Double-edged 真理報雙語版


A bilingual and bicultural Christian young adults blog //////////////// 青年華裔基督徒的博客

Christ-centred Compassion

H. Lo

I went to East Africa this past summer for several weeks doing community development work in two villages, one in Kenya and one in Ethiopia. I had just joined staff with a humanitarian non-governmental organization (NGO) and so I went on this trip to get an idea of the kind of project I would be taking Canadians on in the near future.

In Kenya, we built a dormitory for teachers who walked 4 hours a week to work and worked on implementing a new sprinkler system for the farm in the village. In Ethiopia, we built a school in a Somali village.

It was a life-impacting trip, but I didn’t get any explosive, life-altering moments.

Often times, people think going to Africa is like a burning bush experience where one comes back feeling the way Moses did after he met God. Those radical events do happen, but this one was much more about weighing and evaluating the call on my life.

Doing humanitarian work isn’t a glorious job, but it’s certainly a kingdom building undertaking. You must have the vision to see beyond the present. You’re leaving all of your creature comforts to ride in crowded, dusty vans to go dig trenches, clear rocks, pull weeds, eat only bread and bananas for days and play with kids who don’t speak your language under the hot sun in another country. Why couldn’t you just do that back home? Might as well pick up some gardening, right?

To add to the matter, one of the villages in which we worked in over the past 2 years, was attacked the day we left. Their livestock and everything of value, was taken from them by neighbouring tribes.

It was such a shock and blow to my morale. The attack made me wrestle even more with why I am doing this. Why have I given up a steady paying job with great benefits to endeavour in a job that is filled with so many uncertainties such as this? Not only am I barely getting paid, but I seem to be pouring out my heart and soul into work that is seemingly fruitless.
This is the reality of doing development work. A lot of what we do can easily be nullified by greed and tribal warfare. We can build a lot of infrastructure and invest millions of dollars, but lasting, sustainable change comes only from a heart that is transformed. This is where Jesus comes in. Though I work for a secular organization, I am compelled to do what I do out of the love I have received from my relationship with Jesus. It’s Christ-compelled compassion. Many people do humanitarian work because it gives them a satisfying feeling of doing something ‘good’ or out of duty. The reasons are many as to what motivates a person. What I hope to do is to balance the two sides—for it is easy to be kingdom-minded without compassion and vice versa. Part of my growth in my work in the humanitarian field will be to be able to speak candidly on issues of poverty and development, and also to naturally and organically have conversations with people about WHY they are motivated to help others as well.

Finally, what I’m grateful for now is how my idealism of doing humanitarian work has been refined and honed by experiences such as the attack on the village. There isn’t that romantic sense that I’m going to see people’s lives changed in six weeks. Real change takes time. Community development is hard work. You have to go in with your eyes open and to have your focus on things unseen.


Filed under: Personal Story, Reflection, , , ,

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"Double-edged"is bilingual blog in affiliation with Truth Monthly, a Chinese Christian monthly print publication based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

This blog features mostly original writings as well as comics, poetry, and other works of art by local Christian young adults.

For more information or to submit your own writing, please email

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