Trash adorns each side of the dirt road, rollicking like tumbleweeds in the cool breeze, skittering over the red earth.
Chickens and goats forage in the grass, mostly untethered, as free to wander as the people.
Men line the streets, reclining in the shade on or near their boda bodas , intently watching every vehicle that passes with solemn faces and sweat drenched skin, their perspiration belying their exertion.
Our van bounces over the pockmarked terrain, defying the potholes and crevices that score the dry earth, full of sponsors from America like me, rapt as we behold both the breath-taking countryside and the gut-wrenching poverty. My thoughts wander to my sponsor child who I will meet for the first time today, my heart aching as I consider my own childhood in stark contrast to hers.
Women and children trudge down the dusty road, yellow jerry cans balanced on their heads. At roadside washes they gather; bathing, washing clothes, and filling their containers from the same muddy pool. I can only guess how far they walked with that those empty jerry cans in tow and how far they will haul their now bloated 50 pound bodies back home. An impossible choice – to perish from lack of water or from any number of diseases the only available water contains.
Mounds of earth with green leaves sprouting from the top conceal sweet potatoes and stalks of corn hem almost invisible paths toward unknown places, while women attack the thirsty earth with hoes and shovels. Cooking fires spew smoke in columns against the wide blue sky and piles of bone white cassava lie drying on tarps in the bright sun.
Shacks and sheds crowd the road, advertising for cooking oil, Coca-Cola, MTN Mobile Money Network, Sadolin paint, and the new and improved Bull Washing Bar plastered on the walls. People congregate beneath every available patch of shade to escape the sticky heat of the day. Women sit next to their fruit stands with their chandeliers of green bananas and piles of bristly jackfruit, and men sit in front of the furniture stores with their carved wooden bedframes and boldly patterned sofas on display in the dirt. Like flies trapped in amber, many people seem caught in expectant inertia, waiting…waiting…waiting.
Kids kick a home-made soccer ball and chase tires and each other, liberated of any adult supervision. They wave excitedly when they see mzungus pass in the World Vision trucks, yelling out words just beyond comprehension. Their clothing is torn and stained, reminding me of what would be relegated to the dirty rag pile in my garage back home.
And yet, hope grows, its presence taller than the towering sorghum stalks and more plentiful than the red dirt that coats everything. Hope sprouts in the heart of a 9 year old girl named Christine who shyly looks up at me and then quickly averts her eyes as she takes my hand in hers. Hope soars as she sings for me, her sweet voice barely above a whisper. She is so much more than a recurring transaction on my bank statement, processed automatically without much thought, with money I’ve hardly missed. I realize that what is given as a small act of generosity is received as a radical act of love from afar. For Christine knows that halfway around the world, I have been thinking of her, I have been praying for her, and I have been sponsoring her so that she and her community can have access to clean water and to better quality of life, all in the name of the One who first loved us and sacrificed Himself in the most radical act of love the world has ever seen.
The poor and the needy seek water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. I, Yahweh, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the barren heights, and springs in the middle of the plains. I will turn the desert into a pool of water and dry land into springs of water. I will plant cedars in the desert, acacias, myrtles, and olive trees. I will put juniper trees in the desert, elms and cypress trees together, so that all may see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it. –Isaiah 41:17-20
If you would like to sponsor a child through World Vision, please click here: http://cause.worldvision.org/kayla-drumwright
If you would like to make a donation toward my marathon fundraising goal, please click here: http://www.teamworldvision.org/participant/kayladrumwright