At first glance, the beach didn’t look like it had many shells to offer.
But a slower walk and a closer look revealed her secrets – tiny pieces of smooth white and brown and pink.
Who wants broken shells, anyway?
Turns out, she does. She’s my four year old niece and our families were all together for vacation over the winter break. While the older kids built a sand castle, she and I looked for shells. It was nice to be together doing something small.
I followed her around our little patch of beach, holding out my hand whenever she walked up, letting her drop the tiny pieces into my open palm. What came out was mostly sand, small shell-like pieces mixed in.
She was delighted with every partial find. Because of her, so was I. A beach that looked shell-less turned up to have a few small gifts after all.
It was sweet, those moments with her. What was not sweet was how, as we collected those shell pieces, I started to see how lovely they were all together like that. And I began to plot how I could stash away some for myself without seeming like a terrible person who takes candy from babies.
In the end, I put the first round of “shells” in my pocket and let her keep the rest. I am a little bit of a terrible person. Oh well.
A week later I’m home in the freezing rain, fuzzy socks on my feet, tiny broken shells spread out on my desk.
It’s January again and my North Carolina self is back to regularly scheduled weather programming. Not for long, though.
Nine days from today, I fly away again to warmer weather. This time, to Africa.
I’ll be joining a team of others (including fellow (in)courage blogger Myquillyn Smith, which sounds way fancier than just calling her my big sister) for the Compassion Bloggers five year anniversary trip. Their first trip was to Uganda and so this year, we return.
This won’t be my first time traveling with Compassion, but this time feels different for me. I hesitate to begin to dive into how I feel about it all, as I fear this post will become something I don’t intend for it to be.
I’ll simply say that poverty is a complicated, multi-layered problem for which I won’t pretend to even begin to understand or have solutions. A first glance at poverty and it seems impossibly hopeless to overcome. But the deepest problem of poverty isn’t merely a lack of clothing or food or shelter, not at the core.
The deepest, most enduring, most un-overcomeable part of poverty is a lack of hope.
And so these blogger trips are not mission trips or a service trips but seeing trips. We will be looking for hope on a hopeless horizon, searching for shells on seemingly shell-less beach.
Poverty is complex and messy and heavy and political and evil and confusing and heartbreaking.
But the ministry of Compassion is teaching me the beach isn’t shell-less after all. The pieces are small and broken and maddeningly hard to find. But they are still there, buried beneath the surface.
Nine days from now we’ll leave for Uganda and while we’re there we will be writing on our blogs what we see. We’re willing to answer any questions you might have and will try to have the presence of mind to ask good questions ourselves.
I will fight to stay in the moment, to tell the truth, and to refuse to let hopelessness overcome me.
If you already sponsor a child or are considering doing so, know that child sponsorship with Compassion is legit – it’s a tangible way to not only see hope but to provide it.
I hope you’ll follow our trip.Leave a Comment
I have a sponsored child in Uganda! His name is Trevor and he has the sweetest, biggest grin you’ve ever seen. 🙂
I will be praying for you all, Emily! The LORD goes before you, and will be with you, every moment.
He is the Hope that is broken and hidden, beautiful and whole… and completely sovereign in every moment. I’m so glad you know Him, and love Him, and will carry Him with you everywhere you go… you will bring with you what those in poverty (what we all!) need most.
emily freeman says
Thank you, Elise!
And I know you won’t be there just to see. You WILL be a hope to those you meet, in Jesus’ name. Praying for your trip.
emily freeman says
Yes, I hope that’s true.
I pray HE will show you more on this trip than you can imagine.
emily freeman says
pamela black says
Having spent 3 weeks in Kenya, I agree with you completely. I’ll just pray for you that on this trip God speaks volumes to your heart, makes the words clear, helps you prepare them to share, and brings you back safely to your own family and ministry when It’s time.
emily freeman says
What a lovely thing to pray. Thanks, Pamela. I almost wish we had a little longer like you did in Kenya – we’ll only be there for a week.
We are as broken shells. Thanking God for His grace and forgiveness. Praying for your open heart to be filled with encouragement
emily freeman says
Thank you, Cynthia.
Loretta Owens says
A very long time ago a very wise woman told her young son that poverty is of the spirit. This young boy became a gifted evangelist and pastor of some renown, Rev. E. V. Hill. His story was one of overcoming financial poverty and racism in Texas along with skepticism from his own community that a young black man would dare to go to college let alone graduate from high school with honors. Hope grows in the fertile soil of the prayers of fervent righteous believers. Let us all be those praying mothers, sisters, friends of those called to the front lines.
I’m very much looking forward to following your trip, and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of beautiful shells just waiting to be scooped up into the arms of loving sponsors.
Peter Sinek says
Hello Emily, how are you today? Thanks so much for your lovely word you posted today, it really lifted my spirits… I am a pastor who is originally from Zimbabwe, Africa and now living in the UK…some years ago, my late wife and I ran a ministry project out there, where we grew 5 acres of vegetables and opened a farm store selling produce and home-made jams and pickles etc., we trained 14 local folk skills and gave them employment opportunity and centred this all around ministry…from this project we were able by the grace of God, to start 3 other churches and minister life to the poor and needy! If there is opportunity to develop a project in Uganda, I have the skills and would love to get involved? Feel free to write to me, if you can see potential with this,
yours in Jesus,
Dana Butler says
Emily, grace and peace to you as you go. Open eyes and a held heart.
Erica - Let Why Lead says
I’m eager to read every word. Best of luck with your preparations and the trip itself, Emily!
All ready to travel along with you. I’ll be praying.
Good luck on your trip and blog about everything you see. I finally made the decision to sponsor a Compassion Child last July after reading the blog posts of Ann Voskamp while she was in Africa on a blog trip. There was just something about the reality of it that struck a chord with me. I’ll pray that your words touch someone else enough to have them decide to sponsor a Compassion Child, like her words touched me. Be safe, stay well and thank you! 🙂
LeeAnn G Taylor says
So excited to follow you and the trip!
Our discipleship team is going to Uganda in August with Sweet Sleep, so I’m excited to see Uganda through your eyes first.
I know God will do amazing things through you all there as well!
I will be praying that God provides the strength you need to keep the perspective needed to be able to serve and give while you’re there and know how to respond once you’re home. Blessings!
My husband works at Compassion, and the ministry is near and dear to our hearts, as I know it is to yours as well. Thanks for your ministry – I finished A Million Little Ways today – it is a beautiful book. Grateful for you!
Chilon Cooke says
The Holy Spirit speaks through you, God guides your journey. We are blessed to be listening to these words of hope you spread. God Bless you and thank you for doing God’s Will…
Lisa-Jo Baker (@lisajobaker) says
“These blogger trips are not mission trips or a service trips but seeing trips.”– best description I’ve heard of why bloggers need to go. Why anyone of us need to go, really. Whether it’s to Africa or the neighbor across the street. Love this.
You will be in my prayers . ..praying God show you a million little ways to show His love to all those He places before you on your trip.
Beth WIlliams says
God speed on your trip. Safe journey there and back.
Loved the analogy of hidden broken shells and who wants broken shells? Truth be told God does and went to great lengths to save us. We are all broken in some way or another and it is only through God that we can be healed, help heal others and give hope to an otherwise hopeless situation.
God Bless! 🙂
Oh Emily, I will be praying for you and all those traveling, and I’ll be checking in here to share in the journey with you! Our sponsored boy is in Uganda. His name is Nangoli Cranimer. If by some miracle you come across him, give him a big hug for me!
You’re there right now, wrecking their lives, having your life wrecked. I’m so happy for you and this Godsend experience you’re having right now. Blessings and prayers for a safe, wrecking experience!
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