Of Rubber Boots, Self Pity and Ladders

Of Rubber Boots, Self Pity and Ladders

Of Rubber Boots, Self Pity and Ladders

I met a woman who has water flooding her house, up to her knees, for 9 months out of the year. She has to wear rubber boots inside while she cooks and feeds her family.

Of Rubber Boots, Self Pity and Ladders

She has two sons, and one is registered as a sponsor child with Compassion.

She also actively serves and teaches the 9 and 10 year olds at the very same child development center that her son goes to in Velenzuela.

Of Rubber Boots, Self Pity and Ladders

It struck me today that the churches here in the Philippines are comprised of the very people in poverty whom they are seeking to reach. It’s not just the well-to-do that serve those living in poverty, but the ones in poverty are serving others just like themselves. I have not seen a speck of self pity in this place.

Yet, I see it in myself.

Today was my 5th day in a row of running on very little sleep and I was feeling ragged. I worried how I would get through the day, with the hours of bus travel, the activity and the energy poured into visits, the stifling heat, and then still find the energy to blog coherent thoughts this evening. In other words, I was feeling sorry for myself.

It became particularly evident as we got back to the hotel late this afternoon. The bathrooms at the program we visited today were stinky squat toilets, with no toilet paper, and no way to wash my hands. Between that and the gallon of sweat that I must have pumped out through my pores today, I felt more than a little gross. On that note, someone recently referred to a picture of one of my teammates by saying that she was “glowing” which is just a fancy way of saying sweating like a pig. Which would be a fairly accurate description of us today.

After a long and bumpy bus ride home, during which I attempted to nap but sleep evaded me, I got into our room to use the bathroom. I used toilet paper, flushed, and washed my hands with soap and hot water. The thought came to me, “I sure am tired of using those bathrooms at the projects”.

I bet the people that we meet living in these conditions get tired of them, too.

Of Rubber Boots, Self Pity and Ladders

Thing is, there’s one major difference between them and me. I can leave whenever I want to.

I can go back home to my developed nation, with its proper sanitation, indoor plumbing, hot water faucets and toilets that don’t make me feel like I’m doing the 30 Day Shred.

Others don’t have that luxury. Poverty is a generational curse. I can’t tell you how many times already we’ve learned of families who still live in the same place where they were raised 20, 30, 40 years ago, or old men and women who have never left the slums and now care for their grandchildren in the same one-room squalor.

Poverty imprisons people in miry pits from which they cannot escape. Climbing your way out of a 100 foot dark, deep hole isn’t really a viable option.

At least, not unless someone throws down a ladder for you to climb up.

Canal of water to the right of the narrow alleyway in the slum.

Today I saw the difference that a ladder makes. Moises and Kim are 16 and 17. They live with their mother and 4 year old sister in a slum town that is built along canals of water from the ponds that continually flood this town. Sort of the same idea as a city like Venice, except that the water is stagnant, containing human and animal waste, every kind of trash imaginable, and likely untold diseases and parasites. So actually, it’s nothing like Venice and more like a bad dream that they don’t get to wake up from.

inside m and ks house

Their house is a run down 2-room shack, not more than 60-70 square feet in size. The live on $100 a month. They told us that they’re not choosy about the foods that they like to eat because they are willing to eat anything that they can get their hands on. Their uncle’s family lives in the slum house next to them, and they share one of the few water taps available with many of their other neighbors because its unthinkable for them to be able to afford their own faucet of running city water.

But these brothers have something going for them that their parents, their aunts and uncles, their grandparents never had.

Someone threw them a ladder.

kim upclose

Both brothers are Compassion recipients and have been for about 10 years (for the record, it is rare to have two sponsored children in the same family, although it happens occasionally). They are a part of a child development center and have recently graduated public high school.

They are now both attending a local college (probably similar to a vocational school), where Kim is in his 2nd year of education and Moises is in his first year of studies to become a civil engineer. Their sponsor’s dollars are what cover the cost of their schooling and supplies.

moises upclose

We asked Moises why he wants to become an engineer. He said that he has wanted to ever since he was a child, because he wants to be the one who builds the houses one day. As he said that, I had a vision of him in the future, building a house in which to raise a family of his own, and perhaps even building houses that will help to lift others out of physical poverty as well.

Not only that, but both young men have had their greatest need met (far greater than any physical poverty they experience) and that is to come to the saving knowledge of the only One who can truly save them. That’s the truest and most valuable kind of upward mobility there is.

All because someone threw them a ladder.

The grass on the right is marshy and soggy, as is much of the land in the town of Velenzuela

Suddenly, the long, hard climb up out of poverty isn’t quite so steep and improbable.

Before we left Kim and Moises’ home, we asked how we could pray for them. Kim asked that we pray that God will continue to bless the work of Compassion International, both in their own lives and in the lives of others. Because they’ve learned the value of both the ladder-giver and of courageously reaching out to take those first upward steps.

Moises praying

It only costs $38 a month to be the one to reach out into the life of a child and extend that ladder. Click here to sponsor a child today.

Hungry for more? Read posts from all of the Compassion bloggers here.

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  1. Wow…I almost don’t even know what to say…what an eye-opener. Thank you for sharing this with us. When my husband comes home from work today…i am going to ask him if we could sponsor a child through compassion. I have wanted to, previously, but always worry that the children don’t really get the money….you have shown how they *do* and that gives me hope. 🙂

  2. Your trip will change you for the rest of your life. Never forget it. I went to Vietnam 5 years ago on a mission trip. The way these people lived with no self pity really gave me something to think about. My husband and I sponsor a child in Vietnam.
    In 14 days I leave for a mission trip to China and I will keep a journal this time. I want to be able to read it and remind myself of the blessings and lessons I learned while there.
    I’m so thankful that you are blogging about your trip. I can’t wait to read more.

  3. You know what is striking me the most about this blogger trip? The clothes of the children. Often times they look modern and relatively nice. I think sometimes that can be misleading to us as sponsors when we get that photo of our child. It makes it easy to assign at least a portion of our life style on these children. But when you travel to their homes, you can really see that they are very much in poverty.

    1. @Jessica, You know often those clothes are from designers/brands (like the NFL who sends off the t-shirts from the SuperBowl’s loosing team) who have to get rid of inventory or they will be charged tax on it. They “donate” it to developing nations and then get a tax write off.

  4. Thank you for showing hope. Thank you for sharing honestly. I can only imagine how exhausted you must feel, physically and emotionally. Hang in there.

    Telling the stories of these families is making a difference in the hearts and minds of those who read here. I had no idea the conditions people lived in (in the Philippines) were this bad. You’ve certainly opened my eyes.

  5. Great post! It is amazing the many ways God will use to proclaim the Gospel. Praying for your team there and for people’s hearts to sponsor! Certainly reminded me of the bounty of blessings I have…even on a “bad” day. Thanks be to God.

  6. First of all, I am praying right now for an extra dose of supertnatural strength and energy for you.

    This post was amazing – thank you for taking the time to write it. I love that the boys prayer for the continued work of Compassion. Their smiles radiate the love and hope of Christ.

    Thank you for your honesty about your desire (and ability) to escape the conditions. I remember having similar thoughts in Peru last year.

    I’ve been a long-time sponsor and advocate for Compassion – 16 years now – but I never get tired of hearing about the integrity of this ministry and seeing how God is working through them.

  7. Great post… we sponsor several children through a couple different organizations. It has always been so nice to be able to feel like we could directly help these children, and a great way to teach our kids good stewardship. Thanks for posting the pictures and for what you are doing!

  8. Wow…I don’t know what to say. Sometimes I think all this material blessing that we have is so crippling. Lately I’ve been complaining when things happen to me like when our basement flooded or when our air conditioner broke on our van and we had a very long trip in the heat. But the fact is, I was able to get help when our basement flooded and insurance covered the $11,000 damage and our van is scheduled to have a repair done next week. How eye opening that what I consider problems are really issues that aren’t a big deal compared to some people’s issues. I really do KNOW this but its not really something that affects me day to day. Instead I often get twinges of “I want this or that” MORE than what I have when I look around at glossy magazines picturing other’s houses or even online or going over to someone’s house and I start comparing and think I want MORE…which is really an awful sinful thought since I am SO blessed and I did nothing to deserve this at all. I wish there was someway to further capture that in my heart and keep myself from the sin of discontentment with what really is GREAT blessing in my life that I do nothing to deserve.

  9. this is great. thank you so much for sharing. i am feeling a trip to the 3rd world is in order for my little family – i have been places many times in my life and my husband grew up in the 3rd world as a missionary, but when it isn’t in front of us every day it is easy to become ungrateful americans. i would like my kids to realize they have so much to give and grab a hold of the the Lord’s intense love for the poor. thanks for sharing these stories.

  10. Wow, sweet friend, I will never think of our ladder in the same way….

    Love ya, Steph!


  11. Stephanie, thanks so much for your honesty here. I’m reading this, thinking, I could not do it! I value my comfort so embarrassingly much. I had coffee with Tsh before she left and wanted to ask her whether she wasn’t nervous about the physical discomfort she would not only witness but also possibly endure herself … but couldn’t find a way to ask that didn’t sound ridiculously shallow. I appreciate that you’re going through this and sharing the difficulties genuinely, but also really seeking not just to endure but to gain everything the Lord has for you in this experience.

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