We had TNT on the beach at night, led by two brothers. One brother shared about his experience overseas in a third-world country and the other brother shared some theological perspectives on poverty. I was moved and it got my mind swirling with thoughts.
I felt God speaking to me and doing something to the inside of me. I got the sentence: ‘I need to see the need with my own eyes.’ In that moment, I knew that I needed to see more of the world, get to know different people, and experience the needs people had.
Hearing about people’s needs wasn’t enough for me. I needed to see the needs. I had a heart for people in poverty but I always felt I didn’t care enough to put anything into action. But if I saw the need with my own eyes, I knew it would affect me in me some way. Either my heart would be moved into action or I’d realise my heart was called somewhere else. Either way I had to know.
That night I knew I would go overseas one day and that I would go on an overseas mission trip. The timing hasn’t been right so far but I still know one day I will go overseas and I will be affected in some way.
In the meantime, I’ve been learning that ‘see the need’ doesn’t necessarily mean seeing other people in need but being in need yourself. That’s when you really see a need with your own eyes.
Just last month I experienced my first cyclone. Cyclone Debbie was a category four cyclone headed directly for Bowen. I tracked its path on the weather bureau website and followed the updates on the news. One report said Cyclone Debbie could flatten Bowen. Two days before the cyclone hit, dad and I received a text message warning me to evacuate because I was in a red zone and was in danger of being flooded by a storm surge. The next day dad and I moved to higher ground and struggled to get to sleep. The next morning, the power went out and I watched wind and rain whip the tress, collapse part of a wooden fence, and smash three windows.
Later that night, when the cyclone had passed, my dad tried to drive home but it wasn’t safe. Trees and powerlines were down and ‘it looked like the end of the world out there.’ We made it back home the day after and thankfully the house was fine. We thought it was over but that night there was a massive storm and we were flooded. When I looked out the windows, the whole house was surrounded by water and the road was a river. Water came into the house and dad and I were on our hands and knees until midnight bucketing water. It was one of the scariest times of my life and the worst night of my life.
Still, the ordeal wasn’t over. For five days the town was without power and for two days without water. The local IGA ran on a generator and when we went there, there was no bread, no water, no cans of spaghetti or baked beans, no packets of chips, no cheese. We had sardine sandwiches for meals and were running out of clothes to wear. I was getting a glimpse of what it was like for people in poverty without power and water and a glimpse of what it was like for people recovering from a natural disaster.
For five days it felt like I was living in a different time and place. Thankfully, Cyclone Debbie ended up hitting south of Bowen, and even though most houses received some damage, lots were flooded, and some were destroyed, Bowen is still standing strong. But that’s also largely due to the teams of people who came to help. We had the Red Cross, the SES, the army, government workers, electricity workers and wood chippers from other states, and other crews helping the town clear up the mess, get the town back up and running, and doing what they could to support the people. There was a mobile washing service, hot meals, and, water, and financial help for anyone who need them.
I was amazed and touched by all the support and was thankful for them because without them, the roads would have been blocked for longer, people would have been without power and water for longer, and some families would have been in real trouble without food or finances.
Cyclone Debbie was a hot topic on Twitter at the time and among the tweets with supportive messages offering thoughst and prayers, there were some messages about how money and resources shouldn’t be going to Bowen to help with the recovery.
Before Cyclone Debbie I wouldn’t have given those tweets about money and resources any thought. I simply wouldn’t have cared, and if anything, I probably would have agreed with those tweeters. But now that I’d experienced a natural disaster firsthand and ‘seen it with my own eyes,’ I cared a lot and was all for support.
I was thinking, ‘Yes, please send money and resources. We’re going through a rough time and it’s nice to know people care and are helping.’ Obviously, we weren’t going through anything life-threatening and we didn’t need anyone to go overboard with money and resources, but we still really appreciated the help.
Those messages about not money and resources seemed cold, sterile, heartless to me. It showed me that’s exactly the state I’m in when I hear of people’s needs that I haven’t experienced myself. It also showed me the difference experiencing a need for yourself can make. I thought about people who are hit by a natural disaster in third-world countries and how their needs would be so much greater because they wouldn’t have the instant money and resources that we had to help. So straight after Cyclone Debbie, I made sure I donated to disaster relief funds both in Bowen and overseas, and I will keep donating every year to help people recover from disasters.
This idea of seeing the needs of others by being in need myself makes me look at my own needs with new eyes. Instead of feeling bad for not caring enough and being active about needs I haven’t experienced, I can take the needs I’ve already experienced and get active in doing something about those ones.
It’s got me thinking about what needs I’ve experienced but have dismissed because I don’t think they’re as important as global needs like poverty and oppression. Now I’m seeing the importance of all needs and taking seriously the needs I’ve experienced: the simple needs of being encouraged, accepted, valued.
If everyone took the needs they’ve experienced seriously and was active in doing something to meet those needs in others, then maybe all needs would be covered. Maybe we are given our specific needs for a reason, to experience them firsthand so we will care for those who have the same needs and be moved to action.
I want to be responsible with the needs I have ‘seen with my own eyes.’