The days are feeling normal again, the symptoms of jet lag nearly dissolved. I am able to sleep a regular night rather than going to bed in the sixes and waking in the fours.
I spent last week in Uganda, Africa writing on behalf of Compassion International. I shared a little here with the gracious (in)courage community before I left, so I thought it only fitting to give you a little update once I’ve returned.
I went in to this trip with an idea of what to expect, as this wasn’t my first trip with Compassion as a blogger. I traveled to the Philippines in 2011 so the intense poverty wasn’t as much of a shock this time.
It’s only been a little over a week since we’ve returned, but I’ve spent time considering some broad lessons I’ve learned (or at least been reminded of) because of our trip.
Here are six of them:
As a mother, I learned that touch, encouragement, and presence mean more than having a clean kitchen. I knew this already, but I learned it on a new level last week. In fact, the movement of a mother toward her child means more than having a kitchen at all.
As a writer, I learned the importance of telling the story that moves you rather than the one that makes the most sense. We spent each day with people living in intense poverty and came back each evening to gather around a long table and write for you back home, knowing full well you may be struggling through compassion fatigue, knowing perhaps we were struggling through the same thing, knowing out of the hundreds of stories we could tell from the day, we needed to pick one.
It was hard to fight against cliché when I was tired, especially as I sat small beneath a story that felt so much bigger than me. The temptation was strong to grab on to phrases that felt familiar and comfortable even if they were tired and over-used.
I also learned, as the clock creeped passed midnight and I still didn’t have a post finished, how important it is to ask for help, to lean on others even as I did the thing I’m supposed to be good at. Maybe especially then.
As a sister, I learned the comfort of having someone around who knows me well, who sees me in the room, and who can encourage me without having to say a word. I resist this kind of community sometimes, but that week in Uganda reminded me of the importance of showing up as myself and not a version of who I wish I was instead. My sister knows me and her presence reminded me to be myself in each moment no matter what the moment held.
As a sponsor, I learned that a still photo on a child sponsorship page doesn’t tell the whole story. The real life boy is living a real life. I would do well to stop putting my own spin and filters on my first impressions, not just in this but in everything. Sometimes the best thing to do is the opposite of what your instincts tell you to do.
I also learned (or re-learned, if you want to get technical) that the money I give as a child sponsor helps to save a life while the letters I send help to build a life.
As a freelancer, I learned the importance of doing my best work now. There were moments where I questioned the importance of coming home and continuing to write on my blog or work on articles for magazines.
What’s the point when people are starving?
But I learned an important lesson while watching the adults we met in Uganda: they work hard for everything they have. And they don’t have much. I have an obligation, really a privilege, to work hard at whatever is put before me so that my much can be turned into enough for someone else – whether that be my family, my neighbor, or a child in Uganda.
Perhaps the most important lesson I learned while in Uganda was this: I remembered the sacred soil from which every soul is shaped. No matter where we live or what circumstance we are born into, we all have a deep need for love, acceptance, security, and worth. And while those we met in Uganda have less variety from which to choose to meet those needs, the answer for all of us is Christ: behind us, before us, within us.
Those we met in Uganda cannot rely on themselves to have these soul needs met. And neither can I.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angles nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Rom 8:38-39
Have you experienced something lately – a trip or an event – that has taught you new lessons about life or reminded you of lessons you already knew but had forgotten?
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If you would like one practical way to turn your much into enough for someone else, you can choose to sponsor a child today as well. Visit this page to choose a child, but don’t be fooled by your first impression. Close your eyes and pick one. You can’t go wrong.
My filters and first impressions have locked me in the hallway of my own life for many years. It was learning the difference between those filters and my instincts that opened the door for me. This was a thought provoking post. Thank you!
” I would do well to stop putting my own spin and filters on my first impressions, not just in this but in everything”
Emily Freeman says
You’re welcome, Marcy. Thanks for reading.
So, so good, Emily.
Read through twice.
“As a writer, I learned the importance of telling the story that moves you rather than the one that makes the most sense.”
Your every word there planted a seed here.
I can’t thank you enough.
Yes, what Ann said. Me too.
Emily Freeman says
Kristen Strong says
Emily. Emily! Dang, this post just shimmers. I read completely enraptured and then this just blew me away:
“Perhaps the most important lesson I learned while in Uganda was this: I remembered the sacred soil from which every soul is shaped. No matter where we live or what circumstance we are born into, we all have a deep need for love, acceptance, security, and worth. And while those we met in Uganda have less variety from which to choose to meet those needs, the answer for all of us is Christ: behind us, before us, within us.”
Your words go far and wide and they matter and bless as they move. I am so thankful I get to be one who receives them. Much love to you, Emily.
Emily Freeman says
You, the ever-present encourager. Thanks, Kristen. I’m glad that part was meaningful to you – me too!
I love how you see, and I love how you help us see too.
Emily Freeman says
All a writer could ask for. Thanks, Kimberly.
I’ve been to South Africa. And Table Mountain. Namibia and I forgot the name of the other part. We went all around these places and in one of them we hired car and drove through the desert storm ….. the only time I’ve driven through a sand storm ……. to this German town. It was lovely.
Emily Freeman says
I’ve never been in a sand storm. I can’t even imagine. Is it like brown, warm snow?
Beautiful! You are inspiring.
Julie Sunne says
Important lessons for us all, Emily. Thank you!
Four years ago I journey’d to Ecuador. We’ve sponsored Wellington now for 4 years through CI. Some day I will get to meet him. (or see him play soccer for his country!)
In 2 months, I, my husband, and my 14 year old son will be feeding and ministering to children who LIVE at La Churaca – a dump in Nicaragua. I am preparing to have my heart broken, but your words and thoughts and feelings are preparing me to LOVE.
Hi Hannah, loved your perspective
I’m almost 68 and a recent widow I’m asking God to sharpen my focus on His purpose for my life going foward
I’m reminded daily that I do matter, what I say and how I say does matter–especially for a 3 year old grandson and a 7 month old grandson. I also know He is continually reminding me of the needs others in our world have
So thank you for not silencing your voice, your spirit, your faith. Trusting Him for the faith and courage to take His hand and not silence my voice. Dee
Bri McKoy says
Emily, what a gift it was to travel with you to Uganda. Your heart is so beautiful and I learned so much just from watching you. Especially watching you and Myquillyn together 🙂 xoxo
Bonnie Gray | Faith Barista says
“Sometimes the best thing to do is the opposite of what your instincts tell you to do.” Behind that instinct is a baring of the soul. And now, we see your heart. And it prompts us to do the same. Emily, I loved reading about the story behind how you chose your “Compassion Child” – “choosing the one you least expect”. I loved seeing the video and hearing what you saw and heard. *life*!
“the answer for all of us is Christ: behind us, before us, within us.”
Amen. He is sufficient. Thank you as always, for allowing His work in you to come
out and be present in us!
I love this so much. I honestly can’t find words to say exactly why, but, thank you.
Clarissa Sidhom says
I’m heading to Nepal in April and am so excited to see what God teaches me. While we’re there to teach at a Bible college, I know that I will be stretched and grown far beyond what I could imagine. It’s scary in a way! Thank you so much for your post!! 🙂
This is a beautiful post , thought provoking, reflective…….so honest and compelling.
Beth WIlliams says
Loved the post! You are a gifted writer and story teller.
While I haven’t been out of the country, I do sponsor a child from Ninos De Mexico–a Christian orphanage for poor or neglected children. Our last child got baptized and is now reunited with her mother. Through our sponsoring these children we write letters and send extra money for Christmas & birthdays. It humbles me when they share their ecstatic joy over getting a new pair of boots.
Also in the past I have been to a local state prison in TN. We would do a “Kairos” walk based on the Walk to Emmaus. The men would go in and have talks with prisoners on the walk and the women would cook food for the meals. It was exciting to see the expressions on the prisoners’ faces when they each received a birthday cake with their name on it. Such good work.
Everyone is doing such wonderful ministry/mission work to make this world a better place for all!