If you have been following me at all - you know Africa is near and dear to my heart. In the last 5 years I have made 5 life impacting trips to Tanzania and Kenya. Therefore I have 5 x 500 life stories that have rocked me to my core. Perhaps for some the routine exposure of poverty may end up leaving less mascara on their pillows at night. As for me? Whew - one story heaps on top of another story and weighs even heavier. Every little face has been pressed within my memory bank, especially the stories of children.
Just today I received an email from a little precious I met this last month. This isn't the first email in my inbox since I got back - this is email #3. Just weeks after returning three different boys have emailed me all with the same basic request:
"Please Mama - can you pray that God would provide for my school fees. I have tested with high enough scores and it is time to go to Secondary School - but our family cannot afford it."
Look closer at his precious little face.
He even sent me a very proud copy of his school test result. He made it! This is HUGE!!!
Testing in Africa is not easy. These countries do not simply move kids up because they have reached a certain age. Unlike the US, where there is basically no holding kids back anymore, only a select few make it to Secondary (which would be like our High School). Making the grade is difficult because it takes focused time and energy over years of classroom learning and evening homework.
Let's revisit what the basic day looks like for these kiddos:
Breakfast is Tea with a little hot milk, possibly. Lunch, if they get this meal, could be a small amount of leftover from the night before. Dinner - if they are going to eat on any given day - this is the meal they will make sure to take in. They believe this meal will sustain them throughout the next day. So typically, Ugali (corn meal thick porridge) and possibly beans. Hmmm - this is a little different then what the typical US child consumes on any given day isn't it?
The other problem these wee ones face is chores. Their chores look a little different then our kiddos daily chores. You have probably heard before that the kids have to walk miles to fetch water? Seriously! This is true - they walk far and it is heavy. I asked many kids on this last venture what their daily tasks at home were after school. Many cook, many fetch water, many help wash the dishes and clothes. Where they live we aren't talking the typical throw it in a machine, watch it do the work, 5 minute kind of chore. These chores require hours of vary hard work. So by the time the kids get home from school, which is anywhere between 5 and 6pm, they have a couple hours of hard labor to do at home. What does that look like when they need to be studying hard to make the grade? Can you even image? By the time they can sit down to study they are exhausted. And - 6am time to leave for school comes early.
One of the saddest things I see happens when we visit the schools. It never fails - there are always a few kiddos slumped over in chairs using their arm to prop their head up. Even though they have the rare opportunity of visitors that would usually bring a bustle of enthusiasm, a few kids are scattered throughout the room that can barely move. They are hungry, they are tired - their life is hard. Hard like most of us can't even comprehend.
School is not something they simply go to because they have to. School is a luxury. School is their way to a hopeful future. School is the ONLY avenue to their DREAM!
As I continue to be faced with these situations of hardship God is continually showing me I am not the answer. There is no way I , one weak person, can solve the worlds problems. As much as I would LOVE to have a wallet that is overflowing with resources to help provide for the needy. I don't. God is showing me the real power for change happens in prayer. Prayer will lead change. Prayer will lead change in places we can't see and in people we don't know. Prayer will spur others on to help make a difference of lasting change one by one.
Don't get me wrong. I don't believe we simply pray and we stop there. I believe that true prayer, where you are in relationship with God, leads us to ultimately be stepping out in faith (taking ACTION) with God leading in bold new ways.
So as I bring this post to a close I will challenge you to be praying for these three precious boys (and others like them) who need family income in order to go to school. Or they need to become part of a sponsorship program. Or...Or...Or...
God knows exactly what needs to happen and our prayers will help fuel that change. In that same sweet, precious, prayer time why don't you also start asking God to show you how to help make a difference. Where might God be spurring you on to take a step into helping others? It could be in your family, neighborhood, your city, your country, or somewhere out in the world. I may even be so bold to say - it is probably all of those!
"Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. Gods voice in response to mine is its most essential part." ~ Andrew Murray
James 5:13-14 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.