I have seen my share of poverty. I’ve walked through slums and refugee camps. I’ve met children forced to beg on the streets or sell their bodies. I’ve seen a mother holding her dead baby hoping to evoke a sympathetic response from those passing by.
My heart has broken for people who were born into these situations. Yet, the injustice of their situations alone is not my main motivation for reaching out in love.
I help people because they are beautiful: they are fathers who want to provide for their families, mothers who worry about their children, sisters who carry their younger sibling around on their hip keeping them out of trouble and grandparents who sit and watch the children so that the parents can work. They are people who have hopes and dreams, fears and frustrations: they want to go to school, or travel abroad to work; they want to play with a friend, or sing and dance to their favourite song; they want to learn English, or pass an exam; they want to meet a girl who loves them, or marry a good man.
Yes, they are poor. They live in tin or bamboo shantis along the mud road that is littered with garbage, pieces of scrap metal and large piles of broken items. There is no privacy of doors, nor security of locks or gates. There is no water, except what they collect from the river nearby and carry home in makeshift plastic containers. There are flea-infested dogs roaming or sleeping almost everywhere.
In the face of this devastating poverty, I feel a sickening sense that there is no way to help; that any programme we organised, any aid given or any message shared would not be enough to bring a real change.
It is only when I learn to see their beauty—the person that God crafted them to be—that I feel hope in the fact that they too were created by God and placed here on earth for a purpose.
Their fierce loyalty to family, their work ethic with which they tackle each day, the resourcefulness that they display in solving seemingly impossible challenges and the hospitable and friendly way with which they invite a stranger to sit with them, are all examples of their worth.
All of these people were designed to give glory to God. He made them in His image and He knows and loves them. And it is this belief that motivates me to help: because if God created them but they don’t know, and He loves them but they haven’t heard, then speaking that message is of utmost value.
Yes, let’s work to feed the hungry, provide shelter for those without and give medicinal assistance where none is available, but let us be motivated by introducing people to their Creator, and telling them that they are known and deeply loved.
Ellyn grew up as an American overseas in Europe and has continued to pursue her love for travel, writing and photography. She appreciates good food, deep talks with friends, and new adventures.