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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.