On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.

Staring Poverty in the Eyes

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This is my final post for Compassion International‘s Blog Month. As I posted here and here, the goal is to find sponsors for 3,160 children by the end of this month. Today’s assignment is to ruminate on the following quote.

“The presence of dignity doesn’t mean poverty is absent.”

As I glanced up from my laptop, my eyes locked in on our refrigerator. (Yes, my computer station is in the kitchen; no, I wasn’t looking for a snack.) Like many of you, the kitchen refrigerator in our home doubles as a message board/photo gallery/art display area. An orange laminated chore chart hangs in the middle of a collection of touristy magnets that Ryan brings home from his international trips. A neighbor’s homage to vanilla ice cream sandwiches appears next to S’s National Physical Fitness Award. H’s artwork changes on a daily basis, but today a blue dove flies to a green-leafed tree below a very happy yellow sunshine.

On the front of the freezer door are two clips that hold current photos and letters from our sponsored children, Joselinne and Joselyne. The girls call them #1 and #2 to keep them straight. Joselinne #1 is the same age as G, and we’ve been sponsoring her for almost 6 years. We exchange letters regularly, though her father is most often the letter writer. Joselyne #2 is also from Rwanda, but she–like many African children–lives with her siblings and grandmother. She is the same age as S, and when we saw her folder last year at my parents’ church, I felt a tugging on my heart. (Another Joselyne? In Rwanda? With a birthday a week away from S? Coincidence? No way.) She loves to send us letters and drawings. In fact, her most recent drawings were what drew my eye this morning.

IMG_0001Joselyne #2 usually draws flowers. I think that’s a universal little girl thing to draw, but we never know what else to expect. (Case in point: the semi-nude girl in the bottom lefthand corner.) I’m not sure why she chose to include a cup, but I noticed that the cup is full. The car and the house were also interesting to me. Joselyne’s family does not own a car; she walks to school and church. She walks to fetch water and firewood, and I’m not even sure that she understands that all 4 wheels aren’t supposed to be on one side of the car. Her house, too, isn’t grand, but it has windows and a door. I know that, unlike Joselinne #1, she doesn’t have to worry about finding a solidly-constructed house. In fact, this may be her grandmother’s house.

Joselyne #2 is intimate with poverty in ways that you and I never will be; however, her letters and drawings show me that poverty does not define who she is. As does Joselinne #1, her letters always begin with the same salutation: “I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Always.

Mind-blowing, isn’t it? The average Rwandan, like Joselinne’s parents and Joselyne’s grandmother, lives on less than $2 a day, yet these dear families greet me in Christ and write that they regularly pray for me and my family. That’s dignity staring me in the face. These people know that their worth is in Christ, not in their bank accounts.

This isn’t to say that life is rosy for our Joselinnes. Rwandans face a high HIV infection rate, and their country is still recovering from 1994’s horrific genocide. We don’t discuss these topics in our letters, but I wonder how Joselinne #1’s parents both survived the genocide and why Joselynne #2 isn’t living with her parents. When we send checks for the girls’ birthday and Christmas, we receive thank-you notes telling us about the animals and food they purchased. (And they’re buying milk goats and chickens, not hamsters.)

These two beautiful girls may be the faces of poverty, but their lives are a reflection of dignity, hope, and determination. If you’ve never considered sponsoring a child, consider it today. We’ve chosen to focus on the country of Rwanda, but there are many other countries all over the world where you can make a difference in the life of a child. I promise that it will be a life-changing experience: for a child and for you.

 

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