An article I wrote for Compassion Today Magazine:
I guess it’s a little late to admit you don’t want to visit a Compassion project when you’re already there.
In a way, I wanted to see the project. I’d seen how visiting a project had changed my friend Tim. In a Milestones Restaurant in Toronto, he told me that seeing Compassion’s work had transformed his life, and it showed.
But now I was scared, way out of my comfort zone. As we walked up a dusty road in Tegucigalpa, I played devil’s advocate. “What would you say to someone who says that this is all a band-aid, that we’re not really helping?”
It’s a legitimate question. It’s just hard to ask when, within minutes, you’re standing in a shack. The family had cleaned up for us. We snuck a look in the fridge, and it was empty. I pulled back a curtain and saw where the five members of the family slept. We talked and prayed and left some food, and left quieter than we came.
“Thanks for wrecking my life,” I said to Tim.
It’s frustrating to see poverty firsthand. The issues are complex, and there are no easy answers. Honduras is one of the ten poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. Half live below the poverty line; one in four are unemployed. I want to fix this, but that’s part of the problem. Sometimes we want to fix things that are beyond our ability to fix.
Maybe we’re called to do less than fix. Sometimes the most profound thing that we can do is love a person, even if we can’t fix everything. When Jesus spoke of the poor, he spoke in terms I understand: offering water to the thirsty, feeding the poor, clothing the naked. He didn’t use fixing terms. I can do more than love and care, but I can do no less.
Jesus focused on a subgroup of the poor, calling them “the least of these.” They are the most vulnerable of the poor, a group that must include the one billion children who live in poverty. One billion. That’s every second child. Jesus said that receiving children is the same as receiving him. If this is true of children in general, it is especially true of children who are poor, who are “the least of these.” To love them is to love him.
We walked the streets of Tegucigalpa that day. We saw kids eating bowls of rice and beans at the Compassion project. We watched them play. We heard the project staff talk about their work, and we saw the love for these kids in their eyes.
We left later that afternoon knowing that we weren’t able to fix much of anything. But in Jesus’ upside-down kingdom, we knew we’d been with those who are last in this world but first in his kingdom. We can’t always change the world, but we can care for those who matter to him most: children like the ones I met in the project. Loving Jesus means loving them.