The Ugly Beaver

Photo by Keely Scott

Yesterday I stood inside a beautiful building with a thousand other believers. Lights flashing, hands raised, sounds blaring, we joined together in praise of the One who created us all. The one who still works miracles. The One who has not forgotten, has not let go, has not surrendered His creation.

But worship was different for me. As we entered the sanctuary with it’s four solid walls, high, vaulted ceiling and cushioned, comfortable seats, I told Lee that I feel different. Not different in a “I want to sell all we have and live in a hut eating bananas and tangerines” sort of different, though. It’s more of a, “I’ve seen God’s power and ability to move in and through His people and I don’t ever want to lose this feeling of awe and gratitude for who He is” sort of feeling.

Then the music started and instead of singing along, I cried. Not a cute, trembly chin, single tear rolling down the cheek cry, either. It was the kind of cry where you bite your lower lip hard, shoulders trembling, BOOHOOHOO ugly cry.

Kind of like a beaver. I was ugly beaver crying in church. Thankfully the music was loud so no one could hear my blubbering. But I kind of felt sorry for the people sitting beside me. I think I shot out projectile tears that showered them completely.

The words mean something different now. I hear “How Great is Our God” with the image of a family living in squalor running through my mind. I hear lyrics like, “You take our suffering,” and “I have freedom now through You,” and they are filtered through a different context.

I don’t know what suffering is.

In the grand scheme of things, I really don’t. My perspective has shifted mightily. As we celebrated Mother’s Day, I couldn’t help thinking of the mothers around the world. The ones who love their children just as much as I do, who want great things for their babies, just like me.

Photo by Keely Scott

We aren’t that different. And yet, we are so different.

I don’t know how this trip will impact our family long term. I don’t know how it will change us as a unit or what direction it will lead us in the future. What I do know is this: The emotions of last week will fade away. With time, I will become less moved.

I won’t look like a beaver in church forever.

But the conviction behind those emotions? Oh how I long for it to remain. That’s the thing I don’t want to change – I don’t want to lose it. I don’t want it to fade with the passing of time and the continued pressure of commitments and desires.

Right now, I look a little like this:

A deer (with bloodshot eyes) caught in headlights. I woke up yesterday morning (after sleeping for eleven hours) and my first thought was, Did that really happen or was it a dream?! I feel like it went by so quickly. In the blink of an eye, eight days passed and I was a changed person filled with distant memories of sitting in a Maasai hut, helping a Tanzanian family prepare dinner and slamming Cokes with tiny Tanzanian girls.


I stumbled to my kitchen and had my first cup of real coffee in over a week and then my senses kicked in. It was real. I was there and for the first time in a long time, I came face to face with my Savior. He was dusty and dirty, sleeves rolled up serving and loving the least of these.

He was a mother leaving her children while it was still dark so that she could give them the food they needed to grow.

Photo by Keely Scott

He was a pastor with  a calm, gentle spirit laying out his vision and hope for a future that allowed the church to fully support and love their own community.

Photo by Keely Scott

He was a young man with an infectious grin and a heart so big for those in need that he spent his days singing and dancing with them.

Photo by Keely Scott

He was an older man, walking the dirt paths greeting everyone he passed with a grateful Praise God or Hallelujah!

Photo by Keely Scott

I went to Tanzania with the idea that I had something to offer, as though somehow I had words powerful enough to make a difference in this world. Upon returning home, however, I received an email from someone who handed me my bag out of the overhead bin on the airplane. He saw the Compassion tag and looked it up online and eventually found my blog.

He’s now interested in sponsoring a child.

See, God didn’t need to use me at all. I’m grateful and honored that He did, but He really didn’t need me. He’s got this all under control. The widows, the children, the hungry and sick. He hasn’t lost control. He was in Tanzania long before I got there.

*cue ugly beaver tears*


Click the above photo to sponsor a child from Tanzania, or click this link here. You can also check in with the other bloggers here. I promise I won’t talk about my experience in Tanzania forever, but as I slowly begin to process a few emotions, I may mention it a bit more. Thanks for reading along and taking this journey with me…


  1. This is such grace. I can imagine your heart breakin for these children, for this dusty Jesus who walks everywhere–all over this globe in mud huts and jungles and deserts… This is beautiful truth and I pray it doesn’t fade and lessen with time. I pray He continues to remind you of his power and glory… How awesome about the man on the plane. What a beautiful witness God gave you through your obedience. Thanks for this…

  2. WELCOME BACK TO THE U.S.A.! You are going through post-trip depression, happens to us all, and is always emotional, sometimes freakin’ scary. We tell our teams before they leave to expect this reverse culture shock and to even embrace it, saying “OK, Lord, I’m listening”. While the feelings will fade the imprints they left on your heart and mind will not…and don’t let them. Glad you saw that God is God, He will do what He wills, but invites us along His great adventure. Some of us accept the invitation outside our own culture and comfort, getting the huge blessing He has for anyone who will do so. Some don’t and others get their blessing but God, just as He did in the story of Esther, is going to do what He was going to do with us or without us. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14. Love you and know you have been transformed by what you have seen, and heard, and felt.

  3. Oh, wow. Tears. If you knew me, you would know they never fall easy. This brought back so much emotion, pain, feelings, memories. I was in church the day after I got back too. I felt different, I saw different. Sad that it took going to another country for me to REALLY find God.

    And the guy who wants to sponsor? More tears. No coincidences.

  4. So well written Kelli, you have such a great spirit and I love your straight-shooter attitude. Things are different, it’s crazy. I love that you said you don;t want them to fade. It seems like little memories pop up every moment for LaKendira and I.

    I had one this morning as I’m at the table watching her prepare breakfast for our boys.

    God is good.

    It was awesome meeting you and spending time with you in Tanzania.

    • Thank you so much, Scott. I was telling Lee all about you and LaKendria yesterday. You and Lee would really enjoy being with one another. Someday, perhaps, we can get our whole families together. It was such a joy to get to know you and to see the different perspective you brought to the trip. Thanks for all your wisdom and encouragement over the course of the week! 🙂

  5. Beautiful…

  6. Thanks for sharing your heart! What an awesome thing, the man who handed you your bag on the airplane.

  7. You may have felt like an ugly beaver when crying, but I saw you afterward and I know the truth. You were glowing. And it makes sense, after all. Spending a week in Tanzania with God’s beautiful and precious people. Serving as He’s called us to do. Seeing Hope. And being given the words to send it back to us in your beautiful posts. I think the glow was His glory.

    Made ME cry ugly beaver tears. But whatever!


    (Sorry I didn’t do more than wave… I just wanted you and your man to have a little time since you just got back! Can’t wait to maybe get together again… with kids? Andrew would love it… and welcome you back!)

    • Thanks, Jenny. We’d love to get together with you guys. Sorry I didn’t wave you over Sunday. I was a smidge on the emotional side. 🙂 We will see you guys soon!

  8. Welcome home, Kelli! I enjoyed your posts from Tanzania so much, and pray that God would continue to work through you and in you as you sort through all you experienced there.!

  9. Kathy Hart says

    Kelli–Thanks for sharing your pictures and journey as I’ve followed your posts. It’s brought back memories and I’ve even shed quite a few tears myself–because you don’t forget and you miss the people in the relationships you form. You have been Jesus with skin on to eveyone, as the Lord has used you to carry out HIS work. Your story reminds me of my first over seas mission trip. The country may be different, but the reality shock was the same, and even happened on mission trips afterwards. After I came home from my first trip, I felt numb, but after a week or so, the “River of Tears” came. I found it very helpful to go talk with one of our Foreign Mission female leaders from our church. Since she is also a seasoned missionary, she helped me sort thur things I saw, my feelings, and the fact this trip had changed me forever, but I didn’t know what to do next. I still love all of those key people that were on my teams and pray for them reguarily. I still get out their pictures and go thru them and share them with my family. Kelli, GOD will show you in HIS perfect timing, exactly how, where and when your story will continue. Keep trusting HIM and uplifting those wonderful dear souls you were just with in Tanzania. And no, GOD doesn’t really need any of us because HE is GOD. But look at the huge blessing you received by answering HIS calling and going along to see HIM at work. And just think about the man on the plane. I know I’ll be praying for him but would have never known to if you hadn’t shared. Isn’t our GOD awesome!! Love you sister–and will be praying for you!

  10. kelli… i wouldn’t go promising that promise if i were you 🙂 almost 2 years after my own trip to tanzania and i’m still talking about it. like it was yesterday. africa lives and breathes in my heart and soul. and i pray that it will forever and ever. i twist a ring of beads around my wrist and i am back sitting with the maasai woman who strung them. i catch a glimpse of the serengeti on tv and i can feel the wind on my face. i stroll by starbucks and look to see if they are selling the coffee i walked by on a plantation. i smell a fire off in the distance and take another deep breath, breathing all of the memories back into my heart. believe that africa will stay in your heart and that God will continue to weave it into your life… that when your mind drifts from it, He will whisper a memory your way. your trip across the world has done that for me…

  11. OK, first off, I thought it was a gopher, not a beaver. But they’re both round, furry rodents so it doesn’t really matter. Dusty is so right. I was boo-hooing the moment the wheels of the plane left the ground in Montego Bay. Kevin got depressed about 12 seconds after Dusty issued his warning to our group. I cried in church every week for months and even felt a lot of resentment toward my fellow Americans and far too much toward my church. I’ve heard far too many people say, “Africa has a way of getting under your skin.” Hold tightly to it. Ugly beaver cry and all.

  12. I know what you mean – Ugly cry in church, and it lasted for weeks, and sometimes I still get it, even after 4 mission trips and returning to the same place. Sometimes it’s frustrating that I have to leave home to “see” God work, but I”m SO thankful I can see, and am blessed beyond measure.


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