I come home from a trip to Swaziland and am greeted enthusiastically with, "Welcome home! How was your trip?" It's called out across the parking lot as I walk my 4 year-old into preschool, said to me across the room full of parents in the parent room at my older kids' elementary school. Well-wishers being friendly, asking about my trip.
But I can't answer. Not honestly anyway.
Because what I want to say is that the child I visited in the overflowing pediatric malnutrition ward died two days later. He was one year old and weighed about 13 pounds. I want to answer that I saw women in labor standing by themselves in the hot sun outside the labor room because you aren't allowed to go in until you are crowning. I want to say that I just spent a week in a country where mothers often drop their newborn babies in pit latrines to die because that is a better option than watching them slowly starve to death. I want to say that I got to spend time with toddlers whose stories include being burned, left to die wrapped in plastic bags, some are HIV positive, others have been severely malnourished. I want to say that I saw overwhelming need and despair alongside hope.
But really, people are expecting me to say, "it was great, thanks!" and keep walking. Because they aren't really asking me to bear my soul in that moment.
I always have a hard time when I come home from Swaziland. I have a hard time reconciling my culture with the culture in developing countries anyway; it's just that much harder when I have just returned home. And my first morning back I heard a commercial for laser hair removal on my way home from dropping the kids off at school.
I live in a country where we are encouraged to spend money using lasers to remove unwanted hair while babies on the other side of the ocean slowly starve to death.
Something is wrong.
But it doesn't have to be. That's where I see hope. I also know that just in my small circle of friends there are people fighting for justice, pushing against oppression, working to restore dignity and helping people meet their basic needs. I know that there are big organizations working to make sure that children have access to food, clothing, and medical care. I know that people care.
We have a choice. God is working all around us. I will never understand how God works or why things are they way they are but I do believe this: God wants to use us to redeem the world. He wants to use us to end poverty, to end hunger, to fight addiction and oppression. And what an honor it is to be to be a part of change.
Do you want to be a part of hope in Swaziland? I'm going back in July. Come with me! You will never regret it.
|My view from where I stayed on the farm at Project Canaan|