About six years ago, back in the days of Google Reader, a friend told me about a blog.
“Sarah Thebarge is a physician’s assistant, and has befriended this Somali family, calls them the invisible girls, and blogs about their experiences. I think you’d like what she says.”
I did like the blog, very much, and followed every post until Sarah took the posts down because they were the copyrighted content of her first book called The Invisible Girls and then I bought the book.
Since then, I’ve followed Sarah’s story and found her to be a rare soul. A cancer survivor and fighter for other’s well-being, she quite her medical job, sold everything that didn’t fit into her car, and traveled around the US talking to groups about her story and the Somali girls, and called people to care for their neighbors and spread love into the world. There are people who can speak, and others write, but Sarah is one of those rare ones who does both very well. I’ve not heard her in person, but have enjoyed a few talks on-line.
I read her blog posts, and feel her passion to love our neighbors and spread Jesus’ love one person at a time. She writes searingly, stunningly courageous words about the agony and unanswered questions of extended singleness. She knows hope and healing and devastation and tears and beauty.
Then she went to Togo, West Africa to work in a clinic for three months, and contracted malaria that nearly killed her. She came back broken in body and soul, and it took months to recover and start telling her stories.
Here are those stories! WELL released today! Find her on Facebook, or buy her book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Sarah says, “The book is brutally honest about the medical issues people face in the developing world, and it grapples with real issues and questions about how people can love on the developing world in a way that’s helpful and sustainable. But underlying it all is the fact that Love holds our beautiful, broken world….and invites us to do what we can to make our world truly, deeply WELL.”
Reading it is not for the faint of heart. There are medical details and agonizing questions that could shake you if you felt squeamish or unsure of your faith. In a big sister way, I would suggest that Sarah was too exhausted and overwrought even before she went to Togo, and thus wasn’t able to roll with the punches there very well. And there were some dreadful body blows. But it is well-written, and the last chapter is the best one.
Standing here now, minutes away from my feet touching American soil for the first time in three months, I suddenly had the humbling realization that
I had been making unfair and untrue value judgments for a really long time. I had assumed that loving people while standing on the soil of West Africa
was more valuable than loving people while standing on a sidewalk in the United States.
That traveling for hours on a plane to get to people who were suffering was more significant than driving ten minutes in my car to the local rescue mis-
sion, or the Somali girls’ apartment—or even walking to the neighbor’s house next door.
Somehow, I believed that I earned more cosmic points for loving people while jet-lagged than for loving people while well rested.
That eating strange food was more significant than eating leftovers from my favorite take-out place.
That serving people who speak a different language from me was somehow more important than serving fellow English speakers.
It took a hard three months in Africa to open my eyes to the fact that the Somali girls were never a consolation prize. That cancer didn’t deprive me of
God’s Plan A for my life. That I was where I was meant to be, and if I never used my passport again, the life waiting for me in the States was just as signifi-
cant as the life I thought I’d have as a missionary overseas.
As I pulled my heavy bag off the carousel, I thought, Maybe in God’s eyes, the soil under our feet doesn’t matter nearly as much as the compassion in our
hearts. Maybe the love we show to others is infinitely more significant than the ground on which we stand.