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When prayer is our only way to respond

When prayer is our only way to respond

I didn't want to write this blog post.

I didn't want to write this blog post, I really didn't want to publish it, and I certainly did not want to think about those ten minutes from last week. But I did, I will, and I am.

This is the tough part about living in a different culture from the one I grew up in. This is the difficult part about living in a place where poverty is common.

This is the hard part.

I was sitting outside the grocery store waiting for a friend to pick me up. One of the boys who hangs around outside the shop begging came and sat next to me. This happens often, but usually, they quickly lose interest when they realize I don't hand out money.

The boy was maybe twelve years old, and he was chewing on a piece of glossy photo paper. I could smell that he was abusing substances, maybe glue or ink toner.

He asked for a few kwatcha (money); I said no. He asked for some of my groceries; I said no. He asked for money again; I said no. He asked my name; I asked his. I didn't quite catch it, so I asked him to repeat himself, and he gave a completely different answer.

He asked for my phone; I said no. He asked for money; I said no. He asked for a kiss; I said no. He asked for a kiss again; I said no again.

I tried changing the subject, but he circled back to it, asking again and leaning against my arm. I said no, got up, and moved to the other side of the entrance.

When my friend picked my up a few minutes later, I was fuming and immediately told her what had transpired over the past ten minutes. I was hot. I was annoyed. I was tired of people asking me for money because I'm a foreigner. I was mad that someone had made me feel uncomfortable in a place where I had never had any issues before.

I'd had a great morning taking photos of a building project, and this event had just ruined my day. The whole thing irked me.

"He was twelve years old and asking me for a kiss!" I thought. "Where's the respect for women? Where's the respect for people older than you? I bet he only asked me because I'm white."

My friend quickly pointed out that there was probably more to the situation than meets the eye. There was the possibility that the boy had asked for a kiss because that was a way he had earned money before. It's not that uncommon.

The rampage going through my head promptly stopped in its tracks.

Was it possible? Had that young boy been used in that way before?

My whole perspective on the incident shifted. I felt guilty for my knee-jerk reaction and indifference to his story. The anger and annoyance I'd been feeling evaporated, leaving a hollowness in their place.

This is the tough part about living in a different culture from the one I grew up in. This is the difficult part about living in a place where poverty is common.

This is the hard part.

What do you do...

When giving money harms more than it helps?
When giving food creates a miniature mob scene?
When talking doesn't bring any truthful answers?

What do you do?

I have guesses and speculations, good intentions and my own knowledge and understanding. But try as I might, they don't add up to a solution. Really, I don't have the answer.

But I know God does.

He knows that boy. He knows his story. He knows his situation, his dreams, his worries. He knows.

I don't know if I'll see that boy again. I don't know what I'll do if I see him. I don't know how I can help him, or if I'm the right person to do so. But I can pray for him and the other boys I see hanging around.

Prayer can seem like an empty answer when the desperation is right in front of me. And an empty prayer is often an empty answer.

But a heart-filled prayer?

A heart-filled prayer can change things.

It can change that boy, it can change me. It can change me to change him or him to change me. There are no boundaries to how God answers prayers.

Lord, remind me that everyone has a story that goes deeper than the surface. Direct my footsteps and help me act and react with Your love in each situation. Teach me to pray heart-filled prayers that will bring change.

A trip to an African national park speaks of God's wonders

A trip to an African national park speaks of God's wonders

Stories poured over coffee

Stories poured over coffee