I tried to think of a brilliant way to start this post. I desperately wanted to channel my inner Ann Voskamp and write something eloquently beautiful and poetic about all that I saw today but, honestly, all I’ve been able to come up with is…
HOT DOG, I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AFRICAN PLAINS AND IT WAS FLIPPING AWESOME!
This is a beautiful country. In every sense of the word, Tanzania encompasses the majesty and beauty of Creation. Mt. Kilimanjaro opens up to rolling hills and wide, open valleys surround plains rich and green. Cattle lumber slowly up the hillside, their shepherds walking beside. It was all so peaceful, driving through that wide open countryside.
At one point, we made out a herd of white-ish animals dotting the distant horizon. Our trip facilitator, Mary (who is fifteen shades of awesome, by the way. I’d like to adopt her…) told us they were probably just donkeys. But we felt certain they looked like Zebras so collectively we decided to tell you that WE SAW DONKEYS THAT LOOKED LIKE ZEBRAS TODAY! (Zebronks? Donkbras?)
In a lot of ways, today was totally refreshing and in other ways it was another glimpse into a world that has left me with eyes wide open. I fell in love with this country today and I won’t be the same.
When we stepped off the bus, we were once again swarmed by a sea of brown faces, only this time something was a little different. I could understand them. I kind of wondered for a second if I’d learned Swahili overnight while I slept. My mind automatically wandered down a rabbit trail (because it does that
sometimes often) and I imagined a big computer downloading all this new information into my brain kind of like the Matrix.
Then I realized they were speaking English, which is way less cool than if I’d told you I woke up speaking Swahili fluently so you’re welcome to now imagine that I speak Swahili. There…isn’t that fun?
We spent a couple of hours with these beautiful children and they so ministered to my heart. They are precious and darling and good and sweet and smart and oh so funny.
I’ve been struck often by the ease and exuberance with which everyone speaks of faith in this country. When you truly know and understand what it means to have to trust God for your daily bread, the nature of your praise to Him comes out with an authenticity that left me feeling ministered to by these children – not the other way around.
We left the center in Longido, where 244 children are currently served by Compassion, and we drove out into the countryside to visit some of the homes. But these were not just any homes. Many of the children in this particular program come from the Maasai tribe, an ages old group that has kept many of their ancient traditions.
The driver dropped us off on the side of a deeply rutted dirt road and we marched quickly through the brush to a round village settled in the African plains. The small, thatched houses stood in a circular fenced area. They are traditionally built by Maasai women and are constructed of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung, human urine and ash.
Ducking inside a low roof, (read this post that Shaun wrote a couple of years ago about why you have to duck down inside a Maasai hut. It’s well worth the read…you just have to promise to come back here and finish reading this post too, deal?) we made our way to the center of a very small, circular room. The only light came from a square in the wall no bigger than my fist and the slow burning embers of a fire. Crowding together, I tried to discreetly swat away the flies (thousands of them…I may have nightmares tonight) as I took in the sights.
The home belongs to Lema, a beautiful girl of thirteen. She was painfully shy and I found myself wondering if she was only that way at home, or if she came out of her shell more when around her schoolmates.
Lema’s mother spent the first several minutes of our visit looking desperately for the few precious sponsor letters her daughter had received. She finally pulled out two tattered pieces of paper, one torn in half, and showed them to us. Letters written long ago, but kept as a reminder of grace.
The visit was distracting, mostly due to the fact that a neighbor, who had been taken in by Lema’s mother, sat in the corner blurting out words and songs repeatedly. After the recent birth of her child two months ago, this woman had had a psychotic breakdown. Lema’s mother was looking after her, protecting both her and the baby.
The sense of community was palpable and real inside those walls.
The Maasai are good and loving people. Many have become Christian, yet they still maintain some traditions that I, in my very Western mind, cannot wrap my mind around. Girls can be married at the age of 12 and when they are chosen by a man to be his wife, they have no choice but to comply.
The Compassion Office in Longido is working hard to educate the Maasai about the dangers of some of these customs while also maintaining respect for the valuable and unique qualities of who they are. Though the conditions were primitive and a bit shocking, it did not feel wrong. Compassion recognizes the beauty of this long-standing tribe and only intervenes if the customs will interfere with the health and well-being of the child.
I love this about Compassion.
I feel like there are too many things to say and not nearly enough space or time to say them. When I agreed to come on this trip I was told from the beginning that I had complete freedom to write what I saw and felt about this ministry. I already had a love and an admiration for Compassion before I took this journey, but now I adore it so much more. I want to tell you everything I can, every way you can give, every way you can be involved.
But it would take too long so…tomorrow?
Tomorrow I will tell you some of the ins and outs of Compassion International and different ways that you can be a part of the miracle that God is working worldwide.
But today I just wanted to tell you one last story. I wanted to tell you again, thank you. Thank you for reading and encouraging me. Thank you for supporting this ministry and for helping to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.