A man came into the center the other day. No one else was around and he sat down and seemed content to wait for someone to show up. He knew the names of the people he was looking for and he wasn’t going anywhere until he found . He needed help and he needed money, like most of the new faces that pop up. I was the only one around to hear his desperate pleas for just a little money for food for his family. He had paid for his rent and his medicine and didn’t have any left for food for the family. $20 was all he wanted. I try to not break the rules, ensuring that the people that need assistance talk to the head of our Refugee Relief program, however. Danny wasn’t going anywhere and my heart went out for his desperate need. I scrounged around to find all my spare bills, amounting to close to the requested $20. Which delighted him to no end. He kissed my hand, thanking me and blessing me before he went on his way.
Help is hard to come by here. It is not for lack of the teams and would be volunteers that pour through our doors throughout the year, hear our stories, pledge their help and then go back to the west. We have many well-intentioned people that come through the center promising to help out in some capacity. Many never come back or we just do not hear from again. Perhaps they found somewhere else to help. I hope this is the case. But perhaps it was the cares of life that got in their well-intentioned way and choked their desire to work with us. Others promise to help but only start something, never to finish. I am discovering this is the norm in the non-profit world, or at least in my brief experience in the non-profit world. Maybe it is just the mentality that something is better than nothing. This is a mindset that I cannot grasp.
With the steady stream of visitors, I have had my own excitement, only to see it wane with a team’s departure, never to hear from them again. A woman more experienced than me shrugged her shoulders pragmatically as I excitedly told of a team who promised to be more involved. She had seen and heard it all before and interjected realism into the situation. “That is what they all say and then we don’t hear from them again.”
We are the forgotten ones. It is easier not to think about our reality over here. I know there are so many things dominating the headlines in the USA – the presidency and Starbucks Unicorn drink, men’s rompers and lace shorts. Plus, no one likes to think about uncomfortable and depressing things like the Syrian crisis. I am not sure what my problem is that I am drawn to those in pain. It certainly doesn’t make my life comfortable!
Out of sight, out of mind. When we are on the other side of the world, we seem to think that what is happening on the other side of the world is not our problem. We rather put our attention on our home country’s Visa and immigration issues and we forget where our dollars could have an even bigger impact.
I want to show you more and share more than just the pretty pictures that I take in the brief moments I am outside the slums. It is hard for me to take pictures of people either on the streets or in their houses in these areas. First, it is forbidden. Every time the ministry or a foreigner goes to visit a refugee, they get a hope that someone with a lot of money is coming to save them. They just assume that all foreigners have money and can save them. Same with the church. We must have deep pockets big enough to help their situation. When nothing changes, they feel used and forgotten. I frequently don’t get the pictures or the story that I want because I know taking pictures will ultimately only add to their frustration.
I know their pain and disappointment, I have felt it too. You never feel more lonely and forgotten than when you embarked on a humanitarian mission on the other side of the world, confident that people will come behind you, support, encourage and follow your adventures only to find that the hundreds you thought would do actually do not. Sure I have moved many times before and seen how quickly I can become but a memory, but I really thought this would be different. No one told me in advance how quickly you are forgotten on this mission field. It is an ongoing battle to keep from fading from memory!
We can all take comfort in knowing that while people forget, God does not forget us or forget His promises.
Deuteronomy 31: 6 “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Psalm 9:18 But the needy will not be ignored forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed.
Isaiah 49:14-15.…..“The Lord has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.” “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!”
Isaiah 41:17 “When the poor and needy search for water and there is none and their tongues are parched from thirst, then I, the Lord, will answer them.
I, the God of Israel, will never abandon them.”