One of my favorite professors in college would often say, “You can’t care about what you don’t know about.” As someone who works in communications, I’ve thought a lot about how to tell stories in an interesting way and how to motivate people to care about the world.
Since I arrived in Uganda, God has been challenging me in how I care. Knowing about people and places and situations in the world is good, but it’s head knowledge. Caring about people and places and situations and seeing their pain and joys adds emotion to the knowledge. But is that where I stop? Knowledge and caring can become heavy burdens to carry.
Several weeks ago, I realized my mistake. Two Ugandan Samaritan’s Purse livestock program staff, a farmer’s wife, and I stood in a circle holding hands.
“Amy, will you pray for Sophia?” Moses asked me.
I looked over at Sophia, a beautiful Ugandan mother with her head wrapped in a bright colored piece of material. She was illiterate, quick to smile, spoke no English, and had a household full of children. I’d just spent the past half hour learning about her and her family and their involvement with the nearby dairy association Samaritan’s Purse helped operate. I’d tramped across her fields to check on cows, stopping to soak in the view of the light blue foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains rising in the distance—the view Sophia got to see every morning when she stepped out of her house.
“Sure,” I said. “I’d love to pray.”
As I prayed, I kept wondering what Sophia prayed about every day. What thoughts and anxieties filled her mind? What were the things she valued and cared about? What were her burdens? It bothered me that I didn’t know. I fumbled through a prayer, praying for Sophia’s cows, her children, and her farmer husband.
There are some things I will never be able to know and understand. I will never know the feeling of being born a refugee, of struggling with poverty in a developing country, or of being exploited because I’m an illiterate African woman. My knowledge, and therefore my ability to care, will always be limited. If caring is reduced to knowing, I’m doomed.
For several years, I’ve carried this weight around. I’ve learned and gained knowledge, felt my heart break for people and places and situations, and cared deeply. Still, I’ve often had this overwhelming feeling that I’ll never be able to care or do enough.
But as I prayed for Sophia, I don’t think it was my words or the depth of my ability to care that mattered most. It was about me holding her hand and bringing her life and heart before the throne of a God who knows her heart perfectly and cares about her pains and joys far more than I ever can.
The idea of caring with people is something God has kept bringing me back to. Sure, I can care about people, but they know their pains and joys better than I do, and God knows them even better. When I care with people, it’s about coming alongside them to carry a common burden or joy (physically or spiritually). It’s about being God’s hands and feet and heart to the people around me.
Merriam-Webster defines “with” as “used to say that people or things are together in one place” or that “two or more people or things are doing something together.” I’m learning what it looks like to take into account the interests of others (Philippians 2:4) and “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galations 6:2, NKJV).
The burden of caring about the pain and injustice in the world is heavy when it’s me doing the caring by myself. I can never do enough. But in the past few months, I’ve discovered that caring with people—fulfilling God’s law to bear one another’s burdens together—makes the joy deeper and burdens lighter. It’s not about how much I can know and care; it’s about knowing the God who cares in a perfect, life-altering way.
I’m learning what it looks like to stand next to someone as a fellow human with humble limitations and needs to call on a great God to care with us about things like children, cows, spouses, and droughts. God never asked me to care about the world for Him, simply with Him. I’m learning what it means to let my heart break for the things that break God’s heart and learning to care with God about the things He cares about.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30, NKJV).
The Samaritan’s Purse internship program is an opportunity for college students and recent graduates to use their skills to impact the world in a tangible way. Find out more here.