Sardines or Lessons From the Field

I can’t get this photo out of my head. In my job each day, I look at tons of photos from the field, but some stick with me.

The Camilo family children show the sleeping arrangements in their home.

Edwin Estioko, our Communication Specialist living in the Philippines, took this picture of the Camilo family. A family of eight who share this little home together. What you’re seeing is their whole home. There’s not a sitting room hiding just at the edge of this photo. That’s it. Those little children sleep lined up by each other like sardines each night.

When I was a little kid I had a nickname: Heater Legs. At night, my legs would reach roughly 375 degrees and, allegedly, flail wildly all night. My sisters would fight over who had to sleep next to Heater Legs on vacation, ‘cause it wasn’t gonna be a fun night.

I wonder if one of these cute little kids is a Heater Legs. Or a Snorer. Or a Bed Hog … umm, I guess that would be a Ground Hog in this case. And yet despite this sleeping situation, here they lie smiling. Some days this family only eats bananas. Some days they don’t eat at all. And yet when Edwin asked them to show him how they sleep, they rushed to their places, laughing and pushing each other playfully. They don’t mind it because they keep each other warm.

It reminds me of something Paul Henri, our communications specialist in Burkina Faso, said to me. Paul Henri just recently started working for Compassion; he goes out to the projects to get those great stories about how children are affected by Compassion’s ministry. And this is what he had to say about the kids he gets to meet: “Something great that I have learned from children I interview is their happiness despite poverty. They seem not to be affected by poverty. When I talk to them, I usually see a large smile on their faces. This makes me remember Jesus, who was sleeping in the stern of the boat while a storm was raging.”

These children in the Philippines and Paul Henri in Burkina Faso sure give me perspective. It’s hard to keep up my attitude of grumbling when I remember those little faces lined up on the floor. Faces that reflect joy despite the storm they’re in.

It’s not that we don’t have real problems here, too. We might be facing unemployment or divorce or infertility or cancer. Our problems are real and hard. But what I’m learning from the field is that I can’t wait for life to be perfect to live in Christ’s joy. I sometimes think that if only this one thing happened, I’d be happy. But I can’t wait to have joy and peace until my storms have passed.

Oh, for the day I can become like a child — to live each day with a kid’s playful smile on my face. To have Jesus’ peace and joy today, despite my worries, just like those cute little kids in the Philippines.

10 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Mike Van April 24, 2008

    It’s a little hard to think about, that picture. It’s like living in my closet. As a born and raised American, I think: I just couldn’t do it. Then a voice comes back to me: “You would if you just didn’t have any choice.” Sometimes it’s easy to think that, what with globalization and everything, that everywhere has pretty good opportunities now and the US isn’t so special anymore (and is maybe less awesome). But it this helps keep me in perspective. Things are pretty easy here. We have lots of opportunities–we’re prepared for them, brought up with them, encouraged, educated. I know I was. I had so much of that I was able to blow it off and take it for granted to it had to be shoved down my throat a lot. And just because they’re from somewhere else doesn’t make it okay for them but not okay for me. All I know is that I still have a lot to learn.

  2. Amber Van Schooneveld
    Amber Van Schooneveld April 24, 2008

    Thanks, Anthony. You, in turn, made my day with your comment!
    Amber 🙂

  3. anthony njoroge April 22, 2008

    hi amber,

    let me just say you made me laugh so heard that the guy next to me though I was going mad.

    Your post was not only funny, but so true and yet so sad..

    thanks for making my day

  4. Amber Van Schooneveld
    Amber Van Schooneveld April 21, 2008

    Thanks, everyone! I enjoy reading your comments as well, as I can learn so much from you!

  5. Richard McClatchey April 19, 2008

    I know I’ve posted a lot within the last couple of days, but doing so means so much to me and I have to let my feelings out. I agree and am moved to see their humble conditions. However, I’m also have joy in my heart, knowing they’re happy and content, despite their circumstances. Because of children like these, makes me aspire to become a missionary to help them out. I’ve been to homes similar to these and I thank God for giving me the ability to actually see where these families live. It’s a real experience, I recommend to anybody.

  6. Kelly @ Love Well April 17, 2008

    Great post, Amber. I think the line about learning to have joy in the midst of our circumstances TODAY, no matter what they are, is a terrific take-away lesson.

  7. Compassion dave April 17, 2008

    I just had a church secretary drop me an email. “Just wanted to let you know that you’ll have 3-4 minutes to speak at each service. See you Sunday,” Initially I had been given 10 minutes (which included a video slot).

    Oh, I’m not complaining; the Lord is still very much in charge — The power He displays will only be magnified as a result of the shortened time.

    But it would be nice if she could see this photograph and read your comments.

  8. Ian Durias April 17, 2008

    Well said, Amber.

    And as much as your picture has seared an image into my mind, so did your phrase: “I wonder if one of these cute little kids is a Heater Legs. Or a Snorer. Or a Bed Hog.” That image became more real to me coupled with your words. I appreciate you sharing this with us.

  9. Becky April 17, 2008

    Yeah, this one got me too, Amber. Great post.

  10. Vicki Small April 17, 2008

    Great post, Amber; I am particularly struck by your last paragraph, and I share your desire.

    Thanks for putting this photo into perspective for us.

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