Hello Compassion Blog readers.

Sorry I haven’t contributed much lately. I’m still here and still handling crisis communications, in case you were wondering. There is something that has been on my mind that I feel compelled to share with you.

I’m gonna step outside my comfort zone for a minute to share this with you. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was diagnosed with it when I was 15, so I’ve had it for half my life, but you’d probably never know it if you met me. I don’t talk about it much. Most people I interact with on a regular basis don’t even know. In the past 10 years the medical research and pharmaceutical industries have come a long way in treating the disease, and this has allowed me to live to a virtually pain-free, symptom-free life.

But here’s the thing. I have a normal life simply because I happen to have been born in the United States. I have access to powerful drugs. I have insurance to cover the (outrageously high) cost of them. Certainly I am grateful for this, but lately I’ve been thinking about what my life would be like if I were born into poverty in a developing country. What if I was from rural Rwanda? Or a slum in the Philippines? Or a poor community in Nicaragua?

I’d more than likely be totally crippled by now. At 30 years old.

This thought really freaks me out, to be honest with you. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not be able to stand up straight, to walk, or to grip things. To live in constant, life-altering pain. I feel guilty for being happy I was born here. I don’t have to try to live with this disease without the help of drugs. I am not crippled. I assume it’s similar in a way to the guilt a person feels when they survive a car accident where the other passengers died . . . the ugly injustice of it. I understand that God’s ways are higher than our ways, but I struggle to understand why He chooses for some — why He chose ME — to be born into affluence and why He chooses some to be born into poverty. It’s not fair.

Nowhere is this injustice more evident than in the fight against HIV and AIDS. December 1 was World AIDS Day, and Brianne told you about our AIDS Initiative. The amazing thing about this program is that it literally restores justice to an unjust world. Without access to antiretroviral drugs, those battling AIDS in poverty-stricken countries fight an unwinnable war. By providing the antiretroviral therapy, Compassion allows children with death sentences another chance at life. A chance that, had they been born here, they would have had simply by virtue of their nationality.

If anyone is in the position to get this, it’s Godfrey. He understands that he is alive today because Compassion is fighting the injustice of HIV and AIDS in Uganda. His life is his testimony.

Compassion’s AIDS Initiative is more than just drugs. It’s nutritional support. It’s the critical laboratory testing. It’s psychosocial support. It’s treatment of opportunistic infections. It’s transportation assistance. It’s income generation. It’s housing repair. It’s all the opportunities that a person suffering from HIV here in the U.S. would have.

The AIDS Initiative essentially levels the playing field to give every victim of HIV — no matter where they were born — an equal chance to survive this devastating disease.

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  1. Dec 3, 2008
    at 6:04 am

    Becky,
    I could pretty much cut and paste your story and it would be mine. I found out I had rhumatoid arthritis about a year ago, although looking back I have had symptoms my whole life.

    I don’t talk about it in public much, occosionally I write about it on my blog, but most people have no idea about the pain associated with this disease. I mainly talk about it with my husband and a few close friends.

    Like you, esp. when I am feeling sorry for myself (I have not found the right meds. that work for me yet) I think about all the people I see when I travel to the third world.

    I think about people w/ordinary problems like fevers and infections that can’t get help. I see permanantly disfigured people and I feel like you…why them and not me?

    Anyway, I so resonated with every word you said.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    :)

  2. Cheryl J
    Dec 3, 2008
    at 6:33 am

    Thanks for sharing, Becky. I, too, have been wondering a lot lately why I was given the blessing of being born in this country with all the advantages I have experienced in my life. Then I stop to think about what kinds of things I complain about…and it stops me in my tracks.

    The Bible says “To whom much is given, much is required.” I am blessed so I can give. Not so I can “have more and more”. I am grateful I have been given a “mind shift” now and not 30 years from now. But, oh, all the years that I wasted.

    Praise God that He does not leave us alone but He gently confronts and patiently waits to open our eyes.

    I am glad there is good treatment for rheumatoid arthritis now. My grandmother and mother-in-law both had it and it was very difficult to live with much of the time.

  3. Dec 3, 2008
    at 8:37 am

    Excellent post. A good example of being content with how God made you is in my post about Annie at http://compassionjuli.wordpress.com/2008/11/22/no-arms-or-legs-but-full-of-courage/.

    I can’t imagine what her life would’ve been like in a third world country. I shudder to think of it.

    I should write a post similar to yours. I have Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy — a nerve disorder with severe pain in my knee. I’m thankful I have a thousand dollar knee brace to wear when walking or speaking before a group, thanks to insurance. Thanks for the healthy reminder that we don’t have it so bad at all.

  4. Heather
    Dec 3, 2008
    at 10:48 am

    I’m so sorry to hear you have RA..My mother also has it..It seems to run in our family. You might want to check and see(if you havent already)if there’s any family history of rheumatic fever or anything else like that. Rhematic fever,RA,and other things related to it run in my mom’s family..:(
    I’m so thankful we live in the USA!

  5. Fayola shakes
    Dec 3, 2008
    at 11:09 am

    Thanks for sharing that. My mom had rheumatic fever when she was a kid in Jamaica. She always says that if she’d grown up in the U.S., half the maladies she suffered as a child would’ve been non-issues, and to never take our healthcare system, no matter how flawed it may be, for granted. Thanks for this reminder.

  6. Dec 3, 2008
    at 5:09 pm

    Becky, that was much apprciated and I can identify with 100% of what you shared.

    God bless you and God bless this Compassion ministry.

  7. Amber Van Schooneveld
    Dec 4, 2008
    at 7:29 am

    I agree with Fayola–what a refreshing perspective to have on our health care system. Thank you for being willing to share, Becky.

  8. Dec 4, 2008
    at 3:14 pm

    Wow. Great blog post, Becky. It is amazing that in every struggle in life you can see hints big and little of God’s provision. This is a great reminder of how fortunate we are in this country. Your story highlights the plight of the disadvantaged. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Pam
    Jan 31, 2009
    at 7:06 am

    Thank you for sharing this. My eight-year-old son was diagnosed with JRA just before he turned three. It began in his knee, and at times, his knee would flare so badly that we would have to carry him. Sadly, the arthritis has spread throughout most of his small joints. But I am very thankful that we do have access to doctors and medication for him. I also ask our two compassion children to pray for him.

    My son’s rheumatologist has recently moved to Thailand (where he was born) to begin a pediatric rheumatology clinic that will serve all of Southeast Asia. I also met another Thai doctor who will be joining him. I talked with her some months ago and discovered that there were no pediatric rheumatology doctors in Thailand; all children in Thailand with arthritis become crippled. Learning that helped me to be even more thankful for the opportunities my son has here in the U.S.

    Please pray for the efforts of Doctor “Tash” and his assistants as they seek to serve the children of SE Asia who have JRA. Thank you.

    May the Lord bless you with good health and may He continue to bless the work of Compassion.

  10. Feb 2, 2009
    at 11:27 am

    Pam, thanks for sharing your son’s story. Praise God for Dr. Tash!

  11. Randa
    Feb 24, 2009
    at 11:31 pm

    I am glad that I read your blog. I was actually just tested for RA two days ago. I’m only eighteen years old, I’ve had back and feet problems for two or so years.. A couple weeks ago as I was taking some alieve before i went to bed (to relieve the pain so i can walk in the mornings) I thought how fortunate i really am. And if I lived in a third world country and did not have acess to that i would have to stay in bed and would eventually would not be able to move at all. I would miss out on so much.
    And the more i got to thinkin about that the more my heart ached for people less fortunate than I. I’m only positive that happens all the time. To children and young adults that if they could only take an ibuprofren or alieve a day they would be living a completely different life. Even in our own aches and pains and battles we have it so much better than so many other people. I am again reminded by your blog just how blessed we really are here :)
    Thank You for sharing

  12. Feb 25, 2009
    at 10:17 am

    Randa,

    I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling with pain, but glad that you’ve been able to keep a good perspective about it.

    I’m confident God will use every circumstance in our lives for His good, if we surrender it.

  13. Michelle
    Dec 2, 2009
    at 5:26 pm

    Excellent blog article. Really puts things into perspective. Like another poster said: It puts the American healthcare system in a much better light too!!! Oh how I wish that all people had access to health care… I’m glad our sponsored children get it now. My little girl recently had a doc checkup and she was told she was doing wonderfully and given vitamins!!! :)

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