Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lorenzo Won't Let Me Forget

Some days my year in Africa feels like a dream. But Lorenzo won't let me forget that it was real. This picture of him hangs by mirror so I'll see it every morning and remember. I love this picture of him. I love it because it captures some of his spunky personality and because he seems to be saying, "Don't you dare forget us Katie. Don't forget what you saw here. Don't forget our village, don't forget how you saw God working in huge ways and don't forget the poverty. It is real. Don't you dare forget."

But I do forget. America does a great job of hiding poverty so we don't have to see it. Sure, we'll encounter the occasional homeless person and feel uncomfortable and lie about how much change we have in our wallets, but for the most part, we don't see poverty. And so we forget. I forget. Sometimes it's a conscious decision because, "well heck, what am I going to do about it?" and sometimes it's because I'm stuck in Katie's self-centered world and I don't stop to look outside of my bubble. I see the news and the pictures of the pot-bellied kids and although I'm often drawn to tears, I don't do anything.

This is especially troubling for me because I met those pot-bellied kids. I spent Sundays with them for a year playing silly games with them, laughing with them and loving them. Lorenzo is one of those kids. Here is a picture of him with some of the other kids of Shiparango on the first Sunday I met them. His expressions in these two pictures are such polar opposites. One of cold distrust on the first Sunday to one of quiet joy on the last Sunday.

In Maputo, Mozambique the shantytowns are constructed right across the street from the gated neighborhoods with mansions. There was no escaping the poverty in Maputo. It smacked you in the face and assaulted all your senses so there was no ignoring it. I have no excuse for not helping the poor more because I saw it. I lived in the midst of it. I can't claim ignorance.

So why don't I do more? Here is a list of ways I've justified not giving more to help the poor. I realize many of these are silly and incredibly selfish- I've never actually voiced these justifications because I know they are flimsy and ridiculous. But I use them all the same to appease my conscience or to shut up the Holy Spirit.

1. I can't give away everything I have. How would I live? I have to draw the line somewhere. I have to pay the bills.

Take a look in your closet. Then take a look at Luke 18:22. If you have a computer, you're rich. Stop deluding yourself and call a spade a spade. (Yes! I've always wanted to use that expression. I feel so cool right now.)

2. But I've earned my money and should be wise about saving it.

Really? That money is yours? How do you think you got it? How did you get to a spot in life where you could get a good education and stable job? Did you choose your family situation? Did you forget that every good and perfect gift is from the Father? Everything you have is because of Him. Consider how He would want you to be spending your paychecks.

3. I tithe. What else does God want from me?

Your heart. All of it. A surrendered life. All of it.

4. Those organizations don't even use all the money to help the people. A lot of it just goes to the organization.

So what? Is your true concern that you want to help the people so badly you can't stand the thought that some of the money is used to keep a charity running?

5. What is my small contribution really going to do? It won't make any difference.

I'm glad the rest of the world doesn't think like you. Why exactly do you vote then?

6. Helping charities is such a trendy thing right now and I don't want to jump on the bandwagon. If Bono jumped off a bridge, I would stay planted.

Really? You're deciding NOW to take a stand against trends? Now?- when a trend is actually a good one that lines up with scripture? Here are just a few bandwagons you've jumped on recently: Lost, leggings, Twilight, blogging, Justin Bieber, gladiator sandals, facebook...need I go on? Clearly your issue is not with bandwagons and following trends.

7. I don't like how charities make me feel guilty. Some of them seem like such pretentious do-gooders who seem to be bragging about how great they are since they are helping the poor.

Sure, some might struggle with pride but that isn't your concern. Is it the charity making you feel guilty or the Holy Spirit?

8. I don't like to focus on all the suffering in the world when I can do so little to stop it. What's the point of feeling sad and guilty all the time? Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

Aren't we called to be His hands and feet? You won't feel guilty if you man up and do something about the poverty rather than closing your eyes and ears and pretending it's not there.

9. I will give more but I have too much going on right now. I'll think about how I can help later when I'm not so busy.

Procrastination. Classic excuse. Let me remind you of Matthew 25:34-45. Do you think Jesus meant what he said in this parable?

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

(I was really tempted to end that passage at verse 40 because 41-45 kinda freak me out. God's truth does that some times.)

So why all this talk about how I justify the selfish ways I use my pay check? Because I'm trying to change. Because I'm seeing how utterly moronic my excuses are and I'm trying to break free from "Katie's world." Because I read about an opportunity to develop clean water projects in developing nations. Pause right now. Are any of my 1-9 excuses running through the back of your head? Are you labeling me as a "pretentious do-gooder trying to make herself look better"? I confess that a number of those excuses floated around in my own head when I first read about the project on this blog entry. But then the Holy Spirit kept nagging and Lorenzo kept pointing his stupid finger at me daring me to forget about the poverty I saw. Here's a way I can help. Not specifically helping Lorenzo but kids and people just like him.

You may already support a bunch of charities and not feel like this is something you're interested in supporting. However, if you are looking for ways to help, not just to appease your guilty conscience although that may be one motivating factor, because you know we're called to help, here is an opportunity.

The organization is called My Charity: Water. Here is their site where you can give if like me, you're tired of the silly reasons not to. Watch the video-it's pretty cool. They suggest donating money to the cause rather than giving birthday presents. Neat idea but I'll admit that I'm not into it. I love giving gifts to the people I love and though my dad's birthday is in September, I don't think he'd be stoked to get a piece of paper saying I gave his gift money to charity. Maybe he would. He'd certainly have to fake that he was happy about it because no one can say, "Sweet. I'd rather have had the i-Pod shuffle." (don't worry Dad- we're not getting you that) So I'm not going along with the birthday idea but I will donate. It's about time I break free from "Katie's world" and do a little more. Care a little more. Surrender a little more.


  1. Thanks Katie, for dragging me in bypassing excuses 1-9 that run through my head! My Charity looks like a good place to start... I am in!

  2. Wow. Thanks for sharing Katie. You have me in tears. I hate how easily I can "forget" about what life is like in Africa....the poverty, the bellies, and the hunger. It's easy to get wrapped up in the OC or American way of living. Thanks for reminding me about still being able to make a small impact, even from here. My excuse is always that we are barely making it with the money we have so how can we give....how lame is that!? It's so much more than what they have....so we are in! Thanks for posting the site with the video! This looks like an incredible opportunity!

  3. How sad I force myself to drink enough water each day , I am in and not instead of Dads b day:) Good video

  4. WOW! I came across your blog because a good friend of mine, Ashley (who is good friends with Emma =), sent me your link because she thought I could really relate to what you said - WAS SHE EVER RIGHT!! My husband and I spent time in Uganda this summer and my gosh, we knew it would be easy to "forget" when we got back and we STILL FORGET. Thank you for your thoughts, convictions, and honesty.

  5. You convinced me, Katie. Clean water is important. As you probably know we see lots of needs here as well. Currently Faith Academy is raising money to help a 4 year old squatter girl who was severely injured in a freak accident. The family lives close to Faith and the parents had no money to pay for surgery.

    Love reading your blog.

  6. We Must Go- sorry I don't know your name but thanks for your comment- I feel an instant bond with anyone else who has spent time in Afria- it truly is a different world.

    Grandma- That is awesome how Faith is getting so involved!