There are a few verses that have continuously circled my conscience since we arrived here. One of them is Matthew 25:31-46.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brother, you did it to me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick and in prison, and did not minister to you?’ The he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
There is so much to ponder in this passage no matter where you are.
But the children that ask me for food and water on a daily basis make this more complicated, it seems. The regular visitors with cuts, burns, coughs, and fevers; the neighbors living in dilapidated homes, in a land where they are very much unwelcomed strangers and at times imprisoned; they seem to bring this verse screaming back to me.
I struggle as the children watch me cook each night, surely more meat and vegetables than their family will see today. I struggle to take someone to the hospital and pay for the care when I know he has spent the money on alcohol that has caused this condition. I struggle to set boundaries for the kids when this may be a glass of water they crave, a hug that makes them feel safe, or a toy that gives them a moment of joy.
I struggle to reconcile the ideological concepts of sustainability and development, while people are hungry now and I’m eating now.
We attempted a community garden last year, with hopes of providing some healthy, free food for the community. It was somewhat successful: they harvested pumpkins, okra, and lemongrass; and some other jungle vegetables I didn’t recognize. We have bananas and papayas growing successfully now, plus the lemongrass and jungle vegetables that continue to be used.
As rainy season comes to a close, we are welcoming another gardening season here in Mae Sot. And this year we have enlisted help from some Partners’ staff who work with sustainable agriculture throughout migrant communities here and in Burma. They had some wonderful ideas, including a greenhouse-style design that keeps out bugs (and children) without pesticides. They have a way to add biochar into the soil for more fruitful yields, as well as make your own charcoal, which the community uses to cook every meal. We have a well in our yard, actually, that goes unused. They suggested we purchase a pump that would make watering the garden free of charge and easy for the community.
All of these sounded like promising ideas, but required some significant investments–well, for here. To get a structure built, install a well, and start seeds for this year, it would be a few hundred dollars. In the grand scheme of life: not so extravagant. In the grand scheme of Mae Sot and our expenses here: a hefty price.
We met with about five women last Wednesday evening to discuss the options and see if they were interested. It was an hour of attempted Karen being translated into Burmese over sugary coffeeThey responded wholeheartedly, and asked when they could begin learning.
So we’ve decided to dive in, to make the investment, and pray for high yields and miracles. We hope that this is wise and loving. We hope that this is a move of both sustainability and blessing, meeting both immediate and eternal needs.