let the NGOs do it

sitting five metres from the Gulf of Thailand, I am mesmerized by the deep blue that stretches to infinity before me.  Hemmed in by a few gulf islands that calm the sea.

Small waves lick the shoreline.  Nothing but quiet.  And peace.

Which is disturbed by 10 & 11 year olds selling trinkets, jewelry, massages, pedicures.  They drive me insane.

“Hello miss, buy bracelet?  You want massage?”

I ignore them.  NGOs always say to never buy stuff – anything – from the street urchins.  It reinforces and legitimizes this behaviour.

But I wonder what other alternative they have.  Within a kilometre of this pristine beach, there is a squatter camp.  The stench cauterized my nostrils as we drove by.  Smoke from wood fires, makeshift latrines, animals, and dirty, uncleaned skin mixing to make a god-awful smell.

Without a doubt some of the beach sellers ply the sand by day and spend the night with their families in those rickety, collapsing huts.

Who knows if they go to school.  Who knows how much they eat and what their families do to make a living.  These girls could be single handedly providing for a family of five or six.  Or maybe their fathers and mothers work on the construction crews that are building the new five star hotel across the street.

“Let the NGOs do it,” we say.

But isn’t it just so easy to play God in the lives of the poor.  Me.  With my blonde hair and distinct caucasionness, and my purely Western upbringing…How can I possibly know what is best for people eking out survival in Cambodia.

I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

I am reminded of a Derek Webb song – Rich Young Ruler.

so what must we do.

here in the west we want to follow you.

we speak the language and we keep all the rules – even a few we made up.

common and follow me.

but sell your house sell your suv.

sell your stocks and your securities

and give it to the poor.

It’s a whole lot easier for me to say “let the NGOs do it” when what Jesus really wants is for me to take him and his words seriously.  I’m just not sure what that looks like yet.


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