We drove just over two hours this morning to reach today’s target village. Dodging potholes and navigating unpaved African roads can be soar on a person’s backside. It was refreshing to step out of the van and stretch our legs, as each team member sprang into action. As day three was underway, it was clear that we have been learning each day and growing more efficient as a team. My mother stayed back at the hotel with a stomachache, while I assumed her role as the unlicensed optometrist, dispensing reading glasses for those with poor vision.
Something in my years of work with Young Life, has left me with the habit of searching for what they referred to as “key kids.” That would be the tough guys or leaders who we might reach out to, when attempting to be strategic in reaching a school or community? Jesus had 12 key individuals that He invested in during His ministry, and so as a matter of habit, I found myself visually scanning the crowd and reading faces. My eyes locked on a young man that had a number of men behind him, all appearing to look to him for leadership. He had a solid set of biceps (guns) and so I made my way over to him and motioned his way. He directed his gaze at me as I commented to him with the help of an interpreter. I told him his arms were impressive and we asked him to flex. It was obvious that he was proud of his build, which was not fashioned in a gym with weights, but earned through the hard work of hunting and fighting in the bush, as he told us. We snapped a photo together (above) and exchanged greetings.
The day moved rapidly as we all served in the shade of two ancient trees, that served as the center of this little village. I worked hard dispensing glasses and trying to make sure that I was giving each patient the correct magnification when my mind began to drift. At the time, I was helping an older woman find the perfect pair of spectacles, making her selection based on the fancy zebra pattern with more zeal than her attention to her ability to see. She still seemed very pleased as she showed them off to her friends. I then took a quick look around and watched the doctors and “pharmacist” (RN: Donna) at work, when the question came to my mind, “Are we really making a difference?” My first mental response was a bit on the pessimistic side, wondering if we were. I began to wonder what God’s perspective might be.
As I continued to ponder the question, I couldn’t help but notice that my new found, strong-armed friend, had not left my side since I affirmed him hours earlier. In fact, I had given him a job helping me dispense glasses and we made a good team together (despite the fact that he only spoke about 6 English words). I couldn’t help but notice the impact that the others were having and it was abundantly clear what was happening – there were not only sick people lining up to be seen, regular village people signed up to go through line regardless of their physical condition. Why? Why wait in a line if you are not even in need of medicine? The answer was clear – we were meeting a universal need of every human to be loved and treated with value and purpose – the way God created us. The reason each person wanted the exchange and was willing to stand for hours waiting was found in their desire for personal touch, care, and obvious love that could be felt throughout the community. When we serve, give or love in a way that values others, we also receive back many times over. It seems counter-intuitive, but when we act in such a way – it not only becomes a catalyst for change in those we serve, but in those who are serving as well. Spirits are lifted, hope is renewed, smiles were abundant and the entire atmosphere changed in a palpable way. We were supporting the work of a man by the name of “Sulimana”, the local pastor to this village and it was making a difference indeed. Next time you hear a voice telling you that caring for another human does not truly matter, silence the thought with your actions by loving with intentionality, even if it appears that you will gain nothing in return. Thanks for your prayers!