Saturday, April 19, 2014

In Memory of Sebastian... And All The Others Like Him

While I was living in The Republic of Congo (ROC) I visited Baby Crèche Orphanage. 
I had waited to go, because I knew what would happen when I did.

The first time I went I spent the whole time with a baby boy named Sebastian. He was withdrawn, somber and weak.  He had long, skinny legs, just skin and bones, sad eyes, and a disproportionately large, round stomach. 

I’m a sucker for the ones who you have to work to get a smile out of – I take it as a personal challenge. And with Sebastian, it was sure a challenge.

I went back to the ship, and what I had feared would happen took place. After a few days of thinking about and praying for Sebastian, I began to research the adoption process for Republic of Congo. Several weeks of emails to anyone and everyone I could find who knew anything about international adoption in ROC eventually led me to the conclusion that it wasn’t possible for me to pursue adopting little Sebastian at this point.

The Republic of Congo doesn’t allow single adoptive parents under age 35, and even then only allows same gender adoptions for single parents. It would cost over $7000 just to put together the paperwork to even ASK a judge to make exceptions to both these rules. Not only that, but being in the country with him actually made it harder, if not impossible to start the process. I’m pretty sure the US government wouldn’t accept a home study of my 6-berth cabin.

I visited Sebastian and the other babies at the Baby Creche orphanage a few more times before I left. As we were leaving, some of the other Mercy Shippers would say things like, “Doesn’t it just make your day to hold those babies?”

“No”, I would think to myself, “it absolutely ruined my day.”

How can I go about my day normally - where there’s no question in my mind about whether or not I’ll have supper, or if something happens if I’ll have someone there to support me - when I’ve had this fresh reminder of all those without their basic needs met and without anyone to look out for them?

Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor
 and the oppressed.
Psalm 82:3

Today I found out that Sebastian passed away this past Friday. Malnourished, abandoned, and with no one to make his problems their problems, he slipped out of this life.

Grief, guilt, and sorrow coalesce somewhere in the depths of my heart. You all will tell me not to blame myself, and really, I know it's true.

But I can’t help but wonder how many kids just like Sebastian died today.
And I can’t help but wonder if there’s something I could have done about it.

According to the World Food Programme, "poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five - 3.1 million children each year." 

Let me do the math for you - that’s 8,493 a day.


There is no getting around the sheer injustice of this. 

How many of us, had we sacrificed something that we “need” or want, could have made a difference in the lives of one or more of these helpless children? When I compare the value of spending $28,000 on the new car I'm looking at versus putting my resources towards LITERALLY SAVING LIVES, the car doesn't seem like as much of a necessity. 

“Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
And yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.”
-Saint Teresa of Avila

I've seen it. 

I've seen lives transformed by the generosity of people willing to put other's needs above their own comfort. 

I've seen lives saved by surgery on a big white ship funded by donors and staffed by volunteers. 

I've seen orphans become sons and daughters of men and women who understand Christ's love so deeply that they're willing to do for others what he did for us. 

“'He defended the cause of the poor and needy, 
and so all went well. 
Is that not what it means to know me?’ 
declares the LORD.” 
Jeremiah 22:16

Far too often the hugeness of the need for justice in this world paralyzes us, stopping us from doing the things that we can do to make a difference. Relief organizations like Compassion International, Mercy ShipsThe Hunger Site, Charity: Water, and so many others save and transform lives. Development programs like Plant With A Purpose and Trade As One create sustainable resources in a community, break cycles of poverty, and lead to lasting change.

It starts with denying ourselves more excess (or reevaluating what we perceive as needs), so that others in the world, like Sebastian, can have their basic needs met. 

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,
 he too will cry out and not be answered.” 
Proverbs 21:13

 Let's make a difference, friends. 


  1. Wow, Betsy. That was powerful. Thank you for sharing your heart and for speaking Truth. Miss you, friend!

  2. My heart breaks to hear Sebastian's passing away!!!! Thank you for sharing your blog and for your servant's heart for the Lord. Been thinking recently about giving to different Christian organizations and after reading your blog I feel convicted and ashamed for being selfish with the money the Lord has been giving me. Thank you for the positive rebuke and encouragement towards giving and helping out the orphans and needy. May the Lord continue to bless you wherever you go and whatever you do!

  3. This is a great call to us to live James 1:27 more each day. Thank you for giving us a window to the world outside our cushy lives. I pray you won't settle into the comforts of the American way of life, but will always question need versus want; will always think of those without creature comforts and will live beneath your means so you're able to give and sacrifice for others real needs.

    1. Thanks Lisa - you put my hope into words so well.

  4. Oh Betsy!!! Mama needs to give you a BIG HUG!! Thank you!
    Oh Lord, show us, teach us, guide us and clear our paths so that we can take care of your flock!! Thank you Lord for Betsy......Thank you for filling her with your Love and using her to stir passions for the orphans in our own hearts!!

    1. Thanks Mama. I can't wait for that hug... some day soon I hope :). Love you and praying for you!

    2. Finally took the quiet moment to read this, Bets.

      Yes. Now this is a challenge.

      And the conviction reminds me of Burk Parsons tweet last week: one way to tell the difference between Santan's guilt and the Spirit's conviction is whether you're led to self-hate or self-denial.

      Your post and that tweet are quite a recipe!!

  5. This post broke my heart. And made me love yours all the more. Miss you, friend. I'm so sorry.