Have you ever had a monumentally bad week? I’m not talking about running late, forgetting to turn off the sprinklers sort of bad, but an epic week that shifted your normal and changed everything? Last September, I had one of those weeks.
My very bad week began with the worst kind of phone call. One of my college roommates died in a car crash that morning. It was just months before her wedding.
Days later in my newly married community group, I watched a dear friend and Air Force officer weep as he looked deployment square in the face while holding his two-week old baby girl.
And then I got a letter from Compassion.
Weeks before, I learned that one of our Compassion kids, Kevin, had been removed from the sponsorship program. His mom had a good job, and he didn’t need us anymore.
We rejoiced with him and with his mother who was finally able to provide for her son, and we prayed for the new child who would greet us in the mail and take a place among the photos on our bulletin board of Compassion kids past and present. When the letter arrived that week, we met our new little guy through a cartoonish worksheet he had filled in about himself with crayons and pen.
Ezra indicated he was from Indonesia, average height, average weight, enjoyed school and loved his family.
In the last section of the sheet, tucked on the back page, he got to ask us something. There was just room for one question to these strangers on the other side of the world.
“Do you get to eat every day?”
There it was. A punch in the stomach. The ache for him. The knowledge that he had seen hunger. He had known it. The understanding that he got a chance to ask us anything, and he chose that question.
Three great tragedies – death, separation, poverty – all in one week.
I was down for the count, lost and overwhelmed. The world was too filled with grief, and my contribution wasn’t going to make a dent in it.
But in the days that came after, I saw friends and families swarm my college roommate’s grief-stricken family. People helped meet her family’s needs, provided council and casseroles, and sat through the long, tear-filled silences.
In all sorts of ways, they were the bringers of compassion, loving on parents who had lost a child, sisters who had lost a sibling, and a fiancé whose whole life changed.
We rallied around our friend who was to be deployed. He left knowing his wife and daughter had a dozen families ready to lend a hand – a dozen men to call for plumbing emergencies, a dozen girls to have movie nights with, a group of moms to turn to for mothering tips, and a lawn that would be faithfully mowed every week so his wife never looked like she was temporarily husbandless.
And then there was our Compassion child.
Yes, Sweet Boy, we get to eat every day, I whispered to his little kid handwriting.
But still, compassion comes at a cost.
My husband and I drive old cars. We only go to the dollar theatre, and we don’t have cable TV. The realities of our budget elicit an occasional pity party when I see a friend’s new family-friendly SUV and am reminded that we don’t have a nest egg big enough to start a family.
But we eat every day.
Is the cost to sponsor a child a sacrifice? Yes.
Will it break us? Nope.
But without our monthly commitment, Ezra could be the one to break.
For me, sponsorship means less grande, three-pump, no water Chai Tea Lattes. For him it means an introduction to Jesus, clean water, a belly full of food and a head full of knowledge from school.
Or as Christ said it – hope and a future.
We live in a world of blistering hurts and festering, generations-long injustices. God, in his sovereignty, lets us help ease suffering and right wrongs, and in the process, we’re changed too.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed and to be sure that nothing you do will make a dent. When I was in that place, God used the question of a little boy to remind me that only He could save the world, but in the process, He would use my little contribution to make a difference in the world of one child.
It was an awful week of tragedies followed by months of hope as God brought a community of people around the hurting and reminded us all that we get to be used by Him. The sacrifice becomes the gift, and amid the suffering, we can be the bearers of compassion.
I hope that someday when Ezra becomes a father, and his child gets to ask just one question to people on the other side of the world, it won’t be the same one we were asked.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Warren is a writer who works in public relations for a university. She is also a newlywed who lives in Oklahoma with her husband, Kevin. When Sarah learned that Kevin sponsored several Compassion kids, she decided it would be nice if he asked her to marry him.
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