We often learn from the experiences and opportunities that we have when we serve. And when we serve overseas, we may not encounter anything different than the people who serve back at home—but being removed from our comfort zones helps us realize things that we would otherwise overlook. From bad experiences in the past, I don’t like to give money to people begging on the street, including children. But recently, my opinion changed.
The other day, a friend took four people on my team and me to the home of a displaced family living near our center. We arrived at a brand new house that didn’t even have windows yet. It was composed of a few blocks, a latrine, and a plastic roof.
There are three families living in the two-room house. Two of the mothers are widows whose husbands were killed by ISIS. Of the 18 people living in the house, 13 are children.
The family warmly welcomed us into their home. We sat down, and I asked them about their needs. They first responded with thankfulness for the water tank that we had brought to them, and then they humbly asked if there were any jobs available.
These displaced families have college degrees. They used to have steady incomes, careers, and homes with roofs and windows. It was all taken from them in an instant, and now they’re searching for a sense of normalcy. They want to work and rebuild what was taken from them.
As we continued talking to them, I counted the number of people and realized that it wasn’t consistent with the information that they gave me. I asked where the rest of the children were. The father told me that they were working on the street.
“They are asking for money,” he said. “We have no jobs, and the only way we can have the little money we have is from sending the children to the market to beg.”
I felt bad knowing that the same children whom I have overlooked every time I go to the market are some of the children of these families. I’ve continued to visit the home with my wife, and each time, we bring them food and talk with them. Even though they’re going through difficult times and the heat is an almost unbearable 115 degrees, they keep smiling and continue to show their unfailing hospitality.
Sometimes we think we’re going to bless people by giving them the things they need, but I feel more blessed when I see that even through the difficulty and the sorrow of being displaced by a terrorist group, this family still has hope.
It reminds me of Matthew 8:20: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (NKJV). As we wait for Jesus to come, pray and be His hands and feet in this hurting world, being mindful to not overlook those around you.