As the early morning sunlight backlit their frail bodies, small hands stretched outward through the metal airport gates in South Asia.
Instinctively, I reached for my camera; I wanted to document every moment of this trip. In praying and preparing over the last year, the Lord had captured my heart for this people group and I loved them.
But I paused and allowed the scene to unfold before me, to sear into my mind all the while gripping my heart.
Visible, urgent and physical needs that seemed to overshadow their greater need: hope in Christ.
Yet, after journeying more than 18 hours, our team's mission was still to bring them the Bread of Life.
When hunger meets you face to face, you quickly realize our "American lives" are vastly different than most of the rest of the world. We must meet both the physical and spiritual needs. During this trip, I would see firsthand that by meeting their physical needs we would gain their trust and ears to share about their spiritual need -- and then leave the heart work in the Lord's hands.
This South Asian country is about the size of Illinois, yet it has around 163 million people sandwiched into its borders -- comparable to more than half the U.S. population.
Around 77 percent of people live on less than $2 a day -- the international poverty standard -- yet 40 percent live on less than $1 a day. As a result, many South Asians' diets consist of rice. Rice is inexpensive and easy to prepare. Add a blend of vegetables and curry and you have a typical meal.
Though many live in poverty, there are glimmers of hope. Two centers for girls are shining light into the slum areas where girls are often at risk for human trafficking.
Beacons of hope
Young girls from the slums dashed up the steps into one of the centers, meeting our team with smiles.
Bright hues of blue and green fluttered around the room. Each school day the girls dress in a clean school uniform, changing out of their "street clothes" after a shower.
Giggles and sweet conversation filled the room as they sat down to eat breakfast provided by the center. Global Hunger Relief, a partnership of seven Southern Baptist organizations, aids the center in the purchase of the food for these young girls. Church gifts through the Cooperative Program provide a global infrastructure so that 100 percent of GHR donations help feed those who live with constant hunger.
As our team played Old Maid, Phase Ten and Twister with the girls to teach them their colors, animals, numbers and occupations, the smell of curry filled the air. Lunch was placed before us; a large pile of white rice topped with curried lentils and green chilies melded beautifully with potatoes and green beans. Filling those empty bellies with warm food showed our love and compassion, and their hearts became a bit more open.
As the two ministry centers meet the girls' daily needs of nutrition, they share the Bread of Life and how Christ has come to redeem each of them. They are also teaching them to sew so they can obtain a job one day.
Within these walls, there is life, as beggars become beacons of hope.
To support food-providing ministries around the world like the one visited by Lindsay McDonald, or to learn more about Global Hunger Relief, go to globalhungerrelief.com.
Lindsay McDonald is a pastor's wife and photographer, residing in central Illinois with her husband John and their two children.