Mother Teresa once composed a prayer that basically said, "May I love Jesus as Mary loved him and serve him as she served him in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor." Mary had Jesus right in front of her so she could love and serve him in the flesh, but we and Mother Teresa don't get to see him as clearly as Mary did. Instead, Mother Teresa recognized that whenever she saw a person dying in the street near her, someone starving for food or attention, someone covered with maggot-filled sores, that person was Jesus in front of her. She couldn't see the carpenter with a beard and Arab features who walked the earth 2000 years ago, but she could see Jesus hiding "in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor."
Ever since high school when I learned of the Peace Corps, I've had the desire to live in a third-world country and do whatever I can to better the lives of the people living there. And by betting their lives, I don't mean coming in with my grand ideas of how they should live to be like us in the U.S., but that I wanted to do my part to educate the people, to provide the tools they need to start private enterprises, farm more productively, improve health care, etc.
In 2005, I learned of a humanitarian organization called Fidesco, which stands for Fides (Faith) and Co (Cooperation). It's basically a Catholic version of the Peace Corps where people use their professional skills to develop a country and also live as good Christian witnesses among the people. I was sold on going with the organization, but I was waiting until I had a husband to share the experience with. Well, I don't have a husband, but the timing with my jobs and my life points to now being a great time to go.
A lot of the motivation to serve right now, even without a husband, came from a book I read seven months ago titled, Kisses from Katie. It's written by Katie Davis, who is a young woman who took a gap year before college to teach Ugandan children. While she was teaching, she met children who weren't in school because their families couldn't afford the tuition, who were being
raised by grandparents or older siblings because their parents had died from
AIDS, and who walked around with distended bellies, open wounds, and
rashes. Those who were in class couldn't concentrate because they were so hungry. Little by little, Katie started providing for the needs of these children. She would find sponsors in the States to pay for the children's tuition. She started cooking a vat of beans after school so the kids could be fed. She eventually took 13+ orphaned or neglected girls into her home and continues to live in Uganda as their mother. I was so inspired by her story, and heartbroken for the children who carry burdens heavier than any child should have to face, that I found myself wanting to go over there. I wanted to go to a country where people are literally starving to death and do what I can to alleviate their distress.
Yes, there are people in the United States who are homeless, orphaned, or food insecure and I applaud the people who work with those communities. I need to do more of that myself (I've always been interested in a Big Brother/Big Sister type of program, but I've never been rooted long enough to enter into such a relationship). But for me, when I read Katie's book, I thought, "Jesus is literally starving to death in other countries. He's not able to get an education because his family is too poor. He doesn't have a parent to care for him," and I want to feed him, educate him, and love him in the distressing disguise of the poor. So I'm going.
I'm psyched to get to go to Rwanda and work with children in a school. Ever since reading that book, I've been drawn to Africa. I can't help but see how my path is mirroring Katie's, with the one difference being that I'm not fresh out of high school. And while I know Africa has a lot of diseases and bugs that can harm me, I'm taking the necessary precautions and then entrusting my life to the Lord's care. He's in control of it anyway, even when I'm seemingly safe and secure in the States.
I look forward to sharing this journey with you.