When serving the poor, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the immense amount of needs and heartache associated with poverty. However, even as we struggle to best meet the needs around us, we should never forget the power of a smile, a kind touch or an encouraging word.
Emma Fridley, an aspiring PA student, is currently volunteering in LaPaz for 6 months. She serves as a nursing assistant in the HOPE clinic and also spends time with many of the families in our Family Empowerment program. Emma recently shared a story that taught her the value of simple gestures done in love.
One day, while spending time with a particular family, she noticed a young child who was reserved and kept to herself most of time.
It was cold and so I asked her ‘are you cold?’ She said ‘yeah.’ So I put my arm around her and pulled her close to me and we sat like that for maybe 45 minutes. Just sitting and not really talking. You could tell as we sat that she desired that closeness so much. As time went on, she sat closer and closer to me. You could tell that she needed that so badly, even without words, she needed that expression of love.
It made me think about the scripture in 1 John where it says ‘let us not love with words or speech but in actions and in truth.’ She just needed a hug. She needed to be close to somebody and to feel safe. I felt very helpless to do anything. I knew I couldn’t really do much to change her situation. I couldn’t take her away from her family or anything. But what I could do is sit with her and put my arm around her and hug her.
That was what she needed in that moment and sometimes that is what we all need. We need somebody to go out of their way to sit with us for a little longer than normal. It’s amazing because the next time we went there, she knew me. She was really excited to see me. I sat with her again and she assumed her position. She sat right next to me. We stayed like that again for the rest of the time. It was amazing because she knew that I would be there next time to sit with her.
It can be really overwhelming to think about all the needs, especially as you get to build these relationships. It can make you wonder ‘what am I doing?’. Seeing all of these needs makes me realize more and more that I can’t fix the world. I can give love and that makes a difference. And I know that I can pray to a God who can fix and who can heal. He can make a difference long after I am gone. That makes service so much more of a joy because I can trust that God is going to do so much more with what I have to give.
Emma will be leaving LaPaz soon to continue her education in the United States. We have no doubts, however, that her impact here will be felt long after she leaves. Thank you, Emma, for reminding us that everyone is able to help, to love and to make a difference in the lives around us.
If you would like to learn more about our volunteer opportunities, or offer financial support to our programs in LaPaz, please contact us!