No it is not a Safari, nor will I be travelling with my better half, or my precious little Margo. I am heading off to Togo West Africa with a small group from Twin Oaks Church. We will be joining a group leader from Compassion International, and begin a visit to the children we each sponsor. It so happens our little church sponsors about 50 children in all from the same area; meaning we will have a gathering of all 49 kids. We are packing gift packs of toys, pens, paper, clothes, and even a few wooden spoons here or there, to deliver to each of our little charges. What is the goal? My goal is to learn as much as I can, about poverty and successful ways of combating the situation. The purpose is to learn more about what Compassion International really does to help each child we sponsor. Their motto evolves around, saving children from poverty, “one child at a time”.
More than once in the past few months, my own heart has been tugged at, about our local poverty. Our local poverty is different from what I will see in Togo. I am also thinking the method of combating poverty in Togo, will have a better sense of self esteem, and growth for those children going through the Compassion International program, than for those suffering homelessness over here. I am not an expert in any area of poverty, understanding poverty, or even trying to combat poverty. There have been more than a few times I have looked the other way when asked for a handout from someone on the street.
But this year, and the last few months of last year, I have been learning engagement. Actually, even before last year, the concept of engaging the poor and broken has been tugging at my own heart. Sometimes it has been as simple as looking into the eyes of the homeless person, talking to herself, pushing her carriage, as I ran across the bridge. In that simple moment, I was saying, “I see you, I know you are here.” Other occasions it involved listening to their story of job loss and travel to find work. Grabbing them a bowl of soup, and wondering why can’t I do something more permanent? I left him by shaking his hand, wishing him well, and inviting him to my church when he comes to my city. All of that felt still feels so empty.
My next step was to purchase a bag of food for a homeless family. The dad was asking for money outside the Lucky grocery store, explaining, “I have no food to feed my daughter and pregnant fiancée, we just fell into hard times, things will get better when my fiancé completes her studies next year…” I wanted to close my eyes to him too, but I kept feeling a nudging, so I invited him into the store with me to purchase a bag of groceries for his family. I did not feel ‘better’, only conflicted. I engaged in conversation with him, and learned about the past two years of looking for work, and then him finding help because someone negotiated a better rate at the hotel on his behalf. Then I recognized him, it was Damien, he attends church with us on Sundays. Now I was starting to become engaged.
Most recently, I sent a letter to our sponsored child. Why, you might ask? I want to encourage her, to complete her studies, and enjoy the life about her. To let her know, we are her family, over on the other side of the world. Simply put, I need to start a conversation with her and discover her life. So now, I leave for Togo, this Friday, January 8th. This day will most likely keep me moving forward on my journey to understand poverty, and perhaps learn ways to keep it at bay. I hope and pray I am changed for the better.
I hope to write this blog from Togo, so expect to read something soon about this 10 day adventure. See you all when I return on the 17th of January. Love, Mommy Max