I won’t ever forget standing in the darkness of the catacombs in Kiev, Ukraine, my thin wax candle flickering. I felt something in my coat pocket. Looking down, a child of 3 or 4 stood with a jacket several sizes too big. I barely caught sight of the dirty face under the toboggan and am still uncertain whether the child was a boy or girl.
Asking questions, I learned this child lived in the streets and was probably looking for food or something of value. A junior in high school at the time, I had relegated situations like this to Charles Dickens’ novels of long past.
In the United States, my family was not well off. At the time, I was living in a second-hand single wide trailer in Mississippi. Neighborhood families had often brought us their cast-off clothing, and to me this was just normal life. I had my first steak at age 18 when I visited my aunt, and she was appalled when I tried to slather ketchup on it because that is just what we did to make meat palatable.
But I had never faced starvation. I certainly knew that if you did not eat the food you had you would not get more, and I had forced down my share of canned vegetables to get better things. Leftovers were to be eaten until they were gone, and nothing was to be wasted.
But this small child had no one to provide meals. Scrounging on your own as a toddler? How could that be?
At that moment, my heart for orphans took root. Whether girl or boy, that face will forever be etched in my memory.
In college, I studied International Business and Economics. At the time I was learning the GDPs of countries worldwide I ended up in an expensive formal shop on the coast. I couldn’t help but notice that the dresses cost more than an average person made a year in many of these places.
When I think about things like this, it’s tempting for me to numb myself to it. It’s tempting to turn back to the world around me and deal with the things I can handle, knowing that I can’t fix this.
But I hope I never do.
Yes, it’s painful to look at the brokenness in this world head-on. This weekend, I feel assaulted by it. Reminded of the plight of orphans, the poverty in the world, the wars our veterans have fought, the incivility of politics, not to mention the hurts of those near me it can be tempting to harden yourself from it all.
But I refuse to do it.
I keep reading the messages online from various places that, “I am enough.” I look at all that I just mentioned, and I admit quite honestly, “I am not enough. I will never be enough.”
So, how do I keep standing, keep walking, keep eating, keep breathing each day? How do I keep going seeing the deep need of our world?
I take it all—all the pains near and far to the God who is enough. I don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. I don’t look away. I don’t pretend I can handle it. I look at it and I let it drive me to Him.
I cry on my bed and I intercede for the orphans, those treated unjustly, those who are persecuted, and the persecutors.
I put my trust in God, and believe he is at work.
I don’t always understand his timing. Why does he sometimes answer quickly, and at other times help seems so slow? His ways are beyond me, but he is at work.
I saw babies packed in cribs, but I have also seen some brought into a loving home.
I have seen girls left unattended in an orphanage, but I have also heard reports of 70 being adopted by their heavenly father.
Joseph never knew why he was hurt and abandoned by his family, enslaved, betrayed and imprisoned—until years later when he could say:
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
I am so thankful I am not in charge, and that I can confess my own inadequacy. It leaves me free to be used in the hands of my maker in the capacity he has for me. The burden of the world is not on my shoulders—in fact my own burden has been lifted by the one who can bear it all.
I can’t do everything, but I can do something. I can give, write, encourage, teach, love. Not everyone. Not as well as I would like to. But when the needs of the world and the people of my own home face me, I am so glad that I haven’t left them thinking I am the one who can satisfy all their needs. I can give a drink of water, but you will be thirsty again. Thankfully, I know where you can find the never-ending spring of life.
In addition to blogging, Stefani Carmichael is an author, counselor, daughter, wife, mom, and houseparent to teenage girls.