This is the story of two worlds colliding. The first world is my comfortable, upper class, college educated, secure world. The second is a world of poverty, immigration, minimum wage, and food insecurity. The meeting of these two worlds has not always been pretty. There have been times that I wished they would be more separate, but over the years I have been able to see why God set them on a collision course.
Stephanie and I met during my freshman year of college. She worked in my dormitory on the housekeeping staff. Our friendship began with smiles and waves. We quickly began to chat with each other because she knew little English and I was trying to learn Spanish. Stephanie talked often of her children—I could see how hard she was working to give them a better life. Over the first year, I learned about Stephanie’s extended family. She told me about the trips her family would take back to Mexico to visit more family and the huge need that her family in Mexico had. As I looked all around at what I had, my heart broke for her family struggling just to make it to the next meal in Mexico. I cleaned out my closets and gave what I could to Stephanie. I even gave her my left over laundry detergent and Spanish Bible. I gave her what I had and she gave me her friendship.
Over the next two years, Stephanie and I kept in touch as best we could. She was transferred to another building on campus so we only saw each other about once a month. Despite the time passing, our friendship never faded.
Our lives came back together during my senior year in an unexpected way. In January of my senior year, I began leading an after school program called Garden Club at a local elementary school. Garden Club is supported by various local organizations, but mainly through the World Hunger Relief Farm and the Urban Gardening Coalition. Through my internship with the Urban Gardening Coalition, I was offered the chance to start leading the new garden club. On Wednesday afternoons I led children through various outdoors activities designed to teach them more about local, healthy food.
About half way through the semester, I saw Stephanie in the cafeteria as I was leaving. Naturally, I ran up to her and gave her a big hug. At the same time we both asked each other, “What are you doing here?” She explained that it was the school that her kids go to. She pointed her kids out to me, and sure enough I had been teaching one of them in Garden Club all semester. Stephanie introduced me to Michael, her oldest son. I was so excited to see Stephanie again, but it also broke my heart. It broke my heart because I knew that 97% of the kids in my school lived in homes that were food insecure—often times they don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. I could no longer believe the lie that I had told myself for years—Stephanie is doing fine. She was not doing fine; she was barely making it.
The next week in Garden Club was the week before Easter. In a spare moment, I asked Michael if he was excited about Easter. His reply startled me. He said, “No, we don’t do anything for Easter.” I asked about a big dinner, an Easter egg hunt, or anything else special. He again said no. For a moment I could see the bigger picture. God was using a family close to my heart to show me how painful poverty really was. Food insecurity was no longer just a school, community, or country– it was a person. When I met the person of poverty, the bubble surrounding my secure, comfortable world popped. I had to be able to picture Michael and his family not having an Easter meal to understand the poverty all around me. God used Garden Club to show me the connected-ness of the world. The worlds that Stephanie and I live in are very much the same. All of the choices that I make affect hers, and likewise.
Since the collision of our lives at Garden Club, Stephanie and I have been able to understand each other better. She knows that I am actively working in my community to help children—ever her own son. I know that she is dedicated to her family and doing everything that she can to help them survive. I have yet to give all of the children in my Garden Club food security or assurance that their parents will have enough money to make rent each month. I couldn’t even give Michael the Easter that he so desperately wanted. What I hope to have given them is much more meaningful. I have shown them the commitment, compassion, and dedication of a follower of Christ. Stephanie and Michael both know that I care deeply about their lives. To me, that is enough.
By Mary Ballard. Mary was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. She came to Waco, TX to attend Baylor University and will be graduating this May from Baylor with a Major in Political Science and a Minor in Environmental Studies. She enjoys gardening, crafting, and working with kids. She will be going to Seattle, WA this fall to pursue a Masters in Environmental Education. Her decision to go to Seattle was greatly influenced by her experiences working in after school Garden Clubs in Waco Elementary Schools. Throughout her time at Baylor, she has volunteered with the World Hunger Relief Farm and Urban Gardening Coalition.
Ministries like World Hunger Relief, Inc. receive funding from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, which along with its partners, shows Christ’s love around the world by providing immediate hunger relief, job training, agricultural support, clean water and other development efforts to help break the cycle of poverty. You can connect with a Hunger Offering-Sponsored project and see their volunteer needs by visiting Be On Mission and choose “Hunger” as your search category. If you make a connection with one of these contacts, please let us know about your experience.
Be On Mission is an online global missions locator that allows users to Search, Submit, and Share about mission opportunities around the world. To learn more about Be On Mission, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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