The Faces

I guess on some level I tried to prepare myself for what I was going to see once we got to Uganda. I’ve never been overseas before, and truth be told I’ve probably never seen real poverty up close and personal, though I thought I had.

But all I can think about right now is how I have managed to live my whole life without any idea at all about what real poverty looks like.

Earlier today we visited one of Compassion’s partner churches (Compassion does all of its work through local churches), and I was deeply touched by the kindness and the faith of the people there. They told us about their ministry in the community, introduced us to some of the children involved in their programs, and answered every single question we had with absolute grace and candor.

Then we walked outside the building.

And I’m telling you: there is nothing aside from Divine Revelation that could have prepared me for what I saw. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.




These are the rooms behind the church where the kids have what we would call Sunday School. And compared to what we saw next, those Sunday School rooms were the absolute lap of luxury.

We split into groups and walked just across the street to visit with some families who live in the area. We made our way up a short hill, and as we rounded the corner I saw something that I will never, ever forget. I couldn’t even if I wanted to.


You have no idea what this little girl has done to my heart. No idea at all.

She’s an orphan who lives with her aunt. Her aunt is HIV-positive and struggles to provide for the two of them. And they live in a room that is no bigger than the half bath in my house. It has a straw floor, cardboard walls, and a sheet for a door.

I cry just thinking about it.

And yet she was just one of many children all around us – children who live in a level of poverty that is absolutely incomprehensible, even when you’re so close that you can see it and touch it and smell it.

For about twenty minutes I took pictures of the kids and then let them look at the screen on the back of my camera. It was evident that several of them had never seen their own faces before.

And I just keep thinking that we have to see these kids’ faces. We have to see these kids’ faces. They are not statistics, they are not case studies, they are not random images on public service announcements.

They are precious, sweet, loving faces. Just like your children. Just like mine. And we have to – WE HAVE TO – see them.





We have to.

Because if we don’t, who will?

This post was originally published on February 12, 2008.

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  1. i am glad you said this was reposted.

    because i must have missed the thing about you reposting.

    and for a minute, i was having really wicked de ja vu.


  2. I have to echo what Anne said, I had to look twice for the date. I just wanted to make sure you did not get to go back with out us. Man those kids are engraved in my heart. The one by the door was our first real encounter with a child and I will NEVER forget that moment in that slum, with you. Of coarse hearing you and anne and the bat will always make me smile too. H

  3. Before I read this, I had just been to my Super Walmart. I was really struck as I wandered around the store tonight and tossed random things in my cart, that this is excessive. This GIANT store, full of everything you could ever “need.” I purchased cheese cut in Mickey shapes, and didn’t bat an eye. Picked through the produce like it just wasn’t quite good enough. Tonight I was thinking of my little Compassion girl, Peres. A little Kenyan girl who can buy a concrete floor for her house with my $25 birthday money for her. And my first Compassion child, Grace, who had to stop going to the center because she was needed at home. Thanks for this post.

  4. I just get so tired of seeing it. All the starving HIV/AIDs stricken people in Africa.
    How can we really help, when all they do is keep breeding the same problem? Why don’t they put something in the food or those water wells to sterilize those people? Sure, the children can’t help they are born into those conditions. But why is it OUR problem. No one appears to care about the elderly neighbor across the street who has to decide whether she can afford to run her A/C in 90+ degree temperatures, or buy her heart med this month because she lives on a fixed income and can’t afford to do both. What about all the people right here in our own country who are losing their jobs and homes. People who won’t go to the doctor for serious health conditions because they don’t have health insurance. We take care of everybody else but our own.
    I have seen starving, disease infested populations all my life and I’ve come to the conclusion God must definitely know all about it. And it appears that there situation never changes much.
    I work with a bunch of Africans now. It saddens me to see what happens when they come over here and they are given an opportunity. They bring their problems with them, and they do not have the same heart as we do to care for another human being. They will take everything you give them, but if the tables were turned, from my own personal experience I can say that they would not care about you or me. Just themselves, and how much they can get.
    Africa is controlled by demonic territorial spirits. Sound crazy? Well maybe so, but it is true.

  5. Wow.

    Boo, I want to thank you for re-posting this. Because of your posts, as well as Shawn’s, I was prompted to sponsor another child in the Dominican Republic.

    We might not be able to change the world, or even a country, but we can change the life of a child.

    May God continue to work His compassion into our hardened hearts. May He keep us from being overwhelmed by the consequences of the choices of sinful mankind being wreaked upon the most innocent and helpless.

    And may you have a wonderful couple of weeks off! :)

  6. Thank you isn’t enough but it’s all I have right now.

  7. I’m reading “Dangerous Surrender” by Kay Warren right now. This post is perfectly in sync with it, and leaves me “disturbed” – just as she said God wants us to be with regard to the needs of the world around us.

    Thanks – and I hope you enjoy your break!

  8. We do indeed. I have some dear friends moving to Swaziland (sigh) at the end of this month to run and orphange for AIDS children. There is no middle generationat all, just grammas and aunties and precious little ones.

    May God use our hands and feet to show His mercy!

  9. I’m glad I came over from another post to here…

    Afrika is a place very close to my heart. I have not been to Uganda, but to Tanzania and I loved it. Most of the kids we worked with were no where near that situation, but we did help at an orphanage too.

    I have a couple friends right now in Rwanda too, and from what I’ve seen from them it is beautiful. Has now made it to my list of places I want to go.. if I’m not careful, you might add Uganda to my list!

  10. I have been in Peace Corps, traveled in India and Nepal and it does not get any easier. We have SO MUCH. It is mind blowing in comparison. Nice post.

    I am hosting my first giveaway for one Erin’s cool SUPER HERO CAPES.

    Come on by and check it out.

  11. I wish Compassion would send me over there to meet my sponsored child in India. I have never been but I have sponsored him since he was 6. He’s in 11th Grade now. I love him dearly.

  12. When my children are more grown I do hope to join the bloggers and compassion. i’ve sponsored kids, given of my time and money but I doubt there is anything quite as moving and soul affecting like going to a country and seeing everything. I imagine I would feel broken hearted, filled up and even more determined to help in any way I could. Thank you for this post!


  13. I love this post. Enjoyed hearing you on Behind the Blog today!

  14. I JUST found an old journal (literally ten minutes ago while looking for something else)in which I wrote while on a mission trip to Haiti five years ago. Like you, I tried to prepare myself for the heartache. Unlike you, I was unprepared at how NUMB my heart was. Maybe it was a coping mechanism, spiritual warfare, or…I don’t know. I could not figure out why my heart was so cold, but five years later I know God has broken it. And now I look at your pictures and find that there is compassion in my heart and a stirring in my soul. Praise God! Thank you for sharing and may He bless you.

  15. One of our teachers when to Africa last year to help set up a school. We donated what school supplies we had as well as eye glasses. In addition, we sent travel size items. When she came home, we looked at pictures, similar to these. God Bless you all for keeping them in our hearts.

  16. We do have to see them. I know sometimes people feel powerless to help and then start to worry about our own needs here in America, well help all around you and where ever else you can. If seeing their faces helps you think more about your own neighbor then help them, if seeing their faces makes you want to sponsor a child then do it, the point is if you can help do it.. And for anyone who has just run slap outta of compassion there is help for you too, ask God to give ya some

  17. I wish I could help all the suffering children in the world. What a wonderful post.

  18. What a lovely post. Thank you.

  19. I found this blog through a link from another blog. I know this is a reposting for you, but this was amazingly timely for me. As I scrolled down your blog, I first read “Pillow Talk” and next “Faces”. I won’t go into immense detail, since I wrote about it on my own blog, but thank you so much for writing/reposting these! I needed it!