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Loving My Neighbors

A life-changing trip showed me they live in West Africa as well as down my block.
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I was sitting in the bleachers, watching my daughter Grace play soccer, when my cell phone rang. I assumed it was one of my four other kids checking in.

"Mom, come quick!" It was my daughter Sarah. "I've fallen down the stairs, and there's blood everywhere. I need to see a doctor!"

After asking a friend to take Grace home, I dashed to pick up Sarah and rush her to the doctor. Within an hour, he stopped the bleeding and closed the gash with a neat row of 20 stitches.

As we drove to the pharmacy for antibiotics, I thought about how different my response to a medical emergency had been from that of another mom I'd met just four days earlier. Haoua Seine, who lives in the West African country of Niger, had brought her small son to see me as I visited sponsored children in Talladje, a World Vision development project on the outskirts of Niamey, the capital city.

The boy had a poultice that looked like mashed potatoes stuck to his foot.

"What happened to this little boy?" I asked.

"He fell into the fire," one of the community workers explained.

"Has he seen a doctor? His wound looks badly infected."

"No, his mother's using traditional medicines."

No cell phone plea for help, no frantic drive to the doctor's office. Just a mixture of herbs and the uncertain hope her son would get better.

As I walked around the medical tent, I realized that despite our differences, these young mothers and I share much in common—love for our children, hopes and dreams for their future.

In Niger—a country ranking dead last on the United Nations' Human Development Index— children don't have necessities American mothers take for granted: clean water, education, medical care, adequate food. Located on the edge of the Sahara Desert, the earth's poorest nation depends on the rainy season for survival. But in 2004, it ended early, and with it ended the hope of producing an adequate harvest. On top of drought, a massive locust infestation destroyed what little crops survived. People sold their land and livestock to purchase food. However, in the face of shortages, the price of grain in the marketplace jumped 170 percent, well above what most people could afford. Men moved far from their villages in search of work, and women waited at home without food for their hungry children. The crisis left nearly 800,000 children facing starvation, and more than three million people in critical need of food.

Because my husband works for World Vision, I occasionally travel to countries where the ministry operates to improve the quality of life for impoverished children. But until visiting Niger, I'd never seen starvation.

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January 04, 2008  5:01am

MY RATING IS 5/5 - THIS IS GOOD What a wonderful way of blessing others and making their dreams come true. God will truelly remember you all the days of your life. This a an act of kindness and love and true Christianity. I believe in actions than words because action has more impact. I have a passion for this kind of work, I love working with the poor, orphans, elderly, Aids victims and NGOs like World Vision who have dedicated their lives to make changes in other people's lives. It is my biggest dream which I hope will one day come true as I will find myself in the field anywhere in the world doing the actual work. I have applied for the jobs in my country without success. If theres are good samaritans who are willing to make my dream come true and offer me an opportunity to work in the NGO's, please do contact me. You will have done another act of love and kindness to your sister.


December 29, 2007  5:50pm

One of the problems is that these third world countries often have corrupt governments. Even when funds and food is sent it often doesn't reach those that need it most. More should be done and it is good of you to remind us. Too many churches today care more about their own selfish needs, their own congregations and their own real estate. Little is given to missionaries in comparison. I also agree with the poster who reminds us of tragedies in our own country, the state of New Orleans still savaged by hurricane Katrina and many left homeless, jobless and without hope. We give to charities as best we can and pray for those in need. I think every little bit does help but those that can do more, should indeed.


December 29, 2007  5:40pm

Excellent article, thank you for sharing. I didn't know the situation in Niger, so thank you for bringing it to my attention. I have a heart for nations and peoples of other nations; my greatest difficulty in loving my neighbor is loving my physical neighbors...the loud, noisy ones who try my patience seemingly continually. But God wants me to love even these neighbors, just as He loves them. I love TCW - the articles are thought-provoking and since subscribing I have been praying that God would give me a ministry - because I'd choose to get involved in everything and that just doesn't work. I'm still waiting on His timing to reveal my ministry, but all of these articles help open my eyes to things I'd otherwise not know about. Thank you, and God bless you for loving your neighbors at home and around the world.

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