Mai* and her family are Jesus followers in a Southeast Asian country. Her father is the local pastor of an impoverished village. A few years after she committed her future to God, she joined the OM team in that country and initiated a preschool project in her village. The school is still under construction and when completed, will provide children in the village with educational activities and classes.
Like many parts of Southeast Asia, the COVID-19 pandemic has rendered many impoverished communities in this country vulnerable and struggling for their livelihood. In response to this situation, OM partners have provided essential supplies, such as hand sanitisers, face masks and rice to Mai’s OM team. Sanitation equipment and emergency food packages were also distributed to essential community workers, where their activities would put their lives at risk without proper sanitation equipment.
Funds were also raised to purchase food supplies for villages that are in need. Mai brought some of the relief funds back to her village and approached the village leader. She told him that the money was meant to buy rice for villagers struggling because of COVID-19.
The village leader refused to let her proceed as he wanted her to buy new furniture for the village office instead. Mai knew in her heart that the money should go towards those who needed it the most, not to buy furniture. She was also concerned that if she gives the rice to the village office to distribute, it will end up in the hands of the leader and his friends, instead of those who truly need it.
After praying and discussing with her leaders and family, Mai returned to her village and told the village leader that the money can only be used to buy rice; but in the future, her preschool may be able to help purchase some new furniture for the village office. She then proceeded to distribute the rice quietly through the help of her cousins. Although this was done so that the distribution would not connect directly to her, it was still evident that she was involved.
One villager who received the rice thanked them profusely and said, “We have always felt that we are lesser than other people in the village, because we are very poor and do not have much land.” People like this villager had asked the village leader for help, but he offered them none. As a result, they felt invisible and unseen.
“Now, with this gift of rice, we feel that someone has ‘seen’ us and cares about our plight. We are no longer invisible,” the villager added. Mai was deeply encouraged by his words.
Her hope, as she continues to build the preschool and begin classes, is to show the villagers that they have worth; and this worth is not dependent on social status, wealth, or the lack of them. She wants to encourage them to do the best they can to improve their lives, even when times are hard.
Together with her family and team in OM, it is their prayer that many will be led to have deeper conversations about Jesus, as they continue to show His love in the village and care for the villagers’ physical needs.
*name changed for security