"A group of children had gathered outside, wanting a peek at the wazungu (white people). And as we left the home, a local pastor who had joined us on the trip led the children, who clearly adored him, in a round of a hymn.
He's sing out, "Are you happy?" and they children, with muddy faces, torn dresses, standing on a trash mound, would shout back, "Yes, we're happy!" Those children, that pastor, that mothers were rich in faith. And I, with my gleamingly clean apartment back home, 401(k), and stable job, wanted to be like them." (Hope Lives, Amber Van Schooneveld, 2008)
As I stood in a circle with joyful AIDS orphans in Africa I had to wonder, "which one of us is blessed?" As I sat in the "home" of a bright-faced woman whose husband left her, had 5 children to take, on medications that made her sick, but were helping her get better, I had to wonder, "which one of us is blessed?"
I went to Africa thinking I would return with guilt. I thought I would return with feelings of guilt of having so much that they do not have - material things that is, physical health, a large and clean home, relative physical security and what I did not expect is to have feelings of envy. That's right, envy of the AIDS orphan and the AIDS infected single mother living with her children in an area the size of my kitchen. Envy like Amber felt in the story above. Envy that their joy and their faith was far greater and deeper than anything I had ever known.
As I thought about this my definition of blessing began to change. It changes from assuming that blessing is material to truly understanding that it is spiritual. Of course we could all say that we acknowledge this truth, but do we truly understand and believe it until we are faced with our own poverty of faith? That God's goodness and mercy are given richly to those who suffer and are required to depend on him, that my spiritual poverty was and is greater than their material poverty.
It sounds crazy, but I was and am envious of the people in Ethiopia that trust God and lean on Him. I even have the crazy thought that I would want to trade places with them. Everyone says the grass always looks greener on the other side. In this instance, I think it is.