The currency of human contact.

by Nish

“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.



22 Responses to “The currency of human contact.”

  1. kim June 30, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    boom. praying for your trip to bolivia, nish. you are such an inspiration. may God get the glory & may He save these families from the deepest, darkest corners of poverty.

    • Nish July 1, 2011 at 9:53 am #

      Thanks so much, Kim. You’re such an encouragement to me. Thanks for praying.

  2. Sarah@EmergingMummy June 30, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    So good, Nish. You are right on. Praying for you all and for us – open hearts from stone.

    • Nish July 1, 2011 at 9:53 am #

      You are a gift, my friend. Thank you.

  3. kendal June 30, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    praying. wanting more.

    • Nish July 1, 2011 at 9:54 am #

      Thanks, Kendal, for praying. May God be glorified.

  4. Deb June 30, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Very beautifully said Nish! I can’t wait to get to know you and each member of the team in Bolivia. I can totally relate to your physical reaction to reading the email. I spent my day with goose bumps and nausea. LOL Praying God will use our weakness to show His strength. Blessings!

    • Nish July 1, 2011 at 9:54 am #

      Thanks, Deb. I’m so grateful to be traveling with you! Excited to see God move in Bolivia.

  5. Laura @ Life Overseas June 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    So excited for you both to go and to speak stories of people that can’t speak for themselves. What a beautiful gift that will be to the rest of us. I think so often the enormity of the problems can cause us to throw up our hands and not enter in at all. I’m thankful you haven’t done that. I can’t to read and follow your insights from Bolivia. I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that so often it’s ME that changes the most when I engage with the poor, the least of these. I tend to think that I am the one GIVING the gift of “me,” but turns out I am the one who really walks away richer. Looking forward to that part of the experience for you, too!

    So awesome! :)

    • Nish July 1, 2011 at 9:57 am #

      Thank you so much, Laura. Your encouragement and words of wisdom are so welcome here, especially as you live out your life halfway around the world. Grateful you’re in this community!

  6. Kristen@Chasing Blue Skies June 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    Oh, lovely girl…what a job you’ll do as a poverty attacker! Telling those stories for the sake of “transformation, justice, and mercy.” Bringing hope to those needing it most. Giving those who feel they don’t matter a voice.

    It is something, all right. Something big. Your Father is mighty proud! And I am, too. :)

    • Nish July 1, 2011 at 9:57 am #

      Thank you, my sweet friend! So grateful for you!!

  7. Megan at SortaCrunchy June 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    ooooooh, nice! I am so glad you told the story of how this came to be, because I have TOTALLY wanted to know The Story of It All.

    When anything good or great must be created, Resistance dials it up to, like, 11. Or 100. Resistance says, “You’re too broken. You’re just one.” Our Creator God says, “What do you imagine you can do? Because I can do it beyond all you can ask or EVEN IMAGINE.” I know you will be changed, and I know that love is going to win big time. All over the place.

  8. Mela Kamin June 30, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    It is indeed SOMETHING & so grateful to you & the others who faithfully go in obedience where He calls you. We will be following along. Our boys Simon & Duncan are sponsored through WV.

  9. Sharone June 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    Storytelling is a big thing. Stories change people, change hearts. People have always tried to minimize it, but to be able to (and have the opportunity to) share stories–especially the stories of people who may feel like they’ve never been heard–is a precious gift.

    Praying, always praying. :)

  10. Val June 30, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    Nish, I’m fighting tears after reading your words — beginning with the quote at the top. My storytelling heart needed this good word today. Bless you as you go, as you listen, as you share.

  11. Brianne July 1, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    Going to a place where you’ll talk to people who seriously do not know where they will get the next meal from: This. will. change. you. What you are going to be able to write for others to read: This. will. bring. change.
    There’s no doubt that: This. is. SOMETHING.
    Looking forward to following your journey, and Joy’s too.

  12. Diana Trautwein July 1, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    Sweetie pie – there will always be naysayers. Always. Do exactly what you’re doing. DON’T LISTEN TO THEM. Listen instead to the sweet, sure call of the Spirit within, that voice that says, ‘Yes! Tell the stories.’ Because that is most definitely something. In fact, it is everything. Thank you for being obedient, sweaty palms, nausea and all. Cant wait to read what you and Joy will bring to us here.

  13. Dad July 28, 2011 at 9:22 am #


    After reading this I feel compelled to take issue something you have written…the description of yourself as “quiet, broken, messed up me.” You are, and always have been a leader of others…this blog is just one example of that leadership. Your commitments to your family, your faith and those in need is unassailable. You are intelligent, engaging and an most importantly, a focused listener to the views and needs of others. You seek and assimilate knowledge at pace to be envied. Your talents in music and the command of the language entertain, inspire and motivate so many. You are a wonderful mother, wife, daughter and sister. That is the view we hold of you in our hearts. Your words indicate the most important trait of true leadership…humility. It is the most admirable of all, but should not become so strong that it limits your ability to lead. You were selected for this journey because of who you are, the unique talents you possess, and the impact your words and descriptions will have on others who cannot see or sense the environment you will experience. You will lead the hearts and minds of others to Boliva through your work.
    You need to set aside your self doubts, put your humility in your back pocket, and go there with the raging determination and purpose to raise the awareness and gain the commitment of others to this cause. Frankly, it will be a cakewalk for you…because that’s who you are, and what you are so capable of doing. I can’t wait to read your work following this trip..I have a feeling it will be your best ever, because you always rise to the next level when faced with a challenge. You were chosen because you are terrific at what you do…none of which is quiet, broken or messed up. So the game is on. Inform us. Inspire us. Lead us all back to Bolivia.
    Your proud and loving Dad


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