This is Esther. She is 8 years old and has no legs. I met her several weeks ago in the courtyard of her very humble home, shared by two other homes.
I have hesitated sharing this picture because I don’t know what to do with it, or her. And maybe by sharing this photo somehow it looks like I do, or like somehow I am helping. Really, all I did was visit Esther and bring her some goldfish crackers in a zip lock bag. Two treasures from America that she probably didn’t even realize as such. I do hope she liked them though. I told her they were my kids favorite snack.
When we walked in the small cement courtyard, Esther was sitting with her mom, little sister, and a young neighbor boy. Our ministry partner, Jules, and I both gave her a hug. When I reached down to pick her up to give her a hug, I was surprised how light she was. It made my eyes water. I have never hugged someone without legs before. It was a privilege.
We sat down and began talking through Jules, our mutual friend and translator.
She was very shy, but she showed me how she liked to run, using her hands of course, which have taken to looking more like feet since they are often used that way. On the way to see her, Jules told me she was very outgoing and loved to be active. Until, apparently, this strange white lady showed up with crackers in the shape of little fish and asked her questions in a different language. In her shoes, I would have been shy too.
I asked her about school, her hobbies, and what she wants to be when she grows up. An eye doctor, she answered. I asked a few more awkward questions met with more shyness, and then eventually after 20 minutes or so, we took a picture and we said goodbye, and walked back up the clay road littered with broken flip-flops and rags caked in mud. And that was it.
But I haven’t stopped thinking about her and wondering what it is that I/we can DO for her. I don’t really know the answer to that question yet.
A wheelchair seems like an easy answer, but if you walked that red dirt road with me to her house, gauged out by monsoon rains that wash down the hill like chocolate milk, you would see what I mean. Rwanda is not wheelchair friendly, even in the more sophisticated parts. Jules has tried to convince her family to move to an easier place to access, but they want to stay where they are.
Sweet Esther is sponsored through Jules’s ministry, Shelter Them, which covers her school fees and supplies. (She attends a school for the disabled an hour outside Kigali). Her dad has a job and her mom stays home. But her family is obviously still poor, and she still has no legs, no great way to get around, and a desire to be a doctor.
And this is how it seems with so many people I meet or see in Rwanda. Obviously poor–but making it. In need of better clothes, or house, food or more money. But also, in need of so much more than that.
What we “do” can feel like a drop in the bucket. Insignificant, insufficient, and fading fast.
I am learning, the needs we are surrounded by are much much deeper than they appear at first glance. It isn’t just new clothes or food or a few hundred francs that they need.
I am starting to think, their greatest need isn’t physical at all. Their needs are tied into generational poverty, a country recovering from genocide and civil war, the colonization of Africa and the results of brother against brother and the dark forces that rule this world.
There isn’t much I can do to change that.
But Jesus didn’t ask me to change that. He has already taken care of it. Yes, it still looks pretty ugly down here in many parts of the world, yes we still suffer and go through many different kinds of trials, but that’s when we remember we have hope in the midst of the darkness. We have Good News. We have a Father who looks after us and takes care of us. We have a Savior, who took on darkness and put it to death. We have a God on our side who leads us by His Spirit and is active and moving and working at all times everywhere. In spite of, in the midst of, the really ugly things in life. We have a Father who cares.
No one can ever care more than Him. And He invites me to follow Him, to love Him, and to learn how to love like He does.
And so, when I get overwhelmed by the needs I see around me, I need to remember who I am–but more importantly, who He is. Savior. Redeemer. Friend. Teacher. Shepherd. King.
Me? An object of His love and mercy, and an evangelist of His great love.
So while we wait for Heaven to come again, I can wave and smile and hand out bananas and goldfish crackers, and do what Jesus did and sit and talk with people. I can learn to give my presence and share the love of Christ.
These may be little things, but that is okay. We may do greater things in the future, and that is okay too. I definitely don’t have it all figured out.
But, again, slowly by slowly, as they say in Rwanda. One day, one step, one person, one meeting, one smile at a time. May He lead us onward into the work He wants us to do.
Also, would you join me in praying for Esther and about the ways in which we can be of help? So very much appreciated.
Lots of love my friends. 🙂