Sarah and the other Youth Ambassadors during their visit to East Timor. Photo by Lucy Aulich, World Vision
Friendship is a beautiful thing. Your friends inspire you, encourage you and most importantly help you get back on your feet when life knocks you down. It is your friends that extend more than their hands for you, they choose to walk where you walk and open their hearts to feel the joy or suffering that you are experiencing. I think friendship and relationships are some of the most amazing gifts God has blessed us with but the most beautiful friendships I have ever seen, ever experienced are the ones where sacrifice is present. Where someone decides not to do what pleases them most, but what the other person would want. Where they love selflessly, sacrificially, unconditionally and decide that no matter what the cost, another person’s joy is so much more valuable.
And yet so often in this world things go wrong because we focus on ourselves, we worry about ourselves and our wealth, our happiness, our success. In a race to achieve in life, we end up pushing everyone aside, stepping on someone here and there and refusing to stop to take a minute to think about others.
When I think about poverty and the issue of hunger I automatically think injustice. A world so unequal, so corrupt, so self focused, that it doesn’t matter who or what is in the way – they will be trodden on. A world where the richest 1% are estimated to earn more than the rest of the world by 2016. But when you meet the people, the mums, the dads, the grandparents and the children who face the daily struggles of living in poverty – you can never view the world the same.
I travelled overseas for the first time in February this year with World Vision to see their work in communities, and got to witness the life changing initiatives that empower entire communities to create their own change.
As I met more and more people and heard their stories, listening to the things they loved, the things that made their lives hard, I gained an understanding. To watch them relate to their family and friends, and smile and laugh just as we do, I realised that we were more alike than we were unalike.. And just like it’s hard to walk away from a hurting friend, I find it impossible to walk away from the suffering that families face because of inequality – because of injustice.
At each new project I got to meet people, young and old, who have a completely different experience of life than I do. I watched as men and women gave so much of themselves to their communities. From Theresa who helped organise a group called ‘The Collective’ where people could bring the produce they had grown to be sold at a fair and reasonable price to the capital city Dili, to Miranda, a lady who walked each week, rain hail or shine, to visit each mother in her community educating them about child malnutrition, I got to see the solutions. And most of them came from people willing to sacrifice everything they had for the betterment of their community. They were offered training by World Vision but without that training and their servant hearts these communities would not be able to flourish in the same way.
I was so inspired by each person I met; by their friendliness and generosity – even when they had very little. It makes me wonder if us in the Western world, are the ones missing out. I mean, yes, we have so much stuff, but will we ever be as content as the people I met in East Timor?
I cannot walk away from my friends in East Timor. I cannot and will not continue to live in my luxury unchanged by the things that I saw and the people I met. I have been more encouraged than ever to support the work of World Vision, but more so to stand up for my friends overseas: my friends who have had their lives determined simply by where they were born. For the people who are working tirelessly to help their neighbours, while we, East Timor’s neighbour, decide to turn a blind eye.
But I refuse to.
Because it’s this kind of love that changes the world. A love that crosses borders, jumps hurdles and tires itself for the joy of another; when we no longer focus on ourselves and our success but sacrificially love the people right in front of us.