I thought that sharing my recent shortcoming might help you somehow on your journey. I've just returned home from a wonderful mission trip to Peru, and one particular incident still troubles me. It was my encounter with a beggar.
This was my second trip to Peru and this one was very quick; our focus was ontraining and developing leadership in Women’s Ministry among the Peruvians.Almost the moment we set our feet on the ground, we were whisked away to a Conventwhere we started our meetings from morning until night. We weren't really amongthe public until the Saturday evening. As our group of ten was getting out ofour taxis and our leader was paying, a Peruvian woman with a baby tied to herback came up to me and asked for money. We were told not to bring valuables onthis trip, so I had no money (at least not in a place that I could easily reachit—I was wearing my passport and American dollars in a money belt madefor my waist, but because of the jeans my daughter talked me into buying, I wouldhave to dig way down into my pants to retrieve anything from it). I told herthat I had no money, but she didn't stop begging. She stood in front of me speakingto me in Spanish. I told her that I was sorry. Still she kept on, determinedto persuade me to give her something. She went on to the others in the group,some Peruvians, some from our team. We all told her no.
I've got to tell you, I felt very bad. I felt embarrassed. I felt mean. I feltthat I was being a poor example to the Peruvian women I had come to help train.That moment seemed to last forever. Shortly, our missionary leader finished payingthe taxis and the woman turned to her for money. The missionary had a strongconversation with her about buying milk for the baby with the money and gaveher something. The woman and child moved on. Some wonder if she had drugged hersleeping child, a tactic of some beggars to get more sympathy.
Our team had brought as many resources as we could pack into our eight oversizedbags. We knew we were coming to a country where there was great need. We gaveall of our resources to the missionaries to distribute through the church, sothe people can be given the true riches in Christ along with any material blessingswe bring. We were instructed not to give to beggars on the street for severalreasons, including our own safety—sometimes it can make you more a targetof crime. What if I had dug into my pants? Would a criminal mind have made mea target? The rationale goes on. But what I learned is how I kept the focus onme the whole time the woman was begging. Without benefit of speaking the samelanguage I couldn't explain why what I was doing seemed mean or unkind. EverythingI did communicated to her that she was not important, not valuable, not worthmy giving even a small amount of change to. I hated that. I didn't like beingthat way. I wanted to come home and change the policies on beggars and make surethat everyone had a little something prepared to give to anyone that asks themon the street. I was on a crusade.
As I was talking to a friend about my plans, she kindly made a sweet suggestion.She said that if I didn't have anything to give that I could have prayed forher. Prayed for her—I didn't even think of that. I was too busy thinkingof me. I was thinking of how mean I felt. How concerned I was that I was beinga poor example to the women who were with me. Pray for the woman—it didn'teven cross my mind. Maybe if I had I could have heard the voice of God say, It’sokay, go ahead and dig into your pants and give her some money. Or perhapsHe would say, Yes, I love her too. I didn't know because I didn't pray,I was too focused on me. Thank God that was not what Peter and John did whenthey had the same experience of having no money to give a beggar who asked. Theysaid, Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the nameof Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. Taking him by the right hand, he helped himup, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. (Acts 3:6-7)