So I went to Indonesia.
My wander-lusting self had been looking forward to this trip in all its culturally rich glory for months, and it really was an incredible INCREDIBLE experience. One that I will probably never be able to re-create given that I can never again have a first time back in Indonesia. But the good news is that Indo is made up of thousands of beautiful islands that I have yet to see (I only visited two of them- Bali and Sumba!), and what’s more- there are a bajillion other places here on God’s great masterpiece of a planet by which I can still be completely and utterly awed.
The real purpose of my trip, though, was to meet the child I sponsor through Compassion International and to see the place where she lives. I have been writing letters and sending a small amount of monthly financial support to Mona for about two years now. I have found, though, that it is very easy to forget about someone whom you’ve never met and who lives halfway around the world. I wanted to go to Indonesia so I could see what Mona’s life looks like and maybe have an actual relationship with the child whose picture stares at me from my bulletin board on a Compassion-issued piece of cardstock.
My expectations for this trip were beyond met. I was and am still blown away by what Compassion International and its locally-based church partners are doing to help people break free from the chains of poverty. By focusing on holistic child development, the mission is to empower people to make changes in their lives, without creating cycles of dependency. Extreme material poverty is real- we read and hear about it all the time, but it’s so different to see it, to enter someone’s home and learn that they spend 10 minutes fetching a mere 1 bucket of water from a well and that they do this until they have enough to supply a home of 8 people. The worst part about poverty though, as I’ve learned from my amazing Compassion staff trip leaders, is that it robs people of their feelings of self-worth. I didn’t know how much my (often half-heartedly written) letters meant to Mona until I met her and her sweet mom described to me how she jumps up and down with joy with each one she receives. Money is a helpful tool, but the relationships we develop with our fellow humans all around the world- the ones that remind us that we are valued and loved- those are what make the real difference. Mona is no longer just a picture on a piece of cardstock for me. She’s a fiery and affectionate eight-year-old who is not afraid to speak her mind, loves watching dancing videos and the color red, and puts her whole heart into the things she loves. Adik [little sister] Mona, I am so thankful that I get to to watch you grow up and I cannot wait to visit you and your beautiful country again.