I’m officially in the Ivory Coast and it is definitely an eye opener. I’ve been trying to write this blog for the past few days but I couldn’t quite get the wording right so I kept putting it off. But I do feel the need to write while it’s still early in the trip and before I get to the end and regret not updating people on what we are experiencing over here. For me to say that we take things for granted in the U.S. is an extreme understatement. People here live in houses the size of our closets back home, walk around in dirty/raggedy clothes, drive on nearly un-drivable roads, and this is just what is considered “the city”. Kids play in the streets with wheels as their toys and walk the streets aimlessly for miles because their families won’t put them in school. We complain about a few small potholes in the road back home and these people drive on dirt roads in vehicles that I am constantly thinking the wheels are going to fall off from bottoming out all the time. And no I don’t think it is because I need to lay off a few meals or sit in the front of the bus.
The people here live in poverty and barely own a thing truly of their own. We visited one of our AIA host’s family’s neighborhoods the other day and the way they live and the way they care for each other is inspiring. They said that if someone has a problem the whole community surrounds them and helps them out. The way they made it sound is like it was one massive family within that community. They share what little they have and they welcomed us like we were family. Kids ran around waving at us and people were very friendly pretty much everywhere we went. If I were them I think I would almost be spiteful or bitter towards us, but that wasn’t the case. In my eyes, I’d imagine us viewed as privileged Americans coming to their country and their communities prancing through and leaving like it was nothing. I’d be somewhat spiteful or bitter if I was them but then again they may not know any better. They may not fully know the luxury lifestyles we live in comparison. I mean, we barely notice the little luxuries we have that others may not. Such as hot water, wifi, paved roads, air conditioning, or even simply being able to drink tap water out of the sink.
Today we visited an orphanage, we shared the Word of God with the kids, my teammate shared her testimony, and we played some games. The foster mother in charge of the orphanage told us her story of how she doesn’t work off of a salary and relies strictly on God and her faith to provide. She knew in her heart that what she was doing for these orphans was right and that caring for them was something God would also want. She was an orphan at the age of 2 and had to go around washing plates and taking things to the market to sell for other people. She vowed to help other children who find themselves in similar situations alone and uncared for. Imagine being that young, on your own just trying to survive. Also, for us it’s difficult to wrap our minds around someone relying solely on God to provide for them, but here in Abidjan it really is an incredible feat. She cares for over 170 orphans and pays for most of them to go to school, eat, and be clothed. She shared some stories of how God has come through in incredible ways during tough times such as when there was no heat to cook food for the children or when they were in desperate need for a bus to take the kids to school safely.
Her faith and devotion to help those in need is inspiring and I think a lot of people I know could use an ounce of that kind of faith in their everyday lives. I’m not saying people in America should rely solely on God to provide for them because we have far more means available to support ourselves than many of the people here in Abidjan, but imagine a world where people had even half the amount of faith this foster mother has towards God in their lives. Trusting that He has a plan and that He won’t throw us anything we can’t handle. That His plan is better than ours. I think there would be a lot of people living a happier life with less worry on tomorrow and more living for today. It would be a faith that drives out all doubt. I also think that it would be a beautiful thing for people to appreciate and realize what we have right now instead of constantly wishing for more. We live in a nation where work, success, power, material goods, and money are valued most. Yet, we also live in a nation where people go about their day, week, month, year unhappy and barely able to find something to smile about in their daily lives or work. These same people also have a roof over their heads, food at home, and most times a vehicle or transportation to take them places. I think that if the people of Abidjan living with less than the bare necessities can find one thing to smile about, we can find it as well. In spite of all that, the painful truth of this experience may actually be that in many ways they are more blessed than we are.
This trip within a few days has strengthened, tested, and questioned my faith in many ways already and I’m supposed to be the one sharing with the people here. I think it’s amazing how when you give back you end up getting back more than you gave and today is one of the many examples I hope to experience still this week. I believe that if we made a difference in the life of just one child or simply sparked their curiosity in having a relationship with God, today it was more than worth it.
“Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”