It’s without question that we are the richest people in the village. Which is interesting because I have never ever been rich, by the standards of what I consider rich to be. But the fact is, I am rich, very rich and sometimes just plain stupid rich. This is without a doubt very obvious to the people, considering I drive a vehicle. Hmmm, a vehicle, something that most Americans are expected to have by the time they are 16 or at least by the end of college just to get to work or school or a friend’s house. Most people we live around will never own a vehicle and possibly never have a job. And it’s not because they are all lazy, but it’s because there aren’t any. The fact is there just are no jobs for them, so they rely on farming to produce food to eat. So when the rains come late and the crop is bad, trouble and fear loom in the distance for the people of Niger.
In America we eat to satisfy the desires of our taste buds, we return food that is not up to par with our standards, we pick restaurants based on our likes and desires, not that these are all wrong, by any means. But the people in a village eat simply to put food in their stomach.
The people can be so poor that common medicine like eye drops cannot be afforded. And preventable sicknesses take the lives of people, especially young children, at sometimes an alarming rate. Death is also so frequent that when a mother tells us she has lost 4 or 5 children, not a tear is shed, because, well death is a way of life here.
All this is to say that I am rich. I sit in my house with air condition in the hot season (not to mention electricity and running water), eat 3 meals a day that I think taste good, receive a pay check each month, and drive a pretty nice vehicle. Also, I know that when my children get sick I can find and even afford treatment for them. So yes, I am rich. Which brings me to the frustration.
Begging. I don’t know if I have spent one day in Niger where somebody did not ask me for something. In fact it takes a whole 30 seconds on a good day when I walk outside my compound to hear the word “cado,” which means gift in French. Sometimes I think my name is “Cado” because I hear it so much. From food, to money, to the shirt off my back people are asking me for anything and everything. I find that sometimes my patience grows thin and I can feel the frustration building inside me. So I purposely carry no money on me so I can honestly say, “I have no money to give you.” But then some people make me empty my pockets to prove nothing is currently on me. Begging is frustrating.
But then I start thinking…what would I do in their situation? I’m hungry, I don’t know when I will eat again, my family and kids are hungry. The crops are running out or gone and the rainy season is still months away. Maybe I’m sick or my child is sick and I have no money to address the need. Honestly, if I put myself in their situation I would probably beg too.
And the answer is not that easy. You cannot just give to everybody who asks you. First off your resources are limited to some degree, and even if you gave everything you had away, and I mean everything, you would not even make a dent in the problem. People would still be hungry and needs would still go unmet. So you press on giving where God urges you to give and sharing the gospel. For what good will a full stomach be when your eternal destination hangs in the balances.
I write this not to make you give me money, but to just share with you the frustrations we often have. Maybe, however, the frustration does not lie with people begging me for things, but maybe the frustration is instead my own inward battle. When should I give and when should I not give? Should I sit and eat 3 meals till my belly is full when kids are hungry around me? Should I sleep so soundly in my soft comfortable bed mosquito free mostly, while others sleep on the dirty ground? The battle wages on in my head and in my life and to be honest I’m glad it does. I am fearful of ever getting to a place where these things do not bother me.
By God’s grace may the frustrations continue for the glory of Christ.