Ava stared in horror as she scrolled through the images of the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami on her phone. Although she lived far from the disaster zone in Southeast Asia — she had never even been out of her own city, much less overseas — the images posted on social media by her “friends” were heartbreaking. Her eyes glued to the screen, she sighed heavily.
“That was a heavy sigh,” Ava’s mom said, glancing her way from the driver’s seat. “Are you OK?”
“It’s the earthquake,” Ava said.
“I know,” Mom replied. “It’s so sad.”
“I just wish there was something I could do to help,” Ava said.
“All we can do is pray,” Mom said.
Ava rolled her eyes. “I want to do more than pray, Mom. I want to help.”
Her mom was gentle, but firm. “Ava, prayer is the most important thing you can do.”
“I know,” Ava shrugged. “I didn’t mean it that way. I just …” She paused, shaking her head.
As Mom pulled to a stop at a traffic light, Ava showed her an image on her phone. “See this? Look at this little girl.” The photo showed a young Southeast Asian girl in tattered clothes surrounded by debris.
“That’s what’s left of her home,” Ava said. “She can’t find her parents. They’re probably dead. She looks so … hopeless.”
Mom nodded empathetically, then turned her eyes back to the road as she accelerated through the green light.
“I know,” she said. “I understand the helplessness, but it isn’t hopeless.”
“But I want to go there,” Ava said. “I want to help her.”
“I understand, but that’s not really possible,” Mom said. “Not right now.”
“I read a book about a girl who did it,” Ava said. “She wasn’t much older than me. She skipped college and started a nonprofit organization taking care of orphans in a country in Africa or someplace.”
“Um, yea,” Mom said. “I know the book. I read it, too. It was very inspiring.”
“Yea, so why can’t I do that?”
Now it was Mom’s turn to sigh. “Well, it’s a little more complicated than that,” she said.
“That’s what you always say. How can this be a bad thing? Doesn’t Jesus want us to help people who are hurting? People like this little girl?” Ava waved her phone.
Mom gave Ava a look, and then looked back to the road. “Yes, He does,” she said, “but let’s think about this. Let’s say that you are able to go to this country. When would you leave? How do you get there?”
“I’d leave tomorrow. I’d fly.”
“OK. How much does it cost?”
“I don’t know. Let me check my Expedia app.” Ava began tapping her phone screen.
“You have an Expedia app?” Mom asked.
“Yea,” Ava said. “It says here a flight there costs $1500 round trip. I have $500 saved from my summer job. Can you loan me the rest?”
“Hold on,” Mom said. “What about visas?”
“Visas? I don’t have a credit card.”
“Not that kind of visa,” Mom’s face softened. “A visa to get into the country.”
Mom pulled into the parking lot of a local coffee shop.
“Why are we stopping here?” Ava asked.
“I can tell this discussion is going to take some time,” Mom said. “And we have some time before Emma finishes ballet, so why not talk over coffee?”
After they ordered, got their drinks and seated themselves in some comfortable chairs, Mom continued.
“Most governments require a visa to enter their country. They cost money. Sometimes you can get a visa on arrival, but other times you have to apply in advance through the embassy.”
“Oh,” Ava said.
“Now, let’s say the country you’re visiting will give you a visa on arrival. Once you land, how do you get to this little girl?”
“Um, I don’t know,” Ava confessed. “Could I take a taxi?”
“Maybe,” Mom said. “But do you know where she is? What part of the country? Is there an organization that’s helping her you could link up with?”
Ava nodded. She was beginning to understand.
“And,” Mom continued, “Where would you stay? What kind of help could you provide?”
“I get it,” Ava acknowledged.
“One last thing,” Mom said. “What happens when it’s time for you to leave? Who takes care of the little girl, then?”
“Well, I was thinking I could bring her with me.”
Mom chuckled. “Yea, it’s not that simple. To keep children from exploitation, most countries have strict laws about taking children out of the country without their parents’ permission. It’s kind of a big deal.”
Ava sighed again. “Yea, I get it,” she said. “But what can I do?”
Mom smiled. “Well, going back to the beginning of this conversation, you can pray.”
“Yea,” Ava said. “But what do I pray for?”
“Well, you could pray that this little girl will be found by good people who will love her and provide for her. You could pray that God will send the right people with the right skills to repair the damage to her city.”
Ava looked thoughtful. “So, even if I can’t be there in person, God can send people to her … kind of in my place?” Ava asked.
“Kind of like that,” Mom said.
The two women were quiet for a moment, sipping their drinks
“One thing I want you to understand,” Mom said. “I really like the empathy you have for people who are hurting. God will use that.”
“Thanks,” Ava said. “I just wish He would use it now.”
“Oh, He will,” Mom said. “In fact, there are some other things you can do now to obey what you think He is calling you to do.”
Ava brightened. “Like what?”
“Well, you could help raise awareness of the tragedy among your friends. You could share the stories on social media and link to reputable organizations that are working in the area. You could help spread the word.”
“I could do that,” Ava said. “Maybe I could even organize a GoFundMe or something and donate the money to one of those organizations.”
“Maybe,” Mom said.
“Would you help me?” Ava asked.
“Absolutely,” Mom said.
By Ann Lovell