“The stranger who tells our stories when we cannot speak not only awakens our spirits and hearts, but also shows our humanity – which others want to forget – and in doing so, becomes family.”
Mende Proverb, Sierra Leone
I sat nervous, palms sweating, heart pulsing, that day in front of my computer. The afternoon light was pouring through the wood blinds in the bedroom and I could hear my little boy breathing heavily in his sleep through the monitor. Sitting comfortably in my chair, warm under a throw blanket, I read the words over and over again:
“You are officially invited to join us on the World Vision Bloggers Team, to Bolivia July 30-August 7, if you are able to come.”
My fear gripped tight around my lungs and my hands started to go cold and good gracious did someone turn down the air conditioning? I couldn’t stop shaking.
This was it.
That moment that I’ve been avoiding for as long as I can remember. Where my feet would be held to the proverbial fire and I would be asked to walk the walk. Where just talking about the idea of poverty doesn’t cut it anymore. Where I would be asked to go into the belly of the beast, listen to the stories of the people who live there, and then live out the responsibility of telling those stories for the sake of transformation, justice and mercy.
I’ve always loved quoting those parts of the Scriptures that command me to love the poor, orphaned, widowed and needy. I’ve always found a way to avoid living them out. I’ve always been afraid of doing it wrong. I’m not forceful enough to fight, I’m not smart enough to come up with answers.
I’m just me. Quiet, broken, messed up me.
But this tired, broken frame of a woman has been asked to go to Bolivia and tell the story of children and families who struggle under the burdens of extreme poverty. Conditions that I can’t imagine on my worst day. I’ve been asked to go because I have the ability to tell the stories. I have been asked to go sit at the feet of those who struggle and listen to their stories of heartbreak and mercy. Of hunger and glory. Of thirst and redemption.
They may not glitter, they may be hard to read. I have a responsibility to tell you what I hear. To show you what I see. To explain to you how it feels to work out the disparity between the hardship of the poor and the wealth of my everyday. I have a responsibility to proclaim that yes, even in poverty, He prevails and He is sovereign and He is worthy.
Some would argue that going, hearing and then telling the stories of those that we meet is not enough. That advocation isn’t enough. That awareness isn’t enough. That I am what’s called a “poverty tourist.”
Here’s the thing: What I am able to do on my own is never going to be enough. But it’s a start. It’s something. It’s not NOTHING.
Alone, I am not able to feed every hungry child in my hometown, let alone in the entire country of Bolivia. I’m not able to buy each one clothes and blankets to keep them warm. I’m not able to pay for every vaccine for every child. I’m not able to purchase every well that needs to be built to provide clean water.
So, because I don’t have the means or knowledge to do those things, does that mean I sit here in this air-conditioned room and do nothing? Is nothing better than going and listening and retelling? Is nothing better than holding the hand of a woman who doesn’t know how she’s going to find food for her family the next day?
Our lives, our stories are what connect our hearts to each other. Robert McKee said that stories are the currency of human contact. They are the most powerful tool that we have to tap into emotion, instigate discomfort and therefore, promote change and transformation. To render one’s life to another, helping us understand that we all share common goals and values, is impossible without that basic human connection.
I’m going to Bolivia because World Vision believes that there are stories there that need to be written & shared, and they asked me to be one of the people that listens and tells. If that’s how a large, international aid organization feels I can be best used to combat poverty in this moment, I’m going to do what I can to help.
The stories that I’ll share here with Joy have a deep, meaningful purpose – to alleviate the burdens of poverty for even just one child. We’ll talk to the children, learn their names, ask them & their parents about their hopes and dreams. I’ll do my best to paint a picture of their condition, where they live, what they eat, how they survive and thrive.
We pray it will be many, but just one child rescued is reason enough to go and see. To go and hear. To go and write.
Just one child. It’s a start. It’s something. It’s not NOTHING.
You can read more about our upcoming trip to Bolivia, meet the bloggers going, and learn about World Vision on the WV Blog.