About the Author

Emily P. Freeman is a writer who creates space for souls to breathe. She is the author of four books, including her most recent release, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. She and her husband live in North Carolina with their twin daughters and twinless son.

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  1. You made me cry this morning. The spaghetti line. It was the spaghetti line. Thank you for this rich perspective, my friend. That sometimes staying *is* it’s own kind of going!

    • God is constantly putting this on my heart, Lisa-Jo. When I feel less of a mission than my family who is in South America, He reminds me that I am doing His work here. The time we put into our kids – reminding them for the gazillionth time about saying thank you, and making good choices, and being polite to help other people – we’re helping to build foundations. We must trust.

  2. I love what you said, Emily, about the work all the moms “back here” are doing too. It is important work…wherever God has us this day. But oh, I am praying for you and the team. Such heaviness you all are seeing. Praying He guides as you process.

  3. “Why don’t we just help people?” YES! That is the question my heart asks when I think about why we help people around the world when people in our neighborhood are hurting. Thank you for articulating what I couldn’t. That’s why you are in Manila and you are doing a great job!! Our family is praying for you guys.

    And a bus with chandeliers, VERY fancy.

  4. I am following, Emily, and I am trying to keep my eyes open. I hope your trip brings you refreshment and joy as well as awareness and urgency. Be blessed so richly on the final days of your trip!

  5. We are missionaries in S. Africa and we get this question a lot. I love how God’s call is different to all of us. Some He calls to work with H.S. students, some to the homeless in our own backyard, and some to orphans across the sea. People are people and all are precious is His eyes!

  6. The whole world is the mission field. Near and far, we are serving everywhere, all of the time, when we try to do what Jesus calls us to do. Thank you for this. Beautiful. Praying constantly for you all as you follow Him and lead others. You are such a blessing. Blessings, friend! <

  7. Emily, Thanks for putting all the chaos so often in my heart into clear words and pointed passoin. I am usually lost beneath a deluge of passions and heartbreak for everywhere and everyone at once. Your post calmed but energized my heart…untangled all the questions of “Where?”, “Who?”, “When?”, with just the beating heart of Christ for all His children, right now…. Thank you, Jesus, for simplifying it to “Love.” (Mt 22:36-40)
    Praying with and for you! Bless you for your obedience to walking in step with the beat of His heart.

  8. Hi Emily. Thank you a million times over for sharing this with us. I read all your posts today on your Compassion trip. Honestly? I’m speechless. I just don’t know what to say. “Wow.” comes to mind.

    I think a blog post, with some organized thoughts, is in order [for myself].

  9. Your pointing out that it’s not either or, it’s both/and when it comes to where and how the Lord wants to use us to be His hands and feet to those in need. Your mention that each of the kids – those at our tables and those half way around the world – is from His heart is the fundamental truth I love so much. I’m praying for you all as you minister and show the love of Christ in your day and through your words.

  10. This is the same question I’ve had to address for my upcoming trip to Peru. For me, the Lord pressed upon me the same question he had for Isaiah, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

    The truth is there are many, many churches and resources available here in the U.S. that are not accessible to others around the world. In my part of the country (aka the Bible Belt), there seems to be a church on every corner. While that doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to minister to our neighbor, it begs the question “Who is my neighbor?”

    My neighbor is not only the person who lives in my community but also in the world abroad. The world is very small where the peace and grace of God is concerned.

  11. great, thanks for sharing, I got linked to this from Kat’s facebook. Great thoughts on balancing both. I (who love to travel overseas) hate hearing-we don’t have to go there because people here need Christ. Well actually if you read His words-yes we do HAVE to go and stay and share everywhere. Thank you for doing that this week!

  12. Thank you. My parents ask this question all. the. time. when I talk about my heart for the poor in other countries. And just because most days I serve God in my hometown doesn’t mean I can turn a blind eye to the suffering around the world. It’s so tempting to refuse to see… thank you for the invitation. Praying I’ll see and listen and obey fully… and praying for you all for physical and spiritual provision on your trip.

  13. I think we are called to serve in different areas at different times but as long as we are heeding God’s call to serve it matters not who or where but how. 18 months ago my niece died in a tragic car accident (a contempory to my children in age, all beautiful young people) which no one can explain, but the morning afterwards i phoned work and explained everything and said simply ‘i cannot come today, my children need me.’ And still my children need me and i need them as we still work from day to day, until the night is over.

  14. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this.
    I’ve been doing missions for many years now, well, since I was 17 (I’m 31 now) and I still get the “why do you go there when there is so much need here?” questions.
    This is a great way to explain it to put it that need knows no country.
    Again thank you!

  15. Thank you for sharing this today. Having been on several mission trips overseas (both long term & short term) I often get asked the question, “why there and not here?” and it has always been difficult for some to understand that God calls us to serve in different places at different times. While I treasure the times I served in the Middle East and hope to return one day, right now I recognize He has called me here, to America to love on these children (I teach Special Ed in a low income area now.) It’s all about where He has called you for today.

  16. I’ve heard this question in terms of adoption (how can a person adopt from overseas when so many children here in the city are in need?) Tough questions. But you have answered this so well. “…we are all asked to see.” Both of you. Wonderful. Moms. Women. Writers. With eyes that see. Thanks for sharing what you see with the rest of us. Following you on your journey.

  17. Emily! I cannot say how grateful I am that you chose to go on this trip. Saying yes did not just mean taking yourself there. It meant taking all of us along with you and it just does my heart so good to catch a glimpse of it every day. You’re helping to light a fire in our hearts by being the hands and feet of Jesus and letting us witness it.

    I too have heard, “why would you minister in Africa when there are needy people in our own country?” I have been rejected by some and others have simply chosen not to support me in the things God has called me to. But what a beautiful thing you said: “The truth is we can do both.” I couldn’t agree with you more. Who are we to put God in a box? He has certainly given many of us the ability to do both. Boy, that makes me So excited! I’m honored to be a part of God’s body. What a high honor to be an ambassador for Jesus in the U.S. and around the world. I can’t think of a better job. 🙂

    Thank you for allowing Jesus to inspire us all through you!!!

  18. Our commission is not to Jerusalem OR Judea OR Samaria OR the ends of the earth … rather it is ALL of them. Not each of us to all, but each of us to where we are called. Thank you, Emily, for repositioning the discussion from “Why there?” to “Why not everywhere?”

  19. I wonder why we don’t just help people too. My experience is when you step out in a way that draws attention, people have all kinds of odd questions. We go where the Lord leads and that’s different for everyone and at different points in our lives. I would love to go on a missions trip out of the country. Everyone who has gone on one, says they come back different.

    Blessings,
    Mel
    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  20. I have chills, Emily. Those sweet – heaven sent – chills. The kind that make me see my heart and bring tears of gratitude to my eyes.

    My heart wants to help the world. I’d open my arms wide and bring in every child my family could hold. I’ve lived nine months loving eight boys I never knew before, and learning more about my own little boy and how love is so unconditional. (I wrote about this on my blog yesterday, and I’m reminded of it again as I read what you wrote today.)

    Yet, I agree that we have people in our own backyard and I’m a bit ashamed that I really can’t believe there are hungry tummies in my son’s school, cause we’re a community that has provisions (I think). I’m sheltered. And I feel ashamed for that. But I know I can’t. And this is my story.

    But, I’m not sure how else to help in the confines of our life, and I pray that God would reveal it to me and make my groom’s heart break, too. I want another child and I’d adopt if He calls me to it. And then there’s the lady down the street…or the neighbor who I think more about myself and what will she think – than how can I help her and spend time to encourage her…

    God will move us in His time. He gives us opportunities to love when often we need to learn about Him most.

    What you are doing will change your life – and in turn change so many others (including myself). I so much appreciate what you wrote about today and how your heart is so much reflected in your candid words.

    Rich blessings on your journey and the remaining hours you’re there, and the hours when there becomes a part of your here, Emily…

  21. Thanks for all your posts this week Emily. When you said you would be going on this trip I was interested to see it from your perspective. You are being very thoughtful and reflective. Thank you.

    I am wondering, are the people who are asking the question of why are you helping those in another country and not this one – are they actively helping those in this country? I would think that if you were mindful that all helping is being a part of God’s work, regardless of county, then you wouldn’t judge anyone for their choices on where they choose to help. You would be grateful that you’ve found a kindred spirit who is willing to keep their eyes open and see that the need for help comes in a variety of ways.

    We shouldn’t limit each other by our own mindset but instead allow God to lead us where He needs us.

  22. Emily, watching you walk through this, walking with you – it is almost as if God gave me a hand to hold to figure something out I didn’t know how to figure out. He is amazing in you.

    And I love the video. You are SO COOL in person. Seriously. 😉

  23. I am so thankful you shared this raw part of your journey. In my own longstanding search for answers about theology and responsibility to the poor – your words help frame what I don’t know with what I do: “We do not ignore the poverty in the world simply because there is poverty in our city any more than we ignore the high school students in our church simply because there are adults, too.” YES. Thank you…

  24. Emily, thanks so much for this post. Those of us who work in animal rescue get this kind of question/criticism all the time. I struggle to understand this kind of either/or thinking. They cannot seem to wrap their minds around the fact that I can care about animals AND people. I believe that if you have a truly compassionate heart, it’s NEVER either/or because it’s ALWAYS both/and.

  25. Emily, We were asked the very same question. Why are you going to take the gospel over there to the Philippines when there are still unreached people here in the USA? And like Terry Lynn said above. it is not OR-OR-OR . .. it is Go, go, go. and compel them to come in to the family of Christ.
    Hoping to sponsor a child from Davao. I know they have about 7 centers there… working on it…

  26. Emily, I’ve been following your blog posts about the trip to the Philippines this week, and I have just been so moved by it all.
    I grew up in a 3rd world country, and get really impatient with people who ask the “why go overseas when there’s poverty here in the US” question. Your response in this post is great, balance, and oh so much more spiritual than my usual response. God bless you in this last couple of days of your trip.

  27. Thank you for bringing us around the world with you and to our own backyards too. Your beautiful heart makes a difference in all of those places–the near, the far, the in-between. XOXO

  28. I love seeing you beautiful ladies there. What a blessing you are!!!

    We get asked a similar question here, why start ANOTHER church when there is a huge gianormous mega church in our backyard that could easily do what we do without struggling so much? Because they actually cannot do what we do. We are called to be a light, to serve and to love people in ways that Megachurch cannot.

    God calls each of us to serve and love and spread the gospel wherever he calls us to go. We need to be listening for his calling. Today we might serve here, tomorrow there.

    Let’s not limit what God can do through us to a corner of the world where WE want to stay or limit our support or offer our gifts to existing churches that seems to have so much support already in place…let’s spread out and support MORE ministries that are doing God’s work! Let’s love here AND there … all corners.

    Amen sisters!!! Thanks for hearing God’s voice and saying YES, Lord! Send ME!!

  29. Thank you Tsh and Emily! I so appreciate Compassion and their mission and both of you ladies and your hearts. What takes more energy in the human soul, being critical/judgmental or giving encouragement/hope? Thank you for following the call and for offering hope … xoxox

  30. I believe that when people ask why not at home it’s very different from the comparisons you made. I think, even when those people asking are NOT Christian or believers of any kind, they are asking from a knowing that is very present in scripture. That knowing to which I refer is the knowing that once we as individuals are well, we are able to help others become well. Once I as an individual am able to pay all my own bills, I can extend outward and help others with theirs. Once I am fit, I can help others become fit.

    So, too with larger-scale helping. Once we are sound, in and of ourselves, we (as a nation) would be THAT MANY MORE people to help those around us. To my way of thinking, I need to see to my “home” (country), order that and then encourage, lead, and guide those here to reach out beyond our borders. Would I actually be the one leading that outreach… well, I can hope. But more likely it would be my children (who are in many ways an extension of me).

    I truly believe that if Americans who are able would unite to heal the problems (especially fiscal) within America, we would then increase the extension of help that would move away from our country exponentially. I’m not referring to the forced help of the politicians in lawmaking. I’m referring to the person to person helping that is truly the sharing of the Love of Christ.

    This is my opinion, of course, but I believe it’s the way our Lord Jesus Christ would have us move change through the world. Change me. And by so changing, I change the world. Like Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” So, too: change my country, and I change the world. JMHO, of course.

    I AM glad you feel compassion and desire to help. It is good. You are doing good, of course. Light is light. 🙂

  31. I have also been asked why I sponsor in other countries, why I go on a mission trip to other countries. My answer is “God never asked me to stop loving at the border”.

  32. Thank you so much for this article! I am a missionary living and working in the Philippines and I needed this reminder also! When we are constantly surrounded by “need”, it becomes overwhelming at times. And we also have to balance taking care of our own family and ministering to those around us. Thank you for this perspective! And thank you for coming to the Philippines and being a living, breathing example of His love. I pray you will never be the same after your time here.

  33. We are adopting a little boy from China and some people ask why we don’t just adopt from our own country. Some people even go as far as to tell me that IF they were to adopt they would adopt “one of our own” because there are so many in need. I say, they are all God’s children. “He has issued the invitation”… I like that.

  34. Amen!
    When we are listening to God and accepting the invitation He is giving us, 9 times out of 10, it’s not about what God wants to do with our help, it’s about what He wants to do IN us. Every Christian who has ever gone or done whatever God has led them to do, they have come away or returned home a changed person. We go thinking we are going to help someone else, and we do, but the blessings and growth God achieves in us is what He had in mind all along.
    So, it doesn’t matter… here or there, the important thing is that we are obedient to God and where He tells us to go. He’s the One with the Plan.

  35. this was amazing. it kept running through my head that we are one body with many parts. you are the part He needs you to be this week. and I couldn’t be more proud of you all.

  36. This was an enlightening post, Emily, and I think it answered several questions from “whom do we serve” to “where do we serve” and “are we missionaries when we are serving our own children” ? I think we all struggle with these questions within ourselves and wonder how to answer people when they pose them to us.
    Thank you for answering this with such wisdom. I know the Lord was leading you and I hope that our journey with Compassion continues to bless both those to whom you are ministering as well as the group of women on this journey.
    May we always answer these questions in gentleness and reverence as the Spirit prompts us in 1Peter 3:15.

    Many blessings on your journey and to each of us on our journeys wherever the Lord leads us.

    Janis

  37. You are adorable. And now I’m wanting a chandy in my minivan. : )

    I know you’re exhausted, drained, and leaving soon for home. This is so important, you showing us the needs and how we can help. Praying for stamina for you on this last leg of your journey.

  38. I loved this post, Emily. It is a perfect reminder of the need everywhere, the opportunity everywhere. It’s so easy to think (wrongly, of course) that serving overseas or in some dramatic way is somehow more spiritual or more important in God’ Economy, and I LOVE how you dispelled that idea. Because you are so right, we serve and love with all we’ve got, anywhere, to whomever the Lord puts in front of us. And there are no bonus stickers for people ladling soup to the homeless. Their path of love is no important or harder than the mom serving the spaghetti. Beautifully written.

    And I loved watching ya’ll on the video! You are both precious! Praying for you all!

  39. Emily, thank you. Thank you for this beautiful perspective. My hubby and I are beginning a journey of international adoption, I know that we will field a similar question…why not adopt locally? I have also asked myself the question and the short of it is, only the Lord knows.

    I’ve been challenged by your posts over the past week and so appreciate you sharing.

  40. Thank you for this post. I appreciate it very much, especially since my husband and I travel, often times to South East Asia.

    What many people do not know either is that, while it’s not Compassion, there are groups where you can sponsor American children who live in low-income areas.

    I have been thinking of the Good Samaritan a lot lately. “Who is my neighbor?” “The one who has mercy.”

    • Hello Danae, My name is June. I read your comment about there being organizations in the U.S. where children can be sponsored who live in low-income areas…. And that caught my intention because my sister-in-law said asked me if there were any groups in our country where you can sponsor a child. I didn’t think there were any. Could you please e-mail me the names and or websites ? I would really appreciate that Danae. Then i can give the info to my sister-in-law. My hubby and i sponsor through Compassion and it has been a blessing. Thank you very much Danae and God bless you ! Sincerely, june

  41. That’s exactly it. The Spirit of God will call you where HE wants to use you in each day. How is it that someone else presumes to know better than us where we specifically have been called by the still, small voice of God?
    When we felt the call to adopt, we were open to anything, anywhere. Doors closed, doors opened, and God’s spirit guided us with a palpable hand. Turns out that there was a particular child in the particular country of Ethiopia who was pre-destined to be part of our particular family for particular purposes still known only to God at this time. Sometimes people want to debate whether international or domestic adoption is “right” or “best”. Sometimes they ask, “Why Ethiopia?” I could trot out all of the generalized, logical reasons that it was a good idea (as one could for hundreds of other choices), but more and more I go to the REAL answer, the only one that gets to the heart of the matter: Because that’s where our daughter was.

    If anyone ever doubts the sovereignty of God in guiding “small” actions toward people far away, please watch the following and consider the effect, the ripples for generations… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY3pgxjJ4iA

  42. There’s a constant lump in my throat while reading this. Thank you for visiting our beautiful country and its beautiful people, especially the children. I can’t thank the Lord Jesus enough for touching your hearts to help our poor children, and to travel thousand miles to visit them.

    This love that the Lord has put in our hearts to reach out to the poor – it’s just amazing!

    I would have loved meeting with you, as I imagine you going through the busy avenues of Manila, while we’re just so near. But I hope there will be other times, when I could hug all of you and thank you for loving our poor children.

    Yes, your own people need you, too. But our beloved country the Philippines is far more in need, and I’m ever so grateful to the Lord that He never takes His eyes off it.

    May I leave this link to a post in my blog about helping the poor children of our country: http://rinaperu.com/why-im-a-unicef-champion-for-children/.

    I pray that God will keep you safe in your travels here and that you’ll go back home to your families FULL – blessed more than ever.

    Rina Peru/Manila, Philippines

  43. What a great explanation of choosing where to serve – and everywhere! Thank you, thank you for all of these posts. My heart both aches and is filled with hope, love, and joy. Praying. Thank you.

  44. “Because those babies sitting at your table are not only from your country but they are from the heart of God. ”

    You just gave me some needed encouragement in my “ministry” at the breakfast, lunch and dinner table, Emily.

    So blessed to see and hear you and Tsh there in Manila, while here at my desk at home. Amazing.

    Thank you Jesus, for what Emily and Tsh are opening our eyes, too! We support a child through Compassion and imagining you there as our eyes and ears just touched my heart.

    “Everyone is not asked to go. But I think we are all asked to see. And then the question, What will you do?” Awesome encouragement straight to our hearts!

  45. I can’t believe you said “spaghetti”. I just fed that to my 4 children tonight and it grabbed my attention when I read your words. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of my home work too. It is God-called and I must attend to it with all the vigilance that I would a “missions” trip.

  46. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS!!!! I have heard this comment so many times. Our daughter is adopted from China and we sponsor a little girl in Ethiopia. I feel so frustrated when people say there are people here to help as if here is better than there. I always answer that I went where I was called. Children are children no matter where they live. That is all I can say. Reading this post makes me want to print it out and hand it to people who say such things. I often find that those who are the first to rattle off those comments aren’t actually helping anyone, anywhere. What a world it would be if it were non-negotiable for us to have one hungry child anywhere, or one child without a mother to love them or one child without an education. If we focused on meeting the needs of all children in all places the world would transform.

  47. Greetings
    I don’t know, wouldn’t the poor in the philipines or elsewhere not benefit more from the resources that are spent on traveling to these countries to SEE for ourselves the tragedy of starving children in poverty or visit our sponsored child. I mean imagine what the staff, already stationed there could do with all the money these trips cost. Are we really going there for the child or for ourselves?…Why not give that child and it’s family the money the trip would cost..poverty solved. Surely someone stationed there could take pictures and write a blog for us .. most ministries do have a magazine or website with updates. Or we could send that couple of thousand dollars / cost of trip to the ministry we are traveling with or for, so they can feed/help many more. Or we could sponsor several children instead of just one child. I wonder just how many of these trips are really God’s will or our own selfish need/desire to go. Who is the trip really for.. let’s be honest. Are we really that noble,pure and holy that theses trips are for for the child/children. Hmm not sure we would dish out so much cash on a trip..and then again maybe some of us are not dishing out the cash for the trip, maybe it’s the ministry we are traveling with that is paying the trip from funds received through their child sponsorship program…hmm If you don’t like this post then you better not read K.P. Yohannan’s book, “Revolution in World Missions”. That really reveals our true hearts and says it like it is, all the money from child or missionary sponsorship with Gospel for Asia goes to the field, zero taken out for administration. Praise God! Don’t you just love it when God convicts our hearts with revelation about our hearts … just saying … Don’t get me wrong.. I would love to go on a “missions trip” or visit my sponsored child .. If and or before I do, I will have to search my heart for its true motivation…Amen… Blessings !