We’ve all experienced it at some point or another: that dreaded feeling of “needing to go now,” and not having a bathroom anywhere in sight. Fortunately for most of us in our community, we can trust that a relatively clean, functional bathroom is somewhere nearby, whether at home, work, school, or the nearest gas station.
But this was unlike any we had seen before: about 7 feet tall, bright blue, with foot pads to show you were to squat (not to put too fine a point on it), and proudly displayed just inside the glass doors of the Gates Foundation Visitor Center, for all to see: a portable toilet. It was the first stop on our tour in February—after we had visited their restrooms! Hazel, Lila, Bailey, Moira, Anna, our friend Rosie, and I gathered around it as our tour guide, Davida, explained how it worked, and that having a clean waste disposal system is crucial for survival in places with no sewer infrastructure and little water. Disease and malnourishment spread quickly and have a big impact on infant and child mortality. Of all the things you and I can think of to “Make the world a better place,” I’m guessing a toilet isn’t near the top of your list (it wasn’t on mine!).
That set the stage for learning about all kinds of simple, smart resources the Gates Foundation brings to others that we often take for granted: access to education, clean water, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and plentiful food (and that’s just for starters). In one display we took turns picking up a bucket that weighed the same as two gallons of water—so heavy! Did you know that access to water is directly related to education for girls in the Developing World? Instead of having to walk several miles and face a variety of dangers each day to collect
water for their families, girls who have access to local clean water have time for school and a chance at a better life for themselves—and their communities.
The high-tech interactive displays were cool too (think Microsoft technology). For example, we got to spin a globe that was connected to a large screen showing programs in different places: if you stopped and pointed to Nigeria, you might read about access to wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs for amputees and paraplegics. In Sierra Leone, the near-elimination of polio through vaccines. Or in Thailand how mosquito nets had resulted in a dramatic drop in malaria.
Our last stop on the tour was a gallery that offered several ways to add our thoughts for “Making the world a better place”—Moira and Hazel each took a “selfie” in the photo booth, holding a poster with how they could give written on it (which were instantly displayed on a large photo wall); Bailey and Rosie typed their thoughts onto small interactive screens; Lila wrote her plans on a small card and then hung it on a large “tree” that held dozens of others’ cards; Anna found peace putting building blocks together in a unique pattern.
After our 90-minute tour, we walked over to the Center House for lunch—tired, famished, our hearts moved and our heads full of information. As we sat down to our meal (after using the bathrooms), we paused for a moment, just to notice how good it felt to finally sit and eat— and in that moment, found a new awareness and appreciation for the daily privileges we often look past.
In this season of Lent, as we draw closer to Jerusalem, I pray we all become more deeply aware of our privilege, the world’s need, and the possibility for transformation that Jesus gives us.
From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you. Phil. 4: 8-9.
APRIL YOUTH EVENTS:
- Sunday, April 6th: Bible Study during worship (we will step out during the sermon, and return in time for communion)
- Easter Sunday, April 20th—Youth Choir! Join QACC youth to sing a song celebrating Easter; directed by Scott Fikse (details to follow)
- Sunday, April 27th—Youth Group 3-5 PM; plan our next Bake Sale (May 4) to raise funds for summer camps and events.