If you choose to use this language in my presence and I know you at all, I’ll probably say something about it. Never out of anger or judgment, just perspective. I know many people don’t realize the gravity of their word choice. With friends, it usually just takes a look: raised eyebrows, eye contact, a slight smirk. Then they roll their eyes and choose a different term. There are times I wish I didn’t notice; that my mind would just block out the profanity and move on. More often than not, my heart refuses to let this happen. I try to contain myself when I hear it, but most times I can’t stop myself from saying, “Are you really Starving?”
The Devastating Definition
In a small village in the Kampong Thom province of Cambodia, 75 children gather in front of a small church building. Those with shoes remove them before stepping inside. They take seats in the blue plastic chairs that fill the room. With legs dangling, they wait for what’s next. The pastor’s wife speaks to them, someone else puts on a Bible-based skit, they sing songs with us, and they wait. The chairs are cleared from the room and those who want to learn a new game (I picked Freeze Tag) follow a few of us outside, the rest stay inside for dance lessons and duck duck goose…and they wait. We play until everyone’s exhausted and we’re told it’s time.
The children scatter and then reassemble with bowls and spoons as they find a place to sit inside. They know what they’ve been anticipating has been worth the delay. Food.
We hand out water bottles and fruit while the ladies of the church finish preparing the main course. It’s the one hot meal these kids will get today. As we give them water, they receive -not take- it with an abundance of gratitude. This was one of our last days in Cambodia and that’s when what I’d seen the last 2 weeks finally set in. The weight of the injustice, my unbelievable selfishness, and previously hard heart came crashing down on me unexpectedly. I had to get out. Go outside. Breathe. They warned us in training that we would get overwhelmed and very emotional at some point. Since we were about to leave, I thought it had missed me. Until this. This is when I broke down. I took a few minutes and went back inside.
Now the ladies were spooning out the rice and what looked like some sort of vegetable. Even though they’ve been waiting all day for this meal, not one bite is taken until all the kids have a full bowl. They sit still until everyone is ready. They wait until the prayer is said. Then they eat.
The “vegetables” are the leaves that are available in the village. What pigs typically eat, I’m told. While it may not seem like much to us, this feeding program is able to give them one meal a day, five days a week…enough so their parents do not have to choose between feeding them and an education. The pastor explains to us that school at every level costs money in Cambodia. This program makes it possible for them to get both: eat and learn. An education is something that can help release these children from remaining in poverty. This is but one of the five village feeding centers funded by this amazing Cambodian pastor and his church. He explains to us how they are currently able to feed about 500 children per week. He had a vision, made it happen, and continues to grow it. And it’s changing lives.
So, are you really starving?