Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you were born to a different family? Or born in a different country? How different would your upbringing have been if you had been born on the other side of the world to a family with different values and priorities to yours? I think about this often, how different would I be if I was born to a family in America, or Uganda, or Japan. And it’s not so much about the environment specifically, it’s more about values and character. How different, if at all, would my character be? Would I still have the same heart, or would my heart be softened or hardened because of my environment?
These thoughts have played over and over in my mind for the last few weeks as I’ve watched events unfold around the world. Violence, poverty and death are the key headlines as night after night we watch countless faces being flashed across our screens, all affected by their touch. Countless lives and communities impacted by the actions of others. Sometimes, the impact is due to the inaction of others. We can easily dismiss it because it’s happening in countries far away, but the reality is that it’s happening in our own backyard as well. At last count in 2011, the number of homeless people in Australia was sitting at approximately 105,237 people, a number which has likely grown since then. We have at a minimum one woman being killed a week in Australia due to domestic violence. The police are constantly monitoring potential terror threats against our country, a threat that a vast majority of Western countries are concerned about. The stats are all there. If you look them up you will find that all these worldly issues are right at our front door, nipping at our heels. How will we all respond if these things actually reach our homes?
I don’t mention these stats to raise terror or hysteria, more to highlight that we live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Australia has its many issues like every other country, but it’s a beautiful country and a beautiful place to live. We are all, in my opinion, extremely fortunate to live here. But it’s this blessing, as it is, that has me thinking about my character because next week I’m heading to Cambodia and I’m parts nervous and parts excited. I’m excited because I will be visiting a country I’ve never been to, so I’ll be experiencing a new culture and meeting new people. I’m nervous because this is not a tourist type trip but a trip to go and see the international aid my organisation has provided. I will be going with a group of students that has raised money for some of our projects and we will be taking them around to the different sites. We will be visiting schools and birthing units and prisons, all which are in remote areas of moderate to extreme poverty. I am nervous about my heart. Very nervous.
I have done my research on the places we are going and I know that there will be places that will leave me heartbroken. However I also know that I will be inspired. There is a resilience in the people there, a perseverance to just get on with it, that’s encouraging and inspiring. I have no doubt that I will get schooled on life on this trip. I also have no doubt that my compassion, resilience and ability to just love people as they are will be tested. My Jesus heart tells me to just love people without judgement or question for we are all children of God; my Leila heart isn’t always good at that and can occasionally get caught up in some of societies views on who deserves love and acceptance. There is at times a tug of war between both, however I desperately want to lead with a Jesus centred heart. I know that isn’t always the choice that makes sense, but I have encountered firsthand the love and grace of Jesus, and that’s what I want to share and that’s the way that I want to love people; unconditionally and without any judgement. I don’t always get it right, but I will keep trying.
I am expectant that this trip will be a catalyst to the next step, the next season I’m shuffling towards. I can’t explain it, but I have this nervous excitement just below the surface, this anticipation that things will shift on this trip. It doesn’t make much sense, I know, but I will try as best as I can to explain it as I blog throughout the trip. I fly out on Sunday next week, so I will blog to keep people posted on where I am and what I’m doing. I want to blog because I want to give this trip eyes; I want people to know what’s happening over there and understand some of the needs that we don’t hear about. I also want to blog so that I can share the impact it has on me (because, you know, it’s all about me) and give people a different perspective. I don’t know that they will be daily blogs, but there will definitely be a few and there will be a few Facebook posts in between. So if you’re keen, follow along. And if you are the praying kind, please keep me in your prayers!