So, this is what poverty really looks like.
“Leave any valuables on the bus. This is a dangerous part of town.”
We exited single file and walked through muddy streets, glancing at mangy dogs and piles of trash. I couldn’t tell where one home stopped and another began. Rows of wood, concrete, and tin walls peppered with wire fencing boxed us in as we moved forward as a group.
I followed, then found myself passing through a door, winding through a narrow passageway stretching the length of the shack, treading down a steep, muddy pass, ducking under some hanging laundry, and finally, entering the humble home of Angie – my friend Bekah’s sponsor child – and her family.
We’re finally here – and I don’t feel what people are expecting me to feel.
In January 2015, I traveled to Honduras with WAY-FM and Compassion International. Check getting a stamp in my passport off the bucket list, because this trip to Honduras marks my first trip out of the United States.
Compassion is an organization committed to changing the trajectory of children born into poverty all over the world. They give families a chance to see their worth and dream of real possibilities – all in the name of Jesus. Every year, WAY-FM partners with Compassion to inspire people in the United States to learn more and sponsor a child so they can be a part of this life-change.
Lots of people told me what to expect. I heard of people breaking down in tears as soon as they stepped off the bus at Compassion Projects. People told me I’d have re-entry issues once I got back to the United States. I’ve never been one to let my surroundings impact my emotions too quickly, but I still wondered what my response would be.
And there I was, smack dab in the middle of poverty for the first time – and I didn’t feel overwhelmed with sadness.
Maybe it’s because I’m naturally an optimist. Maybe it’s because I was looking for it. But here’s what I found:
I saw hope.
I saw it in that mother’s eyes. It was written all over the Compassion Project leader’s face as she welcomed us to their church. I hear it in the voices of our translators as they share their passion for the people of their home country. It’s loud and clear in every story told.
Compassion is changing lives.
I saw joy.
Pure joy radiates from the kids in these Compassion Projects. They’re intelligent, smiley, and have a great sense of humor. They have friends, families, teachers, and sponsors who care about them, plus a great place to go during the week to learn about Christ. And it shows.
That was day one in Honduras. Things did get harder.
As the days went by, we learned more about the violence in these areas. We met children whose fathers had been accidentally killed by a crossfire between two gangs. We befriended a young, spunky mother of twins who only had one small can of soup left in her pantry and didn’t know where their next meal would come from.
These realities did make me hurt inside. But I never cried. And that’s ok.
The thing is, when we walked back into the Compassion Projects after visiting families stricken by poverty, we were greeted with happiness, a healthy sense of pride, and a beautiful realization of hope. The overwhelming sense of hope I saw on the first day was always there.
You know what did make me cry?
Watching my friend, Bekah, meet her sponsor child’s family.
The gratitude. The genuine love shown on both sides. The connection made in spite of the language barrier. Seeing the beauty in the heart of my friend, then finding an equivalent love in a family of perfect strangers.
That’s a taste of how things should be.
That’s true emotion.
That’s what I felt that day.
Do you ever have one random song stuck in your head for an entire trip? Well, this trip, it was “O, Lord” by Lauren Daigle for me. And man, I don’t think it’s random. Listen to these lyrics.
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