My heart breaks a little every time I drive through a tent city here in Port-au-Prince. While many people have been resettled into more permanent housing, four years after the devastating quake there are still thousands of souls whose “houses” consist of rickety structures of canvas, sticks, and tin.
Sometimes as I wake up in the breezy bedroom of my two-story concrete block home, I wonder what it’s like to wake up in a hot, cramped, one-room tent every day. Do tarantulas make their home in the dirt below you? What must be done to protect your meager food supply from rats? What must the fear be like when a hurricane approaches?
And I wonder, as a mom, how can I help my young children understand scenes like this? How do I reconcile their overflowing toy boxes with the trash that they see kids in tent cities play with? Or explain our fridge and cupboards being full of food when every time we leave our house, we encounter people who are hungry and begging for our help?
If we dwelt too much on the desperation and poverty that surrounds us in Haiti, we would soon burn out and go home, as all our efforts would never be enough to meet every need. But I do believe Jesus would have his followers keep their hearts tender and full of compassion, ready to act when the Spirit nudges.
One practical way we addressed this issue recently was that as Christmas approached and my boys knew they would receive gifts under the tree, I asked them to choose some of their toys to give away. I also went through our household possessions and together, we filled several boxes to give to some boys who regularly come to our house. We received much more than we gave as we watched the boys happily choose toys to take home and share with their siblings.
God, please give me – and other missionary moms – wisdom to teach our children compassion and generosity as we live amidst poverty!