I was warned that a missionary needs a "good theology of suffering" to cope with life in a majority country. Zambia is that. Over 100 children are diagnosed with HIV every day. Zambia is the third hungriest nation on the continent (the top two are Chad and the Central African Republic; there are war-torn nations with famines that have higher nutrition ratings!). Only about half of all children will be able to attend primary school, much less secondary school. And even fewer will be able to find jobs as adults.
This is the reality of life here. It's a reality for much of the world. And I can pray, I can work, I can give. I even am doing the "going". But now that I am here?
I have the honor of teaching some children who come to a feeding program that we are involved with. These children are all HIV-positive. All of them are "orphans". For them,three meals a week they eat at the program are their only meals.
This past week, I choked on the words of my favorite song to teach kids: "The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord." (Psalm 34:10 and Romans 8:28) I believe the truth of these promises. I believe that God is loving and loves each of these precious children.
I could take the easy way out and relegate all of God's blessings, love, and care for eternity only. The the "good thing" is life eternal. And, indeed, that is a GOOD thing. It is a GREAT thing. But the Word also says, "I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread." And I've heard people tell me that God must have known the children that I see begging bread will not follow him, are not righteous, or their parent's sin is causing their suffering. When faced with the blind man (who was begging for his daily bread), Jesus said, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3) I cannot tell these children that the God who loves them so much that He made a way for them to have a perfect eternity with Him does not love them enough to feed them today.
Or is powerless to feed them today (and expect them to trust that same God with their eternal soul).
Or that they have to earn His blessing by seeking Him more or loving Him more (I know people who do neither and yet have plenty to eat).
The only refuge I can find is in Hebrews 11. I love verses 1-35! The empowering, emboldening call to a life of faith that can "overthrow kingdoms, rule with justice, shut the mouths of lions, quench the flames of the fire, escape death, be strong in battle, defeat whole armies, even receive loved ones back from the dead"!
But that passage continues...
"...others were tortured... Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword...destitute and oppressed and mistreated...wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground..."
I know which group I would rather be a part of! I know which group I would rather tell these children they can join!
"ALL of these earned a good reputation because of their faith..."
The answers are not simple. I wish I had a faith that was content to leave these questions unanswered, but you can't look a child in the eyes and tell them God will provide all their needs when they won't eat again for 3 days! I can't quote Jeremiah 29:11 and simply promise a "good future" for them. My wealthy American faith can't live here, can't preach here, can't help here.
I want His Kingdom to come! But until then, I want the starving, sick child to be fed and held.
So, with tears falling, I praise Him. Because I know He is good and faithful and loving.
(If you have read this far, thank you! If you would like to be part of helping these children, please let me know! We are only at 50% of the monthly support we need to stay here, and we have exhausted all our personal resources. There are also two projects we would like to begin that will directly help these children, but we can't begin until we have funding. Maybe God's promise to provide their needs will come through you?)