Written By Natalie Waterson
My family and I had the privilege of visiting a squatter camp and handing out a little relief to families who were in a desperate way. It was an experience that’s almost indescribable; good people, hard-working people, God-fearing, respectable people, all in a bad place due to various circumstances … and not all of them of their own doing.
We stood there' on the uneven, gravel dirt road, and took in the scene. No electricity. No indoor plumbing. No toilets. Just open-air outhouses some distance away. Grass was sparse and flowers and shrubs were non-existent.
There was a very small play area for young kids; a ‘jungle gym area’ if you will, but on closer inspection, you could see how rusted, old, and broken the equipment really was. There were no televisions or anything ‘high tech' in their homes. Their homes were tiny, make-shift houses made from pieces of broken tin, cardboard, and plastic sheets. Each ‘house’ consisted of just one room – a place where an entire family ate, slept, and lived. The families were dressed in mismatched ‘hand-me-downs’ and were barefoot. Many used small blankets as jerseys to keep out the cold.
But here’s the thing…
They were happy – and genuinely so, greeting us with warmth and hospitality.
Their honest smiles widened, and their eyes lit up with excitement as we handed over a large bag full of soap bars.
Yes, soap. They were grateful to have soap.
Black garbage bags were also a huge hit – especially for the men as they patched up holes in the roofs of their houses. Children crowded around to find the perfect pair of socks and their parents were so happy as they picked out their favourite deodorant.
They also enjoyed the food parcels we brought because meat is very seldom consumed there. Every ‘gift’ – no matter how small - was a great blessing to them.
An old man in his 70’s sat on a broken typist's chair outside his shack and watched the children as they played in the dirt.
It struck me: How grateful are we? Honestly. Take a minute to be brutally honest with yourself.
Most of us live in multiple-roomed houses. Most of us have bathrooms and television sets, electricity, and food in our fridges. We drive cars and eat out at restaurants. Our children have plenty to keep them occupied. But just how thankful are we? Do we praise God when we get a promotion at work, when things are going really well for us, or when we pass an extremely difficult exam? Yes, probably. It’s easy to do so then, right?
So ask yourself this then, if everything was taken away from you today (and I do mean everything), and you had to live on the generosity of strangers, would you still be so grateful? So warm and inviting?
I’ll tell you what I am grateful for. I got to spend a few hours that day with the children, playing games and sharing toys with them. The adults started a vegetable garden (for food) and we got to know some of the people there. It made me gain a perspective of what’s really important in this life and what we can do without.
‘Lord, remind me each day of Your goodness - and may I never forget. May my lips forever sing your praises – and may I give as generously as I get.’
Psalms 82:3-4 (GNT)
'Defend the rights of the poor and the orphans; be fair to the needy and the helpless. Rescue them from the power of evil people.'
Jesus said, ‘Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me’ (Matthew 25:40). So maybe the real question should be... what have we done for Jesus?
If it weren't for you
A poem by Natalie Waterson
If it weren’t for you – where would I be?
Would I even be alive? Would I be free?
Would I have the chance to start anew?
Would I be able to see this cruel world – from a different view?
If it weren’t for you, what would I do?
Sell my body, perhaps steal some jewels?
Would I know the difference between right and wrong… would I even care?
When all life’s troubles seem more than I can bear.
If it weren’t for you, where would I stay?
Would I even see the dawn of another day?
Would I have a family to call my own?
Or would I spend holidays and Christmases all on my own?
If it weren’t for you, what would I eat?
And what would I offer up for a piece of meat?
Would I go to sleep after a nourishing meal?
Tell me, would I even know how that feels?
If it weren’t for you, where would I play?
Dirty street corners or dangerous alleyways?
Would I see the inside of a school …would that boost my self-esteem?
Without you: learning to read and write – a vague, unattainable dream.
If it weren’t for you, what would I believe?
Would I even know Jesus? Would He be my creed?
Would I realize His sacrifice for me on that old, splintered cross?
Would I be able to fathom? Could I really count the cost?
If it weren’t for you – would I ever know – God’s GRACE, Gods LOVE, God’s BLESSINGS untold?
Would I be able to say: ‘Yes, He loves me’ and know it’s true?
Tell me... Where would I be – if it weren’t for you?