When I was 9, we moved to Fairbanks (a city in the middle of Alaska) for a few months so my parents could go take come college classes. It was the first time my brother and I had ever attended public school. Some classmates "kindly" informed me that my family was poor. Poor? Really? My family? Honestly, it was the first time I'd ever thought about it.
After that, I really thought about it...especially when I noticed that many of my classmates talked about vacations my parents couldn't afford, wore fancy clothes, rode in cars that were less than 20 years old, etc. And all because of this pesky thing called money?
I thought I knew what it was to be poor, to have not among a lot of people who have.
Then I went to Haiti.
The beautiful people of Haiti took over my mind and heart despite the fact I was only there for a week two years ago. Their dignity in the face of true poverty, their "degaje" ("make it work") frame of mind...I still dream about Haiti on a fairly regular basis. A huge part of my heart remains with the smiling faces of the children who know what true poverty is like. (YOU CAN READ ABOUT MY TRIP TO HAITI HERE.)
I hate money. To me it is a loathsome thing that causes unhealthy obsessions, destroys relationships and fellowship, emphasizes class divides, etc. I hate money. Yes, hate money...especially as money and greed are the major reasons for many of the issues that cause true poverty throughout the world which affect children. When children are affected negatively by money and greed, this Nora becomes very cranky. /grumble
Unfortunately, money is a necessary thing in our society as trading goods and services just doesn't work in the kind of global market in which we live. I hate money, but I see it's necessity.
I hate money, but it stresses me out greatly because I'm a welfare child. I grew up in a state of financial insecurity, hate the thought of being in debt, and hate the thought of my child having to worry about money in the same way I worried as a child once I realized my family was "poor".
It is very hard for me to trust God with money. What if....someone gets sick and needs to go to the doctor and we can't afford it and can't afford stuff to make sure they stay alive? What if Drexel breaks something and we have to pay for that? What if the small tumor being removed from my foot next month is cancerous and we have loads of unanticipated medical bills in our near future? What if I get in another car accident (I was t-boned last year, totaling my car though everyone involved was fine)....what if what if what if...............................................
A few days ago, an organization that I keep up with - Real Hope for Haiti - posted THIS. I suggest you go to the link and read the story for yourself, but here it is in a nutshell: a fire in a living area caused third-degree burns across the bodies of six young children.
One of these precious children did not survive for an entire day following the fire. Their parents want them cared for at the Real Hope For Haiti clinic rather than make the arduous journey to Port au Prince to the hospital. The post says "for many reasons" the parents want their children cared for at RHFH. My suspicion? The children will be loved at RHFH and the parents know it.
I visited RHFH when I was in Haiti. It broke me. The amazing people at RHFH spend their lives caring for the broken, truly poor, truly sick, etc. They clothe the naked, feed the hungry, give water to the thirst, figuratively teach the Haitians how to fish so they can feed themselves, etc. They also tend to the medical needs of precious Haitian men, women, and children. Haitians will walk for days to get to RHFH because they know they will get good, loving care from people who truly care about them and their mortal as well as immortal lives.
Where am I going with all of this?
As soon as I saw the post about the children who were burned, I flashed back to the two house fires that I have experienced (one when I was 8 and one when I was 16....let's just say I was more than a tad nervous when I was 24!). In order to escape from the second fire, I literally had to jump through a wall of fire that had engulfed the front of the cabin where I had been snoozing the night away. I was uninjured save a small blister on my hand and some hair that flashed off when I went through the flame (these fires are the reason for one of my tattoos...but that is a story for another day).
These children were not so lucky. They have more than a small blister.
They literally had plastic melted into their hair. I cannot imagine their physical and emotional pain, nor that of the adults in their lives seeing them in so much pain. (Come quickly, Lord Jesus!)
As soon as I saw this post, I heard God's patient whisper "you are going to help them." Awesome! So I'll pray for them, post for others to donate to their upcoming care, and my obligation is fulfilled...right?! Right?! "You are going to put your money where your mouth is and donate as well."
Lord, have you gone and lost your divine mind?
Not kidding, that was my thought. : ) Doesn't God know that my husband and I are squeaking by to make ends meet? Doesn't He know that we have over $35,000 in outstanding loan payments (car, student loans)? Doesn't He know we have a son to care for?
"Don't you know you can trust me?"
Last year, God gave me very clear instructions to quit my job. I balked at these instructions, hemming and hawing that He/it/she/whatever had certainly gone and went nuts because that was the absolute WORST timing to quit my job....Dahmon and I were going to have a baby a month later, after all! How could God expect me to quit my job, especially since I didn't have another one lined up?!?!? I'm a very get-things-in-order-so-you-don't-have-to-worry kind of person. God is, however, a very lean-on-me-so-you-don't-have-to-worry kind of entity. Quit a job a month before a baby arrives when my job was slightly more than half our monthly income. Not to mention the fact that both my husband and I were in graduate school. Right.
I argue with God. He knows when I'm perturbed by instructions, so why try to hide it? I argued with Him about my job for a couple of weeks. More and more things kept coming up that confirmed I was supposed to quit. During worship at church, I asked God what the he** He was thinking, and felt a hug just as sure as I feel one from my hubby when he's being cuddly. God hugged me. And He was STRONG...and bigger than money.
I quit my job about 3 weeks later (okay, so we might have argued a little more).
Back to now, I read about these precious children and immediately was plunked into flashbacks of the house fires I've experienced. I was also, however, plunked into memories of how God cared for my little family after I followed His instructions. Like I said, I quit my job 3 weeks after "the hug". My son was born 3 days later. The next week I was back in class while classmates and friends watched my baby during class hours so I could finish the last few weeks of my master's degree (in ministry, fyi).
Money was tight.
Suddenly a lot of those unexpected little bills that peck away at bank accounts quit happening (not sure my car had ever run smoother). People to whom we'd lent money unexpectedly paid us back (when we lend money to friends in need, it is with a "pay us back if you can, but if you can't, it is all God's anyways" frame of mind). My husband was able to get overtime fairly regularly so our monthly income from his paycheck was supplemented. We squeaked by through pinching nickles out of pennies, but we survived and I learned a powerful lesson about trusting in God (I am now employed again at two part-time jobs that I love and which allow me more time with my son than a 9-5 job + commute would have).
"You are going to put your money where your mouth is and donate as well."
*inhale* Okay, so how much? As I thought about how much my husband and I would donate for these precious children, I kept feeling nudged to get uncomfortable. Oh sure, we could give $20 and call it good, but that would not make us uncomfortable. We could give $50 and call it good, but that would not make us uncomfortable. I prayed and asked God to give me a number that HE wants us to give. He did. It made me uncomfortable.
Now, I don't mean uncomfortable in the financially-not-able-to-make-bills kind of way. I mean in the way that means we can't overpay our student loans this month at all and in a way that means $$ will be tight this month. I mean in a way that makes this welfare kid who constantly worries about money squirm like a worm on a hotplate. Lord, you want us to give HOW much? Are you crazy?!
I presented the entire situation to Dahmon, my husband. Now, he's the kind of person who would willingly live in a shack and eat beans and rice the rest of his life if it meant that he could use his finances to help someone. Therefore it did not surprise me when I jokingly said we could dump our savings into this cause and his response was "I'd be fine with that." We prayed again, and the number God gave me earlier remained the same.
"I protected you before. What makes you think you cannot trust me now?"
The Lord of all Creation, of water, earth, and skies, has proven His trustworthiness time and time again. When I freaked about money in the past, He provided. Now we are in a position where we can help some precious children. The amount makes our pocketbook cringe, but isn't that kind of the point? If we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, if the greatest commandments are to love God and then to love one another, if love means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, providing ointment and linens to the sick, how can we not give? And how can we not get out of our comfort zone in such a way gladly, knowing that God means it to help His precious children? If the widow Jesus saw could gladly give all she had out of her poverty (Mark 12:41-44), how can we not give as much as we possibly can when there are children in need?
Typically every month, we put whatever surplus funds we have on our student loans to get those darned things paid down. This month, that will not be possible. Priorities are different. These children and this organization needs help now. Our student loans will hound our bank account for a few more years, but these kids are blistered and hurting NOW. And so on our table sits a check for the amount God told us to give, waiting to go out to Real Hope on Monday.
I don't write this to be all "hey look at us, we are giving money away to the poor". I write it to be a witness to God's greatness in the midst of flames. I write it to hopefully help push you out of your comfort zone a bit and think about how you can use your blessings to help others. God will provide! We are meant to find our wealth in God, community, and relationships, not in things...especially not that loathsome money thing.
We are blessed to be a blessing. Lean on God's greatness and step out in faith. Make a donation today, help people today in a way that pushes you out of your comfortable bubble a bit. God is waiting for you to partner with Him to love on His precious creations. We may feel uncomfortable when we are told to give more than we are willing, but whose money is it anyways?
How much would you want people to help if it were your child/mother/sister/nephew/self who had been burned nose to toes and needed help with medical expenses? Loving your neighbor as yourself means helping that much!!!!!!! and more!!!!!!!
By the way, I took all of the pictures in this post while at the Real Hope for Haiti clinic in Cazale, Haiti in January 2011. And just because I think God's creations are so awesome...here is a picture of an awesome bug that looked like a leaf that I saw at the clinic. Seriously, I nearly flicked this "leaf" off the balcony until I saw the leaf had legs. : )