A few years ago, I wrote a political development curriculum for the particular area and situation we are working in. After teaching it for a couple years, we are now taking a different road toward community development and it doesn’t get used very often.
But occasionally, an opportunity arises and I pull out the curriculum. Every time I am reminded how much I did love teaching this.
This week I have been working on updating the curriculum. We study the statistics of about sixty countries, comparing their development politically, economically, and socially; and then do a more in-depth case study on four. The statistics could use some updating after three years or so, so I research the latest data and sort through Excel chart after Excel chart.
It is encouraging to see the growth: to see Burma’s educational levels increased and their infant mortality rate shrink. I watched Thailand’s freedom rating (FreedomHouse.org) take a hit following recent political events.
I find it ridiculously interesting to see numbers paint a picture of the world I live in and know with faces.
But I have so many mixed feelings. I see the United States, soaring with high numbers: the story of health and wealth and education and privilege. Without even living there, these numbers fit most of my life and story.
Then I see the numbers for Thailand, where I reside, and Burma, which I love. The longer we live here, the more those numbers will be written into our story. I found this question rolling through my mind: which side of the statistics are you on?
For the kids outside my door, the statistics are stacked against them: in education levels, in the food they will eat; the health they will sustain and the jobs they will work; the number of miscarriages they will have and children they will lose; the money they will live on; the water they will drink.
Somedays this seems more evident.
When we woke up to shouting ten months ago and watched all of our friends taken away on army vehicles, it was more obvious that the statistics stand against them. Their tired faces and the numbers written on their arms when they returned reminded us of this even further.
When the young fourteen-year-old girl that we’ve been praying for and investing in went to Bangkok, it was more evident that the statistics were stacked against her. It was more evident that prostitution loomed on her doorstep, and we now lost our connection to her.
Today, a ten-year-old orphan in the community was sent off to Burma with a new family. And, again, I was reminded of how close the statistics are and what we are up against.
I cried many tears today. Because it was one of the days where I just don’t know what we have accomplished in this little girl’s life or what we could possibly have done or do differently. How do we keep her from becoming one of those statistics?
HOW DO WE KEEP HER FROM BECOMING ONE OF THOSE STATISTICS?
I cried to Stephen that I didn’t know what we had done. We have known her for over four years, and now she is out of our reach, with just memories of puzzles and English classes and community dinners and hugs on the front porch. How does that change her story? Are we just hoping that these little measly things will change these statistics?
But my husband is very, very wise.
He said that no, we aren’t hoping that puzzles and hugs and Band-Aids will change the statistics. We are hoping that God will change the statistics.
And that’s when I realized something perhaps I should have recognized ages ago.
Our whole life here rests in faith. The truth we know and the hope we carry is the only thing that makes this worth anything. And to be honest, without it, we are wasting our time and lives. Every single moment–the good ones, the bloody ones, the tearful goodbyes at the airport, the tears for a little ten-year-old girl–is resting on this auspicious faith that God is good. That He is real enough and loves us enough and is good enough to show up in the tea shops and puzzles and Band-Aids and make them into miracles. And that it is these miracles that will change the statistics and rewrite the stories.
“For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.”