Overwhelmed by need…focussed by hope – my trip to Thailand
One week ago I arrived home from one of the most impacting trips of my life. A team of us from Ichthus were going out to lead worship at a conference in Thailand for a few days, but before that we took the opportunity to visit a project we are closely connected with near Bangkok. The project is a Christian-run orphanage for abandoned children. Most are disabled in some way, physically and/or mentally. They are thrown out of homes because of the Buddhist belief that children born disabled were bad people in their ‘previous life’…an atrocity which has resulted in huge numbers of disabled children put up in government orphanages in Thailand which leave much to be desired in terms of facility and numbers of carers.
On our first day as we arrived with little or no sleep straight into a hot climate (from wintry Britain) we were taken to see one such government orphanage. Needless to say it took every ounce of my strength to get through and to prepare myself mentally before walking into each ward. In several wards there are up to 100 kids lined up in beds, often having to share cots, with but two or three carers to a room. These carers can hardly give the kind of attention to each child that they need. I want to honour the work that the carers do, especially the volunteers who come from the world over just to help give each child a little more attention. But to compare it with what we are used to in the west…even with our disintegrating family structure (which is another issue) our children still receive so much more in terms of care and affection. It is that which makes the difference and helps a child to grow up to become a healthy adult physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
On returning to the orphanage with which we are associated it was amazing to just observe the difference between the two, between the government-run place and the Christian-run place. Due to space, CCD (our place) cannot take as many children as the government wards, but I can assure you that they take as many children as possible, and that they are incredibly envisioned so that with more financial support they can expand and help as many children as possible. They were full to the brim when we visited. And the attention and care given to these children is on a whole different scale, with more full-time workers with salaries, and volunteers, and such well-equipped facilities…and you can so witness the difference. Each child has been able to develop so much in the four ways listed above and have so much life and vigour in them, despite having whatever disabilities they might have to get around. It is a staggering difference to contemplate. We had such a wonderful time while we stayed there. The most precious, beautiful moment for me was when, at a spontaneously-organised concert that first night, we rounded off with some worship songs…and at one point I looked up from where I was playing my bass and witnessed staff, volunteers, visitors and children alike dancing and singing to Jesus…it was one of the most beautiful and precious memories of my life to date.
And as I am just finding time to digest this, this phrase just came to me: overwhelmed by need…focussed by hope. As a Christian it is important for me in some way to address the need presented by suffering in the human experience worldwide. But if that was my FOCUS I could very easily become overwhelmed by the presence of suffering and my inability to affect anything greatly, become discouraged, and not do anything. But if my focus is in heaven, if my focus is on the hope of His calling as ignited by the spirit of revelation (Eph 1:17,18) I believe I will have a much greater chance of being able to address the suffering in the world, because I will be operating from heaven’s superior reality and also the focus of what He specifically calls ME to. It might be a specific region He calls me to affect and change, or it might be a specific need such as cancer or poverty. Different people have different callings, but if we are fueled by His calling, His love, His desire, His focus, and His realm where everything is available to us, we cannot fail to change the world and undo the works of the devil. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world. Jesus said that he who believes (has faith) would do the same and even greater works than He did, because He has gone to the Father. Wow.