I have seen you in the airport on several occasions. I watched you pull out your passport with trembling hands as your feet meet foreign land for the first time. I see you lean in to understand the lilting accent of the immigration officer. Maybe we have met eyes and smiled at each other as we walked those red dirt roads. I can see the newness in your heart and the adventure in your eyes, this traveling the world to meet the poverty and the broken is all unfamiliar to you.
But I hope it seeps into your soul and crashes your life like a hurricane leaves debris and the need for a brand new beginning. My prayer for you is that in this journey, you will never go back to the girl googling photographs of Africa, because you have tasted the bitterness of poverty and all the destruction that surrounds it. The sweetness of adventure giving way into the burden of what your eyes have seen. The gospel you once longed to share is suddenly the last thing your mouth wants to talk about because you have seen the darkness and for a split second you wonder where God is in all of this. And still, the hope shines through and God’s goodness is staring right back at you.
Oh, I hope that you see the dying and the broken and the grieving. Hold hands with the starving child and carry the sick baby in your arms. Listen as the young boy tells you how his hunger pains are giving way to ulcers and he wishes he could have more meals. I want you to get ring worm because that means you loved without fear. I hope that you experience the reality that most of the world faces, touch the poverty and be wrecked by the injustice.
In all the moments you spend trying to seek Him, you see that He’s already there. In every hope filled glance, in the rusting old church, in the dirty shack where the child you have fallen in love with sleeps on cardboard, in the beggar on the street clinging to grace. Jesus does not need you to rescue and redeem, He’s already done that and He’s making all things new. He just needs you to allow your hands and feet in this broken and exhausting service to Him. There will be days when the beauty is overwhelming and nights when you fall asleep before your head touches the pillow, your heart will be yearning for more and holding onto the glory your eyes have seen.
I hope that you experience the joy that overflows in the poorest places, in those dark alleys of the slums, in the church that in falling into the river. See the faith that exists in the midst of corruption. The grace that floods into the earth is the same in America, Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and the middle east. Our God is sovereign and is a Father even in the hardships that we want to only shake our fists at. Oh, see His love that He pours out upon those who serve Him. Just watch as He lavishes mercy so freely and beautifully.
When you return home, I hope that you walk through Walmart or Target or Best Buy and you realize how shallow our society is. I hope that your Amazon wish list shortens and the gratitude in your heart only grows. Maybe you will sit in the airport (as I have done) and convert USD into that currency of the country your heart beats for, you will ponder over the fact that a latte could cure malaria and a meal could feed a village. And when this truth flows into your heart you will realize how much you take for granted and how little is poured over in thanksgiving. When you allow water to flow into your cup I hope you remember the frail little girl you saw carrying water in a jug, her bare feet carefully taking one step after another to prevent it from spilling over onto the ground. Do not grow disconnected from where your feet have journeyed, the stories your ears have heard and all that your eyes have seen.
So, sweet girl in the maxi skirt, strap the Chacos on your feet, lather on that sunscreen, and let the malaria preventative course through your blood stream. Open your hands and your heart so you may find the beautiful in the ugly places, go be love and let Love transform you in glorious ways.
the one who’s walked in your same shoes
P.S. just metaphorically, I don’t own Chacos.