Today in Dhaka, we went into a slum. I’ve never been anywhere quite like it.
We got out of the van and immediately the children started to look at us with such curiosity. I decided to quit trying to fit into this place and just be myself. As I was praying this morning before we left, I was reminded that carrying the Kingdom of God and the love of Jesus with me breaks all of the chains that bind. I heard the Lord say to just be the hands and feet of Jesus the way that I know how, so I smiled at them the only way that I know how…ear to ear. Then, they gave this heart of mine a gift and smiled back. Huge smiles…heart smiles…smiles with their mouths and smiles with their eyes.
We entered the courtyard of the school set in the middle of this community, amongst a group of people considered “untouchables” in this country. This is a group of people who are street-sweepers, the lower than low.
The children immediately began to follow us into the school where Food for the Hungry has been working since 1981. They gathered around us and I knew that all I needed to do was to love them well. That would be enough. That is enough.
So with the help of my sweet new friend and translator, Shefa, I began to ask the children questions. I asked their names and ages. What subjects they like. The games they play. (By the way, all of them love cricket and hopscotch most.) One had a backpack carrying books from school. I asked her to show me. She did, and they all gathered around.
They told me how in school they learn how to read and to count. And then they counted to 30 for me in Bangla. I asked if they’d like me to count for them in English and was met with a resounding “Gi, Gi, Gi!” (Yes, ,!) So, I began. By 8 they were all counting with me… all the way to 30 in English! I showed them a picture of my family and they asked questions.
We smiled and laughed and hugged, and they melted my heart. There is nothing untouchable or unwantable about these children. These children are as loving and beautiful as any children I’ve ever seen.
We were called into a briefing meeting and devotion with the staff and teachers of the school. During the meeting we learned that FH has been in this community since 1981, and that before Food for the Hungry came into this slum, the location of the school was actually a trash dump for the entire city.
A trash dump.
In clearing the area to build the school, they even found dead bodies in the midst of the rubble. Dead bodies and trash…with homes full of mothers and fathers and sons and daughters living just steps to the side of death and stench and the stagnant smell of no chance for anything better in life.
Through the sponsoring of childen, Food for the Hungry was able to build a school in place of the pile of hopelessness and to give these people a chance in life. By providing education and care, they are able to get jobs that otherwise would have been completely out of reach.
The staff shared the information with us, but then I saw it for myself. I can read and hear about change in the world (and chances are that perhaps you have too), but what I want you to know is that today, I saw it. I met people and learned their stories. I held hands and sat in homes of people who’s lives have been altered completely because of this program.
It’s not just a program. It’s a chance at living. It’s the provision of hope. I didn’t even realize myself until today that sponsoring a child isn’t just about going to school…it’s about changing everything for them.
We learned that in the 1970’s when Bangladesh became an independent country from Pakistan, during the war of independence, the Pakistanis killed the majority of the intellectuals and highly educated people in the entire country. This is part of the reason that Bangladesh as a whole has struggled, and also a huge reason that education is so important to the future of the entire country.
We met Joseph (a teacher and the headmaster of the school), Sirajul, Menohad, and Esa who are also teachers. Every single one of these men was a Food for the Hungry sponsored child. They were educated within the communities impacted by FH and have grown up to be educators. They all desire to give the same chance to other children that they have had in life.
We sat in the home of Lakshmi and met her daughter Radha.
All 4 of Lakshmi’s sons were sponsored children. Radha also got a sponsor when she was 8. She’s 18 now, and has the same sponsor. They still write one another.
All 4 of Lakshmi’s sons have good jobs; a banker, one in a government office, one with a newspaper, and one in university. Radha wants to be a sociologist, and because of her education, her parents haven’t pushed her to marry too young. Lakshmi’s humble pride in her children’s accomplishments was perhaps one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
Today I was reminded during a devotion that of all the things that I can do or be or say, the greatest is to love.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love . – 1 Cor 13
Faith and hope are something we have, but love is something we give. The greatest thing is what we can give. The greatest thing is love. We love fully and deeply because we are loved so fully and deeply by the Father. And whether I know a language, or understand the culture, or feel comfortable or uncomfortable, I know how to love. I think that has to be why I’m here. I can love people beyond the boundaries of a space or place because I know what love is.
Don’t try to figure it all out or fit in, just love.
Be who you are…and just love.
And when you can’t think of what might be next….just love.
And then, the things that felt uncomfortable and scary even just a day before will suddenly all make sense. And the chains that bound, will be broken.
*If you’re interested in sponsoring a child with Food for the Hungry in Bangladesh, which quite frankly is what I’m blatantly asking you to do, please click on the link HERE or on the FH graphic on the top left of my sidebar and it will direct you what to do next. And if you’re not interested, I want to ask you to not think about it in terms of being “interested”, because honestly for us in America, it’s just a little, LITTLE bit of money. I’m learning here, that what matters most isn’t what I find that’s “interesting” to me…it’s not about what I have, but what I can give. And truth be told, we all have enough to give…but for these people, sponsoring a child isn’t just about us giving money… to them, it’s about a chance at really living…to them, it’s just love.
PS. Once again the pictoral awesomeness is due to Esther Havens photographic awesomeness. To read more about today from my friends, the other FH bloggers,just click on their names to be directed to their pages Lauren, Max, Lindsey, Daniel, Joy, and Esther.