Guest post by Bev Washichek – Volunteer Team:
I grew up as a missionary kid in Japan and also was privileged to see and sometimes be involved in my parents’ missionary work – medicine, teaching, showing love and re-building in a country that was devastated in WWII. At that time, Japan was a 3rd world country. People were hungry, poor and sick.
My mom used to sing “this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” with us all the time. She would give us each a little candle (like a birthday candle), turn off the lights and show how one lights up the room, then light all our candles (there were five of us kids) and have us hold them all together and the room was so much brighter.
I am now heading into my “senior” years and live in Scottsdale (a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona). It is a city with lots of wealth and beautiful people (some artificially made that way); it’s a society with a strong undertone of competition and over-achievement.
With the strong influence from my upbringing, I was excited to volunteer – to turn off the electricity and see how God could use my small light for others. So here I was, headed to on a mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa with the CMO team. I confidently, yet naively, thought I was prepared.
Day one of our Nairobi mission site brought me back to what is essential to all of us – shelter, food, medical care and very importantly, faith. Some of the people we served (almost 300 were registered that first day), live in houses made of things from the local landfill. Cutouts for doors and windows made it possible to see a wooden board inside – the bed. Privacy? Non-existent. Women were cooking with an open fire. No bathrooms, no running water, no electricity. The people here rarely have access to any medical care. Surprisingly many of them have a deep faith and belief in God’s love.
My station was the registration desk for CMO. That meant that I was the first “western impression” for our CMO team. Was I a good ambassador for our group? Did I frighten children? Was my smile genuine and did it show acceptance, love and concern? (Definitely my Swahili did not impress, but it did bring smiles!!)
Holding a hand, over and over I said “God loves you. We love you too.” I really meant it. Our team was there because of our commitment to improve the welfare of others. If we could not do that, we wanted them to know that they are not alone. We prayed for the people we would meet before we left; and we will continue to pray for them, only now we have images of their faces in our hearts.
Did we make a difference? Were we present while being present? That is most definitely a skill that is hard to acquire. Did we actively listen? Did we make eye contact and have an engaged posture, perhaps a reassuring touch? Did we empathize with their situation? A situation that we truly cannot imagine living ourselves? Did we come across as being someone “better” than they are? How did we make each person FEEL?
I wanted to fix all their hardships! I wanted to improve their lives! I wanted to solve the problems! What I learned is that what they needed was for us to affirm their self-worth and dignity in the lives that they have.
Coming home I realized that again (been here before!) I am not thankful enough for all I have. Don’t we all get caught up in house remodeling, upgrading cars, and getting ahead at work, and on and on? It is time for me to bow my head and ask God to teach me humility. It is time to be thankful for my many blessings, including the opportunity to go to Kenya. I have regained some equilibrium in my life.
“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” My flicker of light is small, and sometimes it feels insignificant, but bundled with the lights of the rest of our CMO team, we were a beacon to many during our week in Nairobi. “Shine it all around the world, I’m going to let it shine…”
By: Bev Washichek