested in enlarging our hearts.

Joanna said...

Things like that really hurt the heart. To answer your question on how do you choose, you just pray. You pray that God will point you in the direction of where to give. He will make sure that money is put where it needs to be.
As of right now, we are only giving to our church. We can't budget to give anywhere else. Although I do pray for others where I would like to help. And I do give material items when I see there is a need and I have the item.