The iPad Versus the Mud Hut

03/25/13

The following is an excerpt from a blog Fraser kept while leading a "Visit Your Sponsored Child" Venture Team to Uganda last summer. Click here to read his earlier post from Malawi.

After a bunch of hours in the car our team arrived in Lira, Uganda. We’ve settled in and started this new kind of Venture Trip where you bring people over here to just hang out with their sponsored child. We will be visiting their homes, doing painting projects together, and playing some games. This is a great group and I’m excited!


                                         Fraser and his team with their sponsored children in Uganda.

Armed with my new realization that I could enjoy my life guilt-free, even while knowing about such extreme poverty, I started allowing myself to think that it would finally be OK to get an iPad. Anybody who knows me well knows I really enjoy Apple products. And I’ve been able to justify having a nicer-than-average phone and computer because I use them for work.

But when the iPad came along it was the first Apple product I really wanted that I couldn’t find any way to justify. It was purely a toy. I debated getting one and before I could make up my mind, my wife Holly and I were off to Malawi on a Venture Trip. This was almost two years ago.  Sitting in a mud hut in Malawi on that trip, I began an ongoing conversation with God.  "How can I possibly want something like that after sitting with Florence and her family in their mud hut?" I asked.  "Where’s the line?"

Last summer, I felt like God had finally given me my answer: It’s OK! So I was all ready to buy my iPad when I got home from Uganda. I was actually thinking about this as we drove down the very narrow dirt road to go visit the home of our sponsored child, Solomon.


                                                                    Solomon's home in Uganda.

Now, I’ve seen extreme poverty before. I’ve seen tough situations and destitute children and families who are missing important family members like the father and mother and on top of that have basically nothing. But when we drove up to Solomon’s house, I hadn’t seen this.

When we arrived it was actually sunny and there was the main house next to a circular mud hut with Solomon’s grandmother, Joyce, sitting on the ground spreading out sunflower seeds to dry in the sun, which is all pretty standard. 

But Joyce was crippled and couldn’t walk except on her hands and knees. Solomon’s parents were gone and he was an only child. He slept on a woven mat with no bedding in a mud hut with a leaky roof. 

When I stepped inside, my heart jumped up into my throat. Most of the main house was devoted to storing the dried goods that Joyce worked on to sell to make the tiny amounts of money they needed for food. Everything was on the floor because she could not stand up. Everything was also very messy and extra dirty, especially up high where she couldn’t reach. I saw spider webs and hornet nests inside. It was also very dark, with no lighting or electricity. 


                                Solomon's grandmother is crippled and can only walk on her hands and knees.

Joyce was Solomon’s only caregiver, and she also took care of five other small grandchildren who had lost their parents. There was a 14-year-old girl who helped Joyce do just about everything, and she wasn’t attending school. Solomon was in school because we sponsored him, but the other kids were not. It was bad.

The whole situation just sucker-punched me in the emotional gut. I forced a smile and fought back tears as Holly and I kneeled for a photo with Joyce and Solomon.


                                Fraser and his wife Holly kneel with Solomon and his grandmother for a photo.

After a few days went by and I had a chance to process all of this, the team started to talk about getting some things for our sponsored children now that we had seen their homes. We started to get a list together—mattresses, bed sheets, extra soap, clothes, shoes and a few other things. And suddenly I wasn’t really thinking about the iPad anymore. God had given me something better to want.

I know people with iPads and they’re not bad people, in fact, some of them are great people. Some of you may be reading this blog post on your iPad. Maybe someday I will get an iPad. It doesn’t matter. What I know right now is, it’s not that I don’t want one anymore, it’s that I found something I want a whole lot more.

Do you have a heart for children in need around the world? Take the first step and sponsor a child today!

Do you relate to Fraser's struggles?  Share your thoughts with us in a comment below.