For the Least of These
Remembering Delphine Lemaire
While teaching on malnutrition, Kathy Kennedy shared a powerful story about 4-year-old Mary (name changed for privacy) and former YWAMer Delphine Lemaire. Mary was a tiny 4-year-old Kenyan girl. She was too weak to hold her head up, let alone walk. Her tummy was bloated. Her face, hands, and feet were swollen. She was balding. She was suffering from a classic case of Kwashiorkor, a state of severe malnourishment due to prolonged protein deficiency. Mary lost her mother. Her father was mostly absent, so she lived with her grandmother who loved her dearly, but who desperately struggled to make ends meet. Mary was known to be a hopeless case.
But Delphine and her outreach team took notice of her. Everyday, Delphine sat by her hospital bed and peeped under her blankie. She brought one hard-boiled egg for Mary everyday for extra protein. Delphine simply loved on Mary. They became friends. Mary grew stronger with each passing day, and finally after several weeks she was walking the corridors of the hospital and was soon discharged.
Not long after this encounter, Delphine died in a tragic car accident in Nigeria in 2005. She had devoted her life to missions and mother-child-healthcare. She was 27 years old. Delphine’s grieving family was so moved by Delphine’s love for Mary that they did not let the baton drop. They looked up Mary and continued to invest in her life. In the following years, Mary was healthy and even attending school thanks to the support of Delphine’s surviving family.
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
To take on poverty in a whole community, let alone a whole nation or continent, is overwhelming. I often feel so small and ineffective against the scale and complexity of the giant problem in front of me. I become paralyzed with fear and insecurity that I lose sight of the “one person” standing in front of me. But this is probably the person that God wants me to engage with.
Let me not neglect the simple stuff, the not-so-heroic acts of love, the one person who is in front of me.
Delphine did that. Mary was probably one out of tens of thousands like her in her country. Yet instead of being paralyzed by the tens of thousands of girls that she could not help, Delphine got actively involved in the one girl that was in front of her. She fed her, loved on her, visited her, hugged her, and gave her small presents. None of these deeds were particularly heroic. They were simple, yet they were what made a difference between night and day in this one person’s life. Furthermore, Delphine’s actions of love had a ripple effect on Mary, on Mary’s family, on Delphine’s family, on Kathy, and on me. Delphine did not know at the time that her simple actions would have such a profound impact 10 years later. She did not know that they would be part of her legacy.
Let me not neglect the simple stuff, the not-so-heroic acts of love, the one person who is in front of me. Let me not underestimate the power of spending a few extra minutes to listen, of speaking a few words of encouragement, of holding a hand, of giving a few coins, of asking a person their name, of giving a hard-boiled egg.