My Bracelet

My trip to Africa isn’t ever buried very deeply in my thoughts. It’s always right there, like a persistent friend–the kind that pushes you to better, even when you don’t want to be. In the middle of a run to soccer practice, or a trip to a grocery store, or during Sunday morning communion. It’s just right there.

On our first full day in Uganda, we visited Deliverance Church, a church that runs a Compassion project in the heart of Kampala’s slums. I saw poverty that I had already known existed all over the world. But I saw it, and I touched it, and I smelled it. I sat in the room with it. I prayed over it. And it rattled me to my core.

Before we left that day, the pastor’s wife placed an orange-and-white beaded bracelet in my hand. It was made by the children at that project, to sell in the market. I slipped it into my pocket.

My fingers played with the tiny beads on the plane ride home. My mind was racing with a dozen different conflicting emotions. Part of my heart, the part that needs for things to fit neatly together, Bracelet wanted to forget the heartache I’d seen. But the part of my heart that needs justice and hope wanted desperately to remember. And so I put the bracelet on my wrist.

Four months later, I still haven’t taken it off.

It’s an overly sentimental gesture on my part, I know. Wearing this bracelet doesn’t wipe out poverty in Uganda, or bring back Dissan‘s parents, or heal the babies dying from AIDS. But I wear it anyway.

It’s a tangible reminder, to my own conflicted heart, of intangible truths about suffering and hope and mercy and courage. I look at it at least once a day, wrapped around my wrist next to my pretty watch, on the same hand with my diamond wedding band.  I see it when I hold the steering wheel of my nice car and type on my new laptop in my air-conditioned, roomy home.

And sometimes I shudder with the injustice of it. I’d be lying if I told you that I’d yet–even now, months later–reconciled it in my heart and head. I still don’t get it.

But I’ll wear that bracelet–I’ll wear it until it falls off. It will remind me to tell my children what I saw, to invest in my sponsor kids as long as they need me.  It reminds me to live a life of gratitude for the unmerited blessings in my life.  It will remind me to trust in a God who does know how all these strange pieces fit together.  It will help me remember. 

I’ll do this because remembering these children honors them.  It isn’t everything, but it’s something.

And I have to do something.

You can do something too.  Have you been thinking about sponsoring a child?  This would be a good day for it.

31 thoughts on “My Bracelet

  1. Cheri C says:

    We sponsor a child in Africa through World Vision. It’s a huge desire of mine to visit him and his family one day. The Lord knows my desire and if He wills it, we’ll be able to meet precious Joey.

  2. Sashwhy says:

    I went to Africa when I was 18 on a mission trip and still wear the ring that I got while there (it’s been over 6 years now). It is the only ring I wear of two – the other being my wedding ring. Every time I look at it, I think about the people I met in Africa who were seeking to know the Lord, but had no missionary to tell them the truth of the Gospel. Where were the missionaries? My husband and I will hopefully be able to go out and be missionaries ourselves in the next few years. Thanks for this sweet post. It reminded me of a lot!

  3. Llama Momma says:

    I’m convinced that none of us will ever be able to *get* the injustice of global poverty. But we can choose to wrestle with it, to let it make us uncomfortable…or not.

  4. Jane says:

    Africa will do that to you. And I like the bracelet idea – if nothing else, it would just remind me of how blessed I am every day.
    And thanks for highlighting the needs on your blog – these kids need all the publicity they can get.

  5. suburbancorrespondent says:

    We decided to sponsor 2 children a few months ago (after reading your blog). I signed up for the automatic payment plan and hung the 2 girls’ pictures on the wall by our world map and then forgot all about it (except for feeling vaguely guilty about not sending that sponsor letter). Then we received a letter from one of the girls in the mail. Nothing special, but it made her seem a little more real. And then, I just happened to turn her letter over and there was a little drawing she made of a flower, looking precisely like a flower that would have been drawn by my 5-year-old girl. I think that’s the first time I understood that this was a real child, just like my child. That sounds stupid, but there it is.

  6. Julie at Elisharose says:

    We sponsored a child as a result of your trip. We had been talking about it for years and you pushed me over the edge to push to actually do it. We are still anxiously awaiting our first letter from our child. She is a beautiful little girl in Mexico. I would love to have a bracelet to remind me of her daily. My daughter and I pray for her each night just the same.

  7. Cheryl says:

    Shannon, thank you for doing this so beautifully—on-body reminders are such a perfect call to prayer, and ideally, action.
    We have dear friends (a young couple) who after a mission trip to Africa sold all their holding here in the U.S. and are now serving the AIDS orphaned community in South Africa. They adopted their son (a former orphan) and discovered their biological pregnancy in the following days.
    You all inspire — and move– each of us to respond. THANK YOU!

  8. genny says:

    Beautiful post. We’ve sponsored a child in
    Uganda for a few years now. She’s precious and smart and her notes and pictures in the mail touch our hearts and decorate our fridge for weeks after we get them. She has definitely touched our hearts.

  9. Dev says:

    i would never take it off either. i don’t even have the experiences you had, but if i did i would want some kind of reminder. so i would never waste a day thinking entirely of myself.
    i have friends in africa right now doing missions. some have been there multiple times. its a part of the world that has captured their hearts.

  10. GiBee says:

    Okay — first of all, jewelry speaks to me in a girlie kind of way… but to have such a deep and powerful meaning such as this simple, beautiful little bracelet? Something that would constantly remind me to keep them in my prayers? Always at the forefront of my mind because I’m always seeing it? Wow. That’s powerful.
    And… I love what Llama Mamma said… “I’m convinced that none of us will ever be able to *get* the injustice of global poverty. But we can choose to wrestle with it, to let it make us uncomfortable…or not.
    You know what that reminds me of??? A stone in my shoe. It causes so much discomfort and pain… and that very discomfort and pain will stay there … until I actually DO something about it.
    Thank you for reminding all of us that we CAN do something about global poverty. Several sayings come to mind: every little bit helps, one step at a time, hand-in-hand… but until we actually take action, nothing will change.
    So proud of you!

  11. Carla says:

    Yeah that is the feeling you get from Africa, stays in your heart doesn’t it?
    My family and I are originally from South Africa (we are Afrikaaners), thus I get to visit quite often. And it can really break your heart to see how people perhaps suffer there. South Africa is considered to be the most civilized country of Africa but there is still so much terrible things happening there.

  12. JeniJeni says:

    Your stories really touch me, Shannon, and they inspire me to write a letter to my sponsored kiddo. I think I’ll do that today. πŸ™‚

  13. Shelly W says:

    Thanks for the great reminder. We sponsor a girl in Brazil (a country close to our heart) and have received a couple of letters from her. I feel terribly guilty that we haven’t written to her, but we really don’t know what to say. It’s tough. How to connect? . . ..

  14. zoom says:

    I have my child’s picture on my desk. Her sweet smile just melts my heart.
    For those of you who haven’t written- sit down and write your letter NOW!! Write in very simple sentences. Look at your child’s profile and find common ground. In my first letter , I wrote that I liked bananas just like she did , and I liked the color orange. I told her a little about our family.
    The main thing I wrote is that God is a God of hope, and that he loves her.
    I have received 2 letters from Christine. We are creating a repoire that blesses my socks off.

  15. maryam_... says:

    Only today I was wondering what to do when it’s raining outside and you’re in the computer room, or just studying, or EATING and at the same time you know that half of the wold population can’t afford to do any of these things.
    I underlined three phrases of your post:
    Thanks again, Shannon

  16. Stephanie says:

    I have really been wanting to sponsor a child through Compassion. Thank you for spelling it out so simply for us. I love the bracelet and would love one of my own. I guess I’ll have to go to Africa to get one!
    Thanks for the push. We need that often.

  17. Richelle says:

    Just wanted to say thank you – for remembering…
    …and for reminding me to remember, too. Living here in the midst of it, all day every day – it easy to develop a calloused eye and to look at ministry as though it is only my job and not the privilege of partnering with the Lord in an eternal harvest.

  18. Adele Booysen says:

    I stumbled upon your blog as a recommendation from Google Reader. As someone who lives in the heart of Africa and shares the stories of families in my village, this entry touched my heart.
    Karibu Afrika! Welcome to Africa. Anytime!

  19. Janelle says:

    My husband and I are traveling to Uganda and then to the Sudan on July 22nd to work with orphans and widows at this one particular orphanage. Your stories have touched my heart. I can’t really say it’s made me more excited to go, but it has helped prepare me maybe a little for what we are about to face.

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