A photo I took in Kenya at sunset.

One of the most cherished and uniquely memorable moments of my life happened in 2003. I was just outside of Nairobi, Kenya in a field where my team and I were camping in tents outside of a church. It was a chilly African evening and the sky was inky black, completely covered in a canopy of the brightest stars you’ve ever seen. Seeing the stars in Africa is a whole new world. They seem to burn brighter there in the purity of untouched fields and sweeping valleys with concrete wells at the bottom.

It was here on this night that we stood around a crackling fire with our Kenyan friends in a praise service to God. We sang traditional hymns in English and then Swahili. The songs were magical, those African voices that cannot be replicated elsewhere. They are high pitched and pure and honest in their sound.

I felt enveloped — enraptured — by God’s presence as the oceans and borders and languages and colors among our group were erased. Here in this field, under these stars, nothing else mattered and I felt a kinship with the world and with my Kenyan brothers and sisters. It was a night I will never forget.

In Kenya, taking symptoms of those who traveled to be treated for medical care to our clinic.

As I read “A Thousand Sisters: My Journey to the Worst Place on Earth to be a Woman” by Lisa Shannon, I remember my precious times in Africa. And I anticipate the journey I will take in two short months to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The inspiring book by Lisa Shannon.

I love Lisa Shannon because she was just an ordinary woman in her 20s who was watching Oprah one day and felt called to make a difference. Oprah was about the atrocities against women in the Congo — where pretty much every woman is raped at least once in her lifetime and 5.4 million people have been killed in war since 1996.

The horror — the details of which I don’t get into here — is unimaginable. The things I’ve been reading about the evil and inhumanity that has taken place there are images that I can’t get out of my head. And that’s only words on a page. I’m getting ready to go meet some precious little ones who’ve lost their mommies and daddies to some of these very horrors. Some who may have experienced terrible things themselves.

Watching “In the Land of Blood and Honey” this week only contributed to my growing compassion for human rights around the world. I have a lot of respect for Angelina Jolie — for what she does and for making this movie. In the past year, I have changed. And I get it now: once you know — once you really know what is happening in this world, you simply can’t ignore it. It’s happening right now while you buy our morning latte and go to happy hour and watch Mad Men. It’s happening whether you acknowledge it or not.

I have few digital photos from my trip but this is one. With a few of the kiddos who hung around the clinic. We never saw their parents or knew where they came from.

After reading Lisa’s book, I immediately signed up to sponsor a Congolese woman each month through Women for Women, International— to help provide her and her family with food, medical care, education — whatever they need. It’s only $30 bucks a month. I also sponsor a child from Ethiopia through Compassion.

The cost of living in most places in Africa is low but still its citizens have trouble making a living. I’m learning more and more about the politics and corruption behind so much of this poverty. The least I can do is help a couple people who are just trying to survive.

Lisa Shannon in the Congo with some of her Congolese “sisters.”

The plight of human suffering and human rights around the world is breathtakingly overwhelming. The world is a sinful place and evil will always exist. We can’t fix it all. But, if you’ll remember a simple parable:

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. 

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”. 

The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?” 

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “It made a difference to that one!”

And that’s why I’m doing it.

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