She was sleeping in my arms; this little girl, about 5 years old, sweet as anything, with big brown eyes and soft curly hair. It was pretty hot. It was over 90 degrees in the mud floored, thatched roof hut we were sitting in and she had been sound asleep for about 20 minutes. It was the end of the day and I was waiting for the medical team to finish up from our Village Outreach experience in a village near Bo, Sierra Leone. I had just spent several hours weighing babies and recording their weight so that the hospital team would know how the children were progressing. Were they malnourished? Did they have an illness? We weighed baby after baby that day, with lots of older children running around in the heat. But this little girl didn’t have the strength to run anymore. She was suffering from malaria and malnutrition and after discovering that I was not just a scary, white lady she decided we could be friends. We played clapping games and we sang some songs and then she just climbed up in my lap and slept. I was smitten. But as I held her and enjoyed the charms of holding a sleeping child I was struck by the slight weight of her sleeping body. I worried about her future and the future of all the other children in this village and in all the villages in Africa, and around the world. Children who are hungry, who don’t have access to health care or school.
So many children, so much illness, so much hunger. It’s a classic question; there is so much pain and suffering in the world. How will one person or one church make a difference? It is hardly a drop in a bucket. But then I remembered worship in April. It was one of those surprisingly hot days. No one was ready for it, the men all had their suit coats on and the women were in sweaters and long sleeves. It wasn’t terrible at the beginning of the service but soon the sweaters came off and the bulletins became fans. Even I was hot which almost never happens. I slipped out to the controls during the sermon to make an adjustment. I pushed the arrow so that it was only one degree cooler. One degree. In about 10 minutes the fans stopped and people became noticeably more comfortable. I knew to move it one degree because on a previous Sunday I had moved it three degrees and within 20 minutes it was like an icebox in the sanctuary. It is amazing to me how much difference a degree makes.
As I sat in that hot room and prayed for this sleeping girl, I realized that our church was making a difference. She was a degree. A degree that was receiving nutrition, and malaria medication, and not only her but her mother and siblings too. She was just one of several degrees and if we keep at it, if we continue to try to change the world for Christ, then more and more children like her will have hope and a future. All it takes is one person at a time to raise his or her hand and children in a village in Africa will have good food and health care and more and more children will have hope and a future.