One Cup at a Time


By Tiffany Wessler, SF Zambia. Photo by Cat Edwards

It’s hard to see people suffering. Many of us want to jump in, meet the need, and end the hurt in the world. But one thing we had to learn early on to survive in the mission field is that we as individuals cannot physically help everyone in need.

Shortly before we left for Zambia, my grandfather scoffed at the idea of us helping impoverished people in Africa. There is so much need! How were we going to make a difference? He compared it to the seemingly ridiculous idea of draining the ocean one cup at a time. I told him that I would take my cup and get to work and hope that others join me, and when I can’t go on, I’ll hope that others will pick up where I left off.

Perhaps the overwhelming need in Zambia for food, shelter, clothing, medical care, role models, education, and the love of Jesus has desensitized us. Sometimes you have to put blinders on as you walk through town just to make it through your day without giving up. And with the tornadoes that whipped through central Illinois and destroyed so many of our friends’ homes, we find ourselves doing the same thing for the first time on this side of the world, just to get through it without giving up.

It’s not that we’re ignoring the need. It’s just that if we look at all the devastation, all the need, all the hurt, all the people who’ve lost everything, we get too overwhelmed to be effective in the task before us. It becomes paralyzing.

At seven months pregnant, my options for helping are fairly limited (no piling up large debris by the roadside for me), and I’d more likely be in the way than a helpful blessing in such settings. So I’ve helped where I can taking inventory of a friend’s battered home, listening, and praying.

The beauty of it all is, that as we all give what we can where we can, the needs are met. There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from the entire community, state, and nation in response to these tornadoes. Everyone is doing something. And a lot of somethings add up to everything. I personally may not be able to help everyone, but I can help someone. And as we all help someone, a lot of someones are helped.

That’s how it works here. That’s how it works in Zambia. We can’t feed every hungry mouth or clothe every underdressed child. But we can help the one. We can serve where we are able. We can train others like our Sports Friends coaches to do the same and they can help the ones in their lives. No one can meet every need. But everyone can meet a need.

Whether it’s contributing to hurricane relief in the Philippines, helping clean up from the tornadoes in the Midwest, sponsoring a Sports Friends coach, serving as a missionary, partnering with a missionary, or committing to prayer, you too can meet a need. And there are plenty of needs to be met. But hey, I’ll do my small part as part of the body. Will you do yours? Let’s make a difference for the one. One cup at a time.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38

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