I had been on mission trips before, so I was used to a little culture shock. The standard list of “do’s and don’ts” drilled into your head from a youth leader on how to behave, how not to offend, what not to buy, etc. - were all rolling around in my head. Even as the sights, sounds and smells of Ho Chi Minh City overwhelmed us on the street in front of our hotel, I was ready to resist.
I had been here before. Not exactly here, but other places with the same onslaught of people eager to get the foreigner to buy something. The gypsies in Romania, the little kiddos in Mexico yelling “chicle, chicle!”, even the vendors selling nesting dolls in Russia. I knew how to resist, keep my hand on my money belt and just walk on through. Don’t stop. Don’t make eye contact. Just keep moving and they will eventually leave you alone. For sure, don’t stop to consider buying something. This will only cue the others to run up to you and persuade you to buy their stuff as well. I can do this.
But this one was different.
I was wearing a Baby Bjorn with our little Bean strapped inside. Maia was 6 months old and not quite “ours” yet. We were passing the time by tooling around the city, going to the zoo, eating yummy food like Pho, and occasionally doing something official with “Uncle No Problem” - like bribing some government official.
I didn’t know for sure what Maia would look like as a 6 year old, but I couldn’t help but see her in this little girl who knew our faces well by now. And let me tell you... she was a pistol. That girl, as my Grandmother used to say: “could drive the bejabbers out of you.” She was gifted in persuasion and sales, even as a 6 year old.
She would walk with us, around us, in front of us, up one side, then try the other. “Postcard for you? You need my postcard! Buy postcard souvenir?” Relentless, unending, persistent, non-stop. I am sure there are other words to describe this little girl. In fact, there probably aren’t enough. She was good. We eventually caved and bought them from her, which only made it worse the next day.
Our little Bean is now 17, all grown up, and just about ready to fly the coop. She’s beautiful. She’s adventurous. She’s a pistol. Her well being and her worth have not been wrapped up in her ability to sell postcards on the street. She doesn’t have to ask me if what she has is worth something to me or to her Mom. She’s worth everything. We would give all we have for her and her siblings everyday for the rest of our lives because of our love for them. They don’t have to prove it.
I bought those postcards. I wanted to do more for her... and also, I didn’t. I wanted to protect my heart from caring. Let’s get our little girl and get out of here. You never think that doing something for one will open up your heart to so many more, but that’s God’s heart. He gives us a piece of what He feels in full for humanity.
And yet the temptation to just walk right by and do nothing is so strong. My flesh would rather not get involved. Let someone else do it.
Whatever you have done for the least of these...
For our sakes, He didn’t walk by. He stepped into the sights, sounds, and smells of our world, our sin. He didn’t flinch or recoil in disgust, but He loved us with an everlasting love. He became a living sacrifice, securing our adoption for all time.
He didn’t just buy a postcard. He bought us.