Reading Richard Stearns’ book The Hole in our Gospel and came across this gem –
“A few years back I had my own encounter with somebody else’s child. I was in Gujarat, India, about six months after the massive 2001 earthquake. We were leaving the last village at the end of the final day of a ten-day, multicountry trip. I was exhausted and looking forward to getting back to the hotel and then back home the next monring. But something happened. As our car began to pull away, and a throng of people crowded around to wave good-bye, a desperate woman rushed up to my window with a little boy in her arms. She held him out to me with a pleading look in her eyes that said, “Please help me! Please help my little boy.” To my absolute horror, I then saw that her little boy had no feet. His legs had both been amputated below the knee. And then, just as quickly, she was gone, our car was on the road, and we were headed back to the hotel.
Gradually I put her haunting face out of my mind. I was tired. World Vision had helped so many thousands in Gujarat in the months after the earthquake; we couldn’t be expected to help every child. That last boy was boy was not my responsibility, I reasoned, and so I tried to forget what I had seen as I flew home the next morning.
Over the next few days, my body readjusted from jet lag, and I returned to the dialy demands at the office, but I could not get the distubing image of this mother and child — someone else’s child — out of my mind. It nagged at me and challenged me. Was I just a hypocrite, always talking about the importance of helping every child but not practicing what I preached?
One night at dinner I told my own kids about what I had seen and how it was troubling me “Can’t you do something, Dad?” they asked. That very night I sent an email to our team in India, describing the boy and asking if they could find him, one child in the midst of a billion people. I didn’t know his name, and I could not remember even the name of the village where I had seen him. But two weeks later I received an e-mail with a photo of six-year-old Vikas and the story of what had happened to him. During the earthquake, his house had collapsed on him, crushing both his legs and injuring his mother. With no immediate medical care, by the time help finally arrived, days later, amputation was his only option. To save his life, a relief medical team from Korea amputated both of his legs. Unable to walk, Vikas now could only crawl on all fours or be carried everywhere by his mother or father. So when I arrived in his village that day, a desperate mother waited for her moment and rushed to my departing car, hoping against all hope that maybe this man from America could help.
Believing that He could help–isn’t that what grieving parents did when Jesus passed through their village? Like the father who approached Jesus, knelt before Him, and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son”? (Matthew 17:15).
I asked our team in India whether we could help him. The answer came back that he would need another surgery and then prosthetic limbs. I would cost three hundred dollars; would the U.S. office authorize the expenditure? they asked.
“No,” I replied. “World Vision would not pay for this; Rich Stearns will pay for this.” You see, this was personal. Arguably, in my role at World Vision, I was already doing more than most people can do to help children in need. But God wanted more than my institutional programs and strategic responses; He wanted it to be as personal for me as it always is for Him. Children are not statistics to God. And so I sent the money.
Four months later, over the Christmas holiday, I was muttering under my breath; someone had sent me a large e-mail file that was taking far too long to download on my home computer. Finally, I opened the file with irritation and saw that it was a photograph–of Vikas, holding his mother’s hand and standing on his new legs. I wept as I stared into the eyes of somebody else’s child, a little boy I had never actually met but whose predicament had become so very personal to me.
Today, his picture hangs in my office in Seattle to remind me that every child is precious.” Page 111-113
Only this last time reading this while typing it up, did I get through it without crying. May we not forget the poor.