One of the greatest honours in my work is sitting in the homes of those living in poverty and hearing their stories. It’s impossible in the short time I have with them to really enter into their world but sometimes there are glimpses that give me a new respect for the courage they show in facing the kinds of struggles so very many people in our world meet each day just to survive.
A few days ago I travelled on winding mountain roads a few hours out of Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a number of fellow Australians. We arrived at a small village and it was there that we met an amazing woman. She welcomed a small group of us into her home. We sat together and she started telling us her story.
We asked a lot of questions about her home, which her husband had built from timbers he sourced in the surrounding jungle areas. It took around five years to gather the materials and a similar time to construct their dwelling. Her husband is a farmer, working at little more than a subsistence level.
It wasn’t long before she started telling us about the eldest of her four sons, who is currently about eighteen, and the brain tumour that he is battling. How do you cope with something like that when you’re already living in poverty? Thankfully Thailand’s health system has paid a significant amount of his treatment costs but the remaining amount is still a struggle.
Her youngest son is almost three. He seemed to be a happy and healthy little boy. In his old, worn grey t-shirt and red shorts he lay on the concrete floor, leaning his head on his mother’s lap. At the time of his birth his mother was suffering from a kidney disease. After breast feeding her new baby for just fourteen days the doctors told her she would have to stop as they needed to give her medication which would affect her milk.
Not being able to breast feed meant buying formula for her son. The problem was, their family couldn’t afford the ongoing cost. Having to regularly buy formula was simply beyond their means.
The solution was almost unthinkable. They would have to find someone else in their village to take their baby. To simply ensure that he could live, they would need to give him up to someone who could afford to look after him.
No mother should ever have to face that kind of decision. The most precious of all gifts, their brand new baby boy, would have to grow up in someone else’s family, calling someone else mum. Poverty is a thief and a destroyer.
Thankfully, that’s when the local church, partnering with Compassion, stepped in. Mother and son were registered in Compassion’s Child Survival Program at the church, meaning that the family would have the essential support they needed to stay together.
Mum’s kidney disease is now improving too. Instead of the 90 tablets she was taking each day, she’s down to just three.
In a few months that precious little boy will turn three and he will ‘graduate’ into Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program, meaning that he’ll get the opportunity of being released from spiritual, socio-emotional, physical and economic poverty in Jesus’ name. A sponsor, thousands of kilometres away from his village, will pay a modest monthly amount to secure his future and to let him know that he is loved.
As we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day tomorrow, let me encourage you to consider making the burden for a mother living in poverty a little lighter by sponsoring a child through Compassion. Let’s together honour the mothers in our own lives as well as those mothers who, through no fault of their own, are facing the kinds of struggles and decisions no one should ever face. (If you’re reading this after Mother’s Day it’s not too late to make a lifetime of difference for a child and relieving some of the burden for their mother through child sponsorship.)
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