When Your Heart is Wrecked
The lights flickered as tears rolled down my face. I stared at the pile of presents under the tree, suddenly mortified at the sight. Just a few hours earlier I had been making plans to buy more gifts, add more things to the already overflowing mountain billowing beneath the Christmas tree. But something changed, something shifted in my heart.
Despite not feeling well, I arrived at church to lead my life group Sunday morning with a little more pep in my step. Awaiting my arrival was an 8 ½ x 11 inch manila envelope with my name on the front. How long had I prayed for that envelope to come my way? Well over a year. And now the time had come. A big grin plastered on my face, I tore open the package and pulled out the contents. I saw his picture and began to read about him—then the smile turned to tears. The more I read, the more I cried. I quickly stuffed everything back in the envelope and shoved it in my tote bag; no time for tears now, gotta get my head on straight to lead this study.
On the way home from church I shared the news with Samantha, “We got our child today, Sam. His name is Suratha. We can send him letters through email if you want. We most definitely need to be praying for him, he’s a part of our family now, even though he can’t live with us.” Upon arriving home we looked at the packet together. Sam asked some questions, I tried to answer the best I could while doing my best to hold back more tears. But it wasn’t long until after reading the information more in depth, I was a bawling basket case again.
You see, the church I attend 100% funds a small orphanage in India. The children there are supported 100% by a few families in the church who have listened to God’s voice in sponsoring a child, knowing that 100% of that money goes directly to the care and health of the child they sponsor.
When I first began attending New Life Community Church a year and a half ago, and I first heard about the orphanage named Shalom, my heart was stirred in a way it never really had been before. I began praying that God would provide a source of income for me to give to the church, specifically for that ministry. I couldn’t give my husband’s money, that was not my call to make, but if I earned money of my own, I could freely give whatever I felt led to do. Of course, this desire coincided with my efforts in becoming a freelance writer (which, as I’ve mentioned before, is not necessarily a well-paying field in the Christian market).
Over the next year a few checks trickled in. Twenty dollars here, eight dollars there. The first “large” check I received, a whopping $78, was cashed and immediately given to Shalom. I’ve never in my life been so happy to give money to a ministry. But still, sponsoring a child was a monthly commitment, and I just wasn’t making enough money to take that sort of step.
Then a friend of mine hired me for an editing job, what would likely be several months of work, maybe even years (the sky is the limit with that project). Then God said, “It’s time.” So, with tears in my eyes, I placed a good majority of my first editing check in that envelope and wrote his name on it, Suratha Bagh #46. When we got home from church Sam and I decided to put his picture under the tree, so we could see him every day and remember to pray for his health, safety, and provision.
But it was later that evening that God continued to ravage my heart. Over and over I kept coming back to that number, $40. Really, only $40 a month is all it takes to meet this child’s needs? Over and over it hit me, chipping away at my heart. I stared at the obscene amount of gifts under the tree for my one and only child. How many hundreds had I spent on her, with plans to spend more? How much do I spend each month just to watch television, use the internet, or have a smartphone? It all seemed so—awful. Not in a guilt-ridden way but in a heart-breaking way. How much time had I stressed over my husband losing a few days of work last month, or how we might have to sacrifice some comforts to pay bills or get some medical procedures taken care of, and yet, only $40 takes care of all of Suratha’s needs (and when I say $40, I mean 100% of that going to him—no middle man).
And then this morning I reached my heart-breaking point. Sam had lost a tooth last night and, I being a non-prepared tooth fairy, only had a $5 bill to give her (she much prefers shiny quarters). When she awoke, she excitedly reached under her pillow and pulled out the green paper. “That’s it? That’s all I got was a dollar?”
Tears spilled out of my eyes as I looked at my six-year-old with sorrow. It wasn’t her fault, it was mine. It was my parenting that had taught her such an attitude. With uncontrollable crying I explained to her, “Samantha, look at that picture of Suratha, do you realize that only $40 is needed to supply all his needs for a month? Do you not realize that the five dollars you hold in your hand, the five dollars you are complaining about, could feed him for a week? The hardest decision you have to make is whether to eat fruit loops or frosted flakes for breakfast, and you’re complaining about receiving five dollars from the tooth fairy…” Of course, by then she was crying too.
After a few minutes of hugging, and after I had calmed down a bit, I explained to her that it was not a sin to have money, or toys, or nice things. That God wants us to enjoy life, and we don’t need to feel guilty about the things we’ve worked hard to get. But one thing God does require of us is that we display an attitude of gratefulness and generosity with what we’ve been given. And God was showing me that I’ve been selfish. That I’ve had my head in the sand about the things that go on in the world. That I took too much pride in shopping at second hand stores, thinking what a great frugal person I was being, yet failing to sacrifice really much of anything for the well-being of a child like Suratha. God wrecked my heart piece by piece with just a picture of a boy I’ve never met. He showed me how I’m willing to spend thousands to keep my pets alive, but have to think twice before making a small monthly commitment to a child in need. He showed me how often I cried out over not being able to have more children, and yet, there is a whole world full of children who have no parents who need love, education, and godly homes to be raised in.
And out of a wrecked soul a new passion emerged, along with a new motivation to help sponsor more of these kids in Shalom. To earn more so I can give more to this ministry that is changing lives—with missionaries who are risking lives in a hostile Hindu nation—to bring children food, shelter, education, and most importantly, Jesus. Suratha is one of many, 140 to be exact, 140 children who are cared for in Shalom, solely by the congregation of an average sized church in Peoria, Arizona.
I don’t write all of this to make anyone feel guilty, or even to say that I feel guilty for the things I have. I really don’t. God has only shown me over the last 24 hours how much hurt and need is in the world, and how important it is for me to keep my head out of the sand and focused on the real needs of the real world beyond my front door. But even more than that, I am learning what it means to raise a child with a love and passion for others, instead of self. Sam and I have often had conversations about India, Pastor Suna, and the Shalom orphanage. Sam has saved and given willingly of her “tooth fairy” money in the past. She swears up and down she wants to be a missionary (she also wants to be a teacher, a singer, and an artist). But in a western society where we have more than we really understand or appreciate, it was good for us both to be reminded of how blessed we are, and how much more we need to be a blessing to others. Receiving is good, but giving is far greater.
So Sam and I came up with a plan, we decided that the twice (and sometimes more) a week Starbucks habit could be stopped, and some other things sacrificed to help meet the needs of others like Suratha. And as I sit here and type this my husband walks through the door, “No work today,” and I smile. Ah yes, like my Dad always told me, “It’s not sacrifice unless it hurts.” Indeed. Nor is it a true sacrifice of the spiritual kind unless it hurts. Peeling off the band-aid of self is, perhaps, the most painful sacrifice of all.
When God collides with your most inner core, when He appears at the door of your heart with a sledgehammer in hand, I invite you to let Him do His work. It’ll hurt, yes, but it’ll be so worth it in the end. Not just for you, but for those in your life who you influence each day, especially your children.
This is for you, Suratha, and all your brothers and sisters in Shalom.
Shalom opened its doors in 2003 to 20 children and 10 staff members. Today there are now 140 children. The facility is now undergoing construction to meet the needs of the children more effectively. They still need over $10,000 to complete this new building. If God places it on your heart to do so, you may give to the Shalom orphanage in India through New Life Community Church <<<Click it! Every penny counts! Also, all proceeds of purchases made of my short Bible study book, The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119, have and will continue to go to Shalom.