Hope and Helplessness In the Face of Need

Hope for Hunger

Hungry Children

I stand under the shelter of a tin roof. The hot breeze stirs palm trees just outside the large open-air structure. Hundreds of children sit on benches pulled up to rough wooden tables. The sounds of young voices speaking Nicaraguan Spanish mingle with the stranger sounds of Miskito, the local indigenous language. Each child grasps a bowl and spoon, but many walk here on bare feet. Nicaragua 2012-08-05 176They come for a free meal. If it weren’t for this ministry, sponsored by a local church, they would eat nothing today. Some tiny children balance an even younger sibling on a bony hip. Some walk out clutching a full bowl of beans and rice. They carry it home to share it with the rest of the family. I feel out of place, helpless in the face of the need.

Subsisting at the Dump

Hope for Women in PovertyNearby we visit the city dump. Puerta Cabezas City Dump

Cows and dogs with bones protruding wander over the garbage, sniffing for something to eat. There are people, too. 2013 08 07_Stuart's Camera_0107Whole families with serious faces and sad eyes walk out onto the trash heap to meet us. They live nearby in rickety shelters made of plastic or tin. Each day they come to the dump to try to find enough to survive for the day. One woman, pregnant, looks about ready to deliver. How will she survive giving birth on a trash heap? How could her newborn survive? Prompted by a Godly local pastor and his wife we carry gifts of rice and beans and dried milk. I walk up to the pregnant woman and hand her the bag I carry. It will be enough to feed a family for a few days, but after that she will be digging through trash again. Not every family gets a bag of food. We return with more because the crowd on the trash heap outnumbers our mound of bags of food. “Lord,” I pray out of the ache deep in my chest, “is there anything I could do?” At the same time I am cautious. So many Americans do harm while they are meaning to do good.

Teen Girls

Back at our temporary home on the grounds of the Casa Bernabe orphanage, a hundred children laugh and play. They are well fed, and healthy. Each morning they walk to school wearing uniforms. In the afternoons teenage girls talk in the shade of their dorm. It isn’t immediately obvious, but a dark shadow looms over them. Soon they will graduate from the orphanage and be back out onto the streets where the unemployment rate is 85%. Many of them will marry much older men, not as a life partner but because they know no other way to survive. Is there any way to preserve the sparkle of hope in these girls’ eyes?Hope for Preventing Trafficking of Teen Girls

Single Mom

I sit in the comfortable covered porch of the pastor’s home with a woman who is preparing our dinner. She helps me with a craft project I brought for the children. We talk, using hand gestures to supplement my rudimentary and rusty Spanish vocabulary. She tells me that she is grateful for this job, working for the orphanage. It supports her and her children, which is not easy as a single mom in a desperately poor place. I ask her how she survived before she got this job. She will say only “It was very difficult”. I know there are many more women, like this beautiful one, outside these gates. Their need is desperate.Hope for Single Moms


I spend hours seeking conversations with women who work at the school, or minister to women in the church, or work at the orphanage. I ask questions until I am sure they think I am very rude, though they are too kind to say so. I learn from them. They have a faith that is real and fresh and joyful. I am humbled. I want to help, but I am the one who will be better off when I leave than I was when I came. The example they set, the trust in God they demonstrate is of far greater value that the material things I offer them. I want to come alongside these sisters in Christ, but how?

A Drop of Hope

Back home an old friend meets me for coffee and tells me about the ministry she recently joined. They provide business training for women in impoverished countries. The women meet together to learn how to use the skills they already have, to build a business that could support them and their children. The leader does not have to have any experience in business or in education to teach the group. The participants don’t even need to know how to read. A second version of the training materials is designed for teen girls, to help them start businesses before they graduate from an orphanage, so that they can support themselves. It is one way to protect them from falling prey to human trafficking. The lessons are biblically based so while women gain hope for a better life, they also are pointed toward the source of all true hope. The organization, Get Hope Global, gives microloans to women and girls in the program who demonstrate a good chance of success. Those women sometimes go on to employ other women. They send their kids to school, and the ripples of hope spread. I wonder as I listen, is this the answer I prayed for as my heart broke? No. It isn’t the answer. It won’t solve all the want in this place. But for a few, it might bring some hope where there is no hope. Hope for a better life.

The world breaks hearts every day.

The world breaks hearts every day. Our hearts break for our loved ones, their messy lives. They break for our own flawed and messy lives. At the same time our hearts break for people in Syria and Iraq, Ukraine, Ebola ridden Africa, victims of human trafficking, the thousands of children held in detention facilities here in the US because they fled the desperation and violence of their home countries, and others. We feel small and helpless in light of such enormous tragedies. Fortunately God doesn’t ask us to do everything. He doesn’t ask us to do more than we can do. The whole world is in His hands, not ours. God does call us to what we can do, the small things we are equipped to do, can make a big difference.

logoSignatureIf you are interested in hearing more about Get Hope Global watch this video then log in to their website. They have ideas for small things you could do that could make a big difference like praying for a specific woman or girl, or funding a loan for her, or telling a missionary friend about Get Hope.

If Get Hope isn’t the answer to the ache that rises up in your heart when you watch the news or listen to a friend, join me in praying for God to show you what is (and also what isn’t) that little thing you can do.


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