I recently heard this story from some friends of mine. Jayme and her husband Lynn work in Southern Africa with HIV/AIDS orphans. I find their story inspiring at the best of times, but this story shares a really valuable insight about how we need to receive from the poorest of the poor.
There are so many reasons why you cannot volunteer overseas – it costs a lot of money and time, it will interfere with your career path, relationships and family – these are true. But there are also reasons why we can.
Which choice wins? Whichever reason you listen to
Here is Jayme’s story:
We were asked to stand in a line, still, eyes shut. He told us there might be people putting things on us—dressing us—but we weren’t allowed to move, weren’t allowed to say anything.
Little did I know how hard this request to stand still, stand still and just receive, would be.
He told us that no matter what we must accept what they were going to give to us. We must accept it so that they can receive their blessing.
An amazing 3 days lead up to this point. A group of Canadians, mostly newly graduated doctors—some of the most highly educated people in the world—together with a group of volunteers from a slum in Zambia—some too poor to pay the $6 a year to send their child to primary school. Two groups thrown together by God, serving each other, learning from each other, freely giving and freely receiving.
It was the last night of this 3 day event together when James made this request of us, this small request: to stand still and receive.
Eyes closed, we heard singing, yelping, shuffling of feet, and when we opened our eyes they were standing in a line in front of us. Smiling widely, James started speaking again. He told us that they had talked about what they wanted to give us to show us their gratitude. This expression of gratefulness was a surprise in itself, they were the ones walking the hard miles every day in their communities, visiting the desperate, trying to encourage the broken, building a school and road to the school and gardens for the kids, and… They were the selfless ones that had taught us so much about loving our neighbor. And now they had decided to give again, from what they had.
They came forward and started dressing us.
Gertrude came towards me, took off her own Zambian cloth wrap and wrapped it around me. Then she took off her head scarf, and dressed me in it. Loveness followed her and gave me her shirt…it just kept coming. It was overwhelming I thought, too overwhelming… and then came the dress. Loveness who had just taken the shirt off her back, Loveness, a mother of 5, with no income, spending all her time and energy cooking for orphans in her community.
Loveness, who had the sincerest smile. She came to know love through this community program. She had turned her life around. Kicked out of her rented one room because she could no longer afford the rent after falling ill, almost to the point of death. Loveness made her living as a prostitute. She was found by James and Sukai through her starving and desperate children. Now she is not only healthy, she is beaming because of the love inside of her. Now she spends her days cooking for other vulnerable children. It is hard work with no credit. She said to me once that if she was doing this for man, she would have given up a long time ago, but she does this for God. I could tell by the smile on her face and the light in her eyes that she wasn’t just saying it—Loveness.
This was the Loveness standing in front of me now pulling purple silk out of the package tied around her waist. And with the most genuine smile and a special light in her eyes
like it was Christmas or something and she got the best gift of all
… she pulled this beautiful silk dress over my head. Could this be the most precious thing that she owned?
I felt like some one had just spilled the most expensive perfume on me. I will spend my life trying to give as much as she gave me that night.