I opened my email this morning to receive a plea for reason from my father. It was sent to myself, the missions director at Bethany Community Church and the country director for World Relief Rwanda. There was a link to an article about women with HIV/AIDS breast feeding their children and it brought up an argument between developed and developing nations about whether or not that is a healthy thing to do. From the standards of a developing country, no way would you ever breast feed your child if you were HIV positive! Then you turn to the rest of the world: perhaps the nutrients found in breast milk are worth the risk because, chances are, that infant is not getting any nutrients otherwise. Now, I’m not writing this to give you my opinion on the matter, I’ll leave that up to you. Why I’m writing is because between my response and Phil’s response, he left us with these words, “As with so many things, I’m seeing the need to resist simple answers.”
Isn’t that the truth? Everyday I am here, a new occurrence attacks my senses and a thousand questions run through my mind. On the surface, the issues seem so simple. The man is hungry, so give him some food. The children are orphans, so find them a family. The woman has AIDS, so give her some medication. Quite quickly, the issues become more complex. It is always when you ask the question, “Why?”
Why is the man hungry? Maybe the economy is so bad he can’t find a job. Perhaps he was never educated as a child and doesn’t have the skills to qualify for a job. It’s possible that, just like so many others, alcoholism creeped its way into his life as well. When you give him a job out of the goodness of your heart, is there a different qualified young man who has lost his chance?
Why are the children orphans? In Rwanda, there are many reasons. The genocide and its aftermath have left many children without families. Mothers die in the birthing process and the fathers have already abandoned them. The parents can’t afford to take care of a child, so they abandon it after the mother gives birth. When orphans go to an orphanage there is a world of emotional hurt they must process. The same will happen to those who are lucky enough to find a home.
The mother with AIDS is faced with the decision of how to feed her child. Is she receiving medication? Does she have enough money to feed her baby the proper nutrients? Maybe the infrastructure in her village is lacking and there is no clean water to mix formula with. It’s not just a question of right and wrong or yes and no. Too often, questions in poverty are questions where one answer means life and another means death.
But there is hope.
I responded to the email with these words:
The world is just one giant puzzle and you’re not going to see the finished product before you die. Just pick up a piece and try to find its place…that’s all you really can do.
It’s easy to stare at a giant problem and be completely overwhelmed. The truth of the matter is, no one person is going to be able to solve every problem in the world, but different people have different talents and each in their own time will be able to add a piece to the puzzle. It is hard for me to not see the immediate effects of the work I am doing. When I am typing away at a computer in an office all day, I sometimes forget why I am doing it. I must stop myself once in a while and look at what I am typing:
- “Reflect on the fact that even though many Rwandans have lost everything, they have grasped a hope that is so much stronger than before.”
- “The local church in Rwanda has stepped up to join in the fight against HIV/AIDS by training members of the church to teach the youth about abstinence and teach couples about the importance of being faithful.”
- “Pray for church leaders in Ntarama Sector of Bugesera Church Empowerment Zone as they are expanding an interdenominational outreach to vulnerable widows of the genocide.”
- “There was joy here that one wouldn’t expect to see in a room full of people saving about a dollar a week.”
It is human nature to be thrilled when we see the results of our hard work, but that is not a usual occurrence. The work I am involved in here in Rwanda is part of a slow, careful, long term program that will eventually see churches in Rwanda rising up to serve the most vulnerable people in their communities. Once in a while, though, I will have the pleasure of meeting the people the programs are reaching out to. I will get to hear the laughter of a child who will soon be able to attend school for the first time. I will get to feel the warm embrace of a widow who is learning how to save her money. I will get to see the uncanny joy of someone infected with HIV/AIDS because they are immersed inside of a supportive community.
It is very important for me to realize that even when I am not experiencing the immediate results, God is still very much at work in this place. You can see it everywhere, but I think more than anything it is most visible when you see the dramatic hope that so many people in Rwanda grasp. They know that God is in Rwanda and they are moving towards a better life. The country is alive and it is becoming more beautiful day by day by day.