She worked for our family for two years but she was more than a maid, we took an interest in her life, and she felt truly welcome in ours. She invited us over to share a meal and somehow, we found our way to her home out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Turkey, where we were living. A gaggle of chickens strutted around, scratching at the dusty ground. I don’t remember there being grass–at least not like the lawns we have here in the U.S.
Her home was small by most standards, a plain concrete block rectangle, and it was dim inside. I remember how dim it seemed. She decorated with things that we normally toss in the trash, a glass syrup bottle in the shape of a round woman sat on her table stuffed with wild flowers. I’d never seen anyone do that before.
We drank chai with her and ate something I don’t remember. She went out of her way to make us feel welcome in her space, even as she was dirt poor, with nothing much to hold on to.
This was my first encounter with poverty.
Back around the world, and years later as a teenager, I joined a mission trip to a reservation in North Dakota. I never imagined I’d see the things I saw there. In my own country.
The people we went there to serve were living below the poverty level. Many of them were sick. All of them were hungry–and not just for food. It was on the reservation where I saw another kind of poverty–the people of this community were spiritually bankrupt. They had nothing and they hoped for nothing. This remains one of the saddest experiences I have ever faced.
But even so, I got to fly home, back to my cushioned suburban life, driving my parents car, and stuffing myself with fast food. I came home to a closet full of nice clothes and a church community that lifted and encouraged me.
If we choose, we can life our whole life so filled with distractions that we never have to face–or be confronted with–real, desperate needs. Noel Yeattes, Awake
The people I had just left had none of this. I didn’t know how to reconcile it. Sometimes, I still don’t.
I think it was then that God began to wake me up.
But I wasn’t ready.
I just didn’t really want to know. I figured since there was nothing I could do about it, it was easier to close my eyes–to just look away.
A few years ago I followed the posts of a Compassion blogging trip to the slums of Mathare, Africa and this time, God opened both my eyes, and my heart. I couldn’t look away–I didn’t want to.
I recently read a book by Noel Yeatts, the Vice President of World Help, “a faith based humanitarian organization that serves both the physical and spiritual needs of impoverished people around the world”. Her book, Awake: Doing A World Of Good One Person At A Time , serves as a wake-up call to those of us who find it difficult to really look at the needs of those who are suffering.
As Christians we have a responsibility to serve the poor. This is not optional. The gospel doesn’t merely suggest it–it demands it:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)
We are called to live life with our eyes open, to watch for the needs of others and then meet those needs to the best of our ability, with God’s help.
Our prayer should continually be, Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.(Psalm 119:18, ESV)
The first step toward changing the world is admitting there is a problem. Noel Yeatts, Awake
I don’t want to close my eyes again. My constant prayer is for God to give me a heart like His. I cannot live like Him if I refuse to look on those in need. I’ve been asleep most of my life.
I’ve had enough. God help me, I want to see.
Are you ready to wake up?
Would you like to join a community of storytellers, using their voice to help change the world?
I’m giving away a copy of Noel’s book to one reader. Simply leave a comment on this post, for an entry. Gain additional entires by sharing, tweeting and pining this post. Leave a comment for each thing you do. A winner will be announced on Monday, Sept. 16th.
Sign up here to download 2 free chapters from the book.
*As part of the launch team for this book I received a copy of Awake for free, for the purpose of my review. All opinions expressed are my own.