The Oscars and Africa actually have something in common...

This past Sunday night I watched the Oscars along with the rest of America.

  I would write an entire blog post about Renee Zellweger's eyes or the lack of being able to see them but I am going to refrain.  OK but seriously what happened?  I don't even think she could open them enough to read the piece of paper that said who had won the Oscar she was presenting.  Don't you think that should be a requirement if you are a presenter?!  Where are the friends and family to the Hollywood stars that should call them out on going to the extreme with the botox or that some of those dresses just don't look good??  I can PROMISE you that my friends and sisters would fall on the floor laughing at me  (that would be their way of "calling me out") if I was walking out the door and getting ready to put myself in front all of the world to see and had taken too many pain killers or couldn't open my eyes fully for whatever reason!  I'm just saying a little bit of honest truth could go a long way for Hollywood. 

Now to the real blog post... 

The day after the Oscars I downloaded the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild. 

I had heard great things about it and it didn't let me down.  It is a great movie.  For those of you who haven't seen the movie you need to see it but I will tell you a tidbit without ruining it. 

Here is a brief summary of the movie taken from the website:

"In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl (Hushpuppy) exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions."

Something about the movie was really hard for me.  I am not much of a crier or emotional person in movies but this one in particular was very difficult for me to watch.  There were times when I found myself wanting to turn it off because I didn't want to see what would happen to Hushpuppy or how she would be treated. At first I thought I was so emotional because I just just finished a vacation with my family and had just walked off a plane after spening three hours sitting next to my two and half year old nephew.  That will bring anyone to tears. He's adorable but you try explaining to him that he can't open and slam the tray table closed a thousand times while the businessman in front of him scowls at you.  (hey man we all were babies at one point in our lives, chill out)

But then it hit me why this movie was so hard.  The story and the struggles in the movie are exactly what every child we work with in Africa faces everyday.  This was personal for me.  I know people well that live like this.  When they would show her home or the physical abuse it reminded me of our kids in the Arise Home and what they used to deal with.  It made me sad to think of the kids that we work with that are still in these situations.  Our kids in Africa live that life.  Every stinking day.  I know many Hushpuppies in Africa and their names are Mukonda, Fred, Guideon, and Esther to name a few.  And we see it and live it with them at times.  Our staff tries to help them get out of these life cycles but they also try to help them endure their situations. 

Take a look at Hushpuppy's house on the outside:


Take a look at a house that one of our kids in our child sponsorship program lives in:


Here are photos of the inside of Hushpuppy's home:

Here are some photos of the inside of our child's home:

                                          (and yes that is a real live baby in the corner)

I thought how interesting it was that Hushpuppy loved her father dearly and wanted to be with him and even care for him when he was sick.  Her father was an alcoholic and physically abused her.  Many of our kids in Africa are verbally and physically abused all the time by family members.  Sometimes the family members are drunk and other times they aren't.  And yet our kids still love them and want to be a part of their lives and feel an obligation to care for them and stay with them.  Why is that?  Is there an inside instinct to stick to our parents and family no matter what? Or is it all these kids have and they don't know any better? 

At one point Hushpuppy experiences positive physical attention by a woman holding and hugging her.  It isn't sketchy like I am making it sound.  But Hushpuppy says she can remember every time she has ever been held in her life, and it was two times.  Once when she was born and then this time.  Many of our kids in Africa never experience physical touch and affirmation.  I have watched our girls and boys in the Arise Home draw to us as we pat them on the back or hug them when they come home from school.  They want to hold our hands and they want that love so badly.  Kids their age in America are probably over that amount of physical touch but since our kids in Africa never got it growing up they are behind.  It is a TINY example of Christ's love for them that we can show them.  Positive words and love go such long way in a child's development.

Another aspect of Hushpuppy's attitude that I could relate to was how tough and relentless she was. 

This kid NEVER gave up.  She was willing to do anything to save her home and her father.  She was self sufficient and could cook for herself (even if it was cat food).  Our kids in Africa are the exact same way. They run over glass barefoot and burn themselves while cooking and don't even think anything about it.  I remember one time we were having a kids Bible Camp with some Americans and there was a soccer game going on.  There was an American boy playing with our Zambian kids and he got a soccer ball kicked right in his face (by another American who shall remain nameless).  He went down pretty hard and was crying because it hurt, and it looked like it hurt!  All of the African kids stood looking at him shocked and one of them even asked our Zambian leaders what he was doing and couldn't understand that people cried.  Growing up, my friend Amanda loved the movie A League or Their Own and this story reminds me when Tom Hanks says, "There's no crying in baseball!"

The lessons I learned about Beasts of the Southern Wild was that I didn't like the life for Hushpuppy.  It made me sad to watch it unfold.  It made me respect the spirit of a child and the ability to live in terrible situations.  It made me even more fired up for what we try to do in Zambia. And that's help kids have a life that God desires for them. 

But the biggest emotion I had was that the movie made me very uncomfortable.  I don't think it is right to sit there and know that really happens in this world (and not just Africa, but in America and other countries too!) and not do something about it.  It is wrong and that fires me up.

I lay in bed at night and think of how we can help more kids and have a bigger impact.  I discuss this with people who know more than me in the development world and friends who have the same hearts.  I read blogs, books, and other information on what works and does not.  I dream and plan and pray about what to do next. 

 I want to ask one question and that is, what fires YOU up? 

Are you going to continue to sit there and not get some skin in the game to whatever that may be?  It might not be about kids or Africa and that's ok.  God has put things on our hearts and wants us to be servants to everyone around us.  Where is your place in all of this?  What is the one thing that God wants to use you for?  What are you going to do about it?  And I don't want to hear a problem is too big and you can't change it.  Your exactly right if you never try. Arise Africa wouldn't have 150 kids in child sponsorship or have built an entire orphanage if people thought they were too small to make a change. we wouldn't exist!  It has taken literally thousands of people who thought they could make a difference to support us to get us to where we are now. 

The best part about getting involved in something bigger and more purposeful than you is God actually will teach you more about yourself than you ever expected.  You will blessed in ways you didn't even know you wanted or needed. Take the chance and do something and see what happens.  

In Him,