His Goodness is all Around
In 2013, I interned at a refugee resettlement agency. As an international affairs major in a not-so-international city, I needed to get some experience in my field but couldn’t afford to spend the summer in New York City or Washington, D.C. After weeks and months of searching for a suitable summer internship, I happened upon a listing at a local resettlement agency. Despite fumbling my way through the interview process, I miraculously got the position.
In those first few weeks, it was so completely outside of my admittedly narrow comfort zone that I went home and cried just about every night until I finally got into the groove of things. I spent most of my days driving clients around the city to different appointments, helping them to find housing, and getting them all set up in their new homes. The work was equal parts fulfilling and overwhelming. Picking up families from the airport who were carrying a single suitcase filled with their few belongings and hearing their stories of spending sometimes years in refugee camps was heartbreaking. I felt so blessed to get to serve them, but my heart ached for each of them and what they had been through, and what so many in their home countries were still experiencing.
That summer, most of the refugees I was working with were being resettled from Nepal and Myanmar, and for no particular reason I was mostly assigned to work with a lot of the clients from Myanmar. It was my first time meeting anybody from Myanmar and I was amazed to hear stories of a place that sounded so distant and different from the life I knew. Even though I had traveled to Cambodia just a few years earlier on a trip with my church, I had little frame of reference for where Myanmar was, let alone its history, until meeting these clients. I was amazed by the warm and caring nature that so many of the clients displayed.
After spending just a few hours with one young family, the mother—who couldn’t have been more than a few years older than me—took to calling me “sister” and was so excited to hear that I was named after the Sarah in the Bible, and was also excited to share that her husband had been a pastor in Myanmar. Later that day, as I spent 20 minutes circling the block in downtown rush-hour traffic to find a safe place to park so I could drop her off to meet her husband at a nearby bus stop, I was completely frazzled and distracted. As we finally parked and she said goodbye, she promised to be praying for me, and thanked me for my help. It was such a simple gesture, but one that made me stop in my tracks.
As I so often do, I was focused on my own stresses and anxieties rather than God’s goodness, faithfulness, and grace.
Thankfully, through no ability of my own, I met this lovely woman who (likely unknowingly) reminded me of just that.
I think we all have moments in our lives that we can look back on as ones that re-centered our focus and brought us out of the haze. For me, this was one of them, and another of those re-centering moments took place about five years later on a short-term trip.
On trips, you can so easily get caught up in the details of it all. The security lines, the visa applications, the bus arrangements, the water bottle purchasing. If you’re not intentional, entire hours and days become more like checklists than opportunities to be Jesus’ hands and feet. Our team of 23 had just spent a week in Cambodia with children at an NHO home in Kampong Speu. It was a fantastic trip, but I was still finding myself exhausted by the end of it. As an introvert, I had said the phrase “my tank is EMPTY” more than a handful of times towards the end of the week.
As we landed in Yangon for the second half of our trip, I was excited and nervous about what the upcoming week held. It was my first time in the country, and I was so thrilled to be in a place that I had heard so much about, but anxious about how much I had left to give. Myanmar had been on my heart and mind ever since that summer, and getting a job at a place that served in Myanmar was like an answer to prayer that I hadn’t even realized I was praying.
Just after dark that night, we finally piled into our bus to visit Charity Children’s Home while all around us Myanmar’s August rains were in full force. We thought that the kids would be studying for exams that night, and had been expecting just a quick tour of the grounds from Chung Nung, so as not to disturb them. But as we got off the bus, a group of young women with umbrellas rushed towards us to usher everyone into a meeting space. In the distance I could hear a song, but amid the flurry of activity couldn’t quite figure out what was happening.
As we each gingerly walked in, uncertain if we were interrupting something, the generator kicked on and illuminated the once candle-lit room. The kids from Charity Children’s Home were seated in perfect lines on the floor, singing “All To Jesus I Surrender” in unison. It was as they were singing the refrain that the lights flickered on:
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
I don’t think it’s possible to adequately describe the sweetness of that moment, which was followed by each and every child in the room lining up to shake every team member’s hand. I also don’t think you could ask for a more obvious moment to recenter (nor a better way to start a week of ministry) than after hearing a roomful of kids singing such powerful words.
And as I thought back to the ache I felt for the clients I worked with, in that moment I felt such immense peace knowing that 200+ kids in Myanmar were being raised up to serve God in their country. While there are surely people still hurting in this country, these 200+ kids have found a haven and place of deep belonging. It is my prayer that others will encounter the hope of Jesus through these kids, just as I did, and that this post would be a reminder for you to step out of the haze of the daily stresses of life, and recognize that His goodness is all around us.