Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Buriel

November 26

I went to the service of Kelvin Andrea (the boy with the burns) yesterday. We arrived around 10am to their home where a large tent had somehow been set up out of a tarp, some tree limbs, and a bucket. I saw people sitting on broken down benches and writing in a book. Vincent told me it was a donation book that they were passing around in order to pay for all the service fees. The family was able to pull together 70,000TSH (1,000 shillings is a little less than a dollar) The village raised 100,000TSH and they needed 40,000TSH more to cover everything. (mortuary fee, casket,  sodas, food, etc.) When the book was handed to me I looked inside to see a long list of names by each name was the amount the person had contributed and across from each name read amounts like 1,000 or 1,500 a couple of 2,000 amounts. But because so many people gave, those amounts had added up to over 100,000TSH. It was such an amazing example of how when everyone gives a little it adds up to a lot! And these small amounts (in my eyes) were probably actually big sacrifices to some of these villagers.  Sacrificial giving…this is a concept that God has really been laying on my heart lately.  Not only with my money but with my time, with my life. I had never met this little boy, I don’t know his family, but I soon discovered that during occasions such as these, the men stay outside and the women inside. After making my contribution I was taken inside to express my sympathy to Kelvin’s mother and female relatives and friends. I was then told to sit there inside with them. I didn’t want to. I didn’t know a single person and I didn’t know how long I would have to be there. And I didnt understand anything anyone was saying. I knew I would have to sit there until one of the boys came to get me. It was awkward and uncomfortable but this was about being Jesus to these people who have never met me. God has brought me to Africa to be His hands and feet. And with that comes a responsibility, a responsibility to get over my own comforts.  So I sat on the floor in this dingy little room on the only cushion in the house because they insisted I should have the best place. There was the mother who was lying stretched out on the floor surrounded by three of what I guess to be her best friends kneeling around her. Then I sat next to a very elderly woman whose toes were covered in something black. I couldn’t tell if it was caked on dirt from walking a few miles to get here or if she too had been badly burned at some point and they were just cooked off. With my limited understanding of Kiswahili I sat and listened as the mother cried and explained to me how it happened. And then we all just sat in mourning, no one said anything for awhile until another mama came in and poured everyone some chai. I couldn’t help but wonder what that was like for the mother of Kelvin to watch the pot of boiling hot chai with no lid being cooked over an open fire knowing that was how she lost her baby.  But we all just drank in silence no one wanting to acknowledge the irony.

I know everyone was wondering who I was and why I was there. I wanted to tell them and to explain I had heard about Kelvin and his burns and how I wanted him to see these European doctors and how I wish I could have done more, but just none of it mattered anymore. He was gone. And there was nothing I could say to ease that pain. In Judaism there is a tradition called "sitting shiva" and basically it means after a death the immediate family gathers in the home of the deceased to receive visitors. Its a time of grieving and mourning and that was all I could do. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

update on last post....

On Monday morning (the day we were going to the hospital) I got a telephone call from the village telling me the boy with the burns had passed away. I could not believe it. I laid in my bed just in tears with the feeling that maybe I should have done something sooner. Could he have been saved? I don't know I guess the burns were just too much for his little body. I don't understand, im sad but He gives and takes away and my heart will choose to say BLESSED BE HIS NAME! 

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blessed Be Your Name

I am exhausted today. It has been one of those days that are just long…I was going to pick up the kids at 9:30am for church and we were actually doing pretty well on time, Neema and I, locking up the house around 9:15 when one of my guards started pointing at my rear left tire. It was completely flat. Don’t ask me how people from the bush who have rarely even seen cars know how to change a flat but they helped and we were back on the road. Late, but nevertheless on our way. When I got to the house the children were still in their pajamas as there had been a mix up on the time because Swahili time and American time is different. This often happens and I should have been more clear with sweet Mama Kimaro. So we are postponed again. But by 10:15 we finally arrive at church. Me and my brood. We walk in and they are singing “Blessed Be Your Name.” I am so happy to have finally arrived and as I see Jumanne carrying Neema and I have Miriam on one hand and Fabien on the other with clean clothes on their backs and food in their bellies I relish in the verse “when the world is all its meant to be…Blessed be your name!”
We sang and danced, drank hot chocolate and ate mondazis (African donuts) and then they went to Sunday school. They don’t understand much because my church is all English, but I discovered today they just like to come with me because they get free food! Because when I went to pick them up again this afternoon to take them back to their relatives for a visit I found that they had gone to church again! Since they didn’t understand anything at Vineyard, they wanted to go to Kiswahili Church. This is not enough that 4 children under 10 actually want to go to church twice but with the exception of Fabby, they all come from Muslim families. So to come live in Christian home, be exposed to church, and learn all about Jesus is an awesome opportunity to witness to their families and neighbors and they are truly loving hearing more and more about this man who would die for them! Blessed be your Name!

A conversation we had in the car today translated by Vincent, one of Neema’s uncles and my partner in this Takes A Whole Village house, went something like this. Through him I told them I can’t wait for them to go to school and learn English so we can talk to each other. Jumanne said he was going to try to learn so fast because he had so much he wants to talk to me about. Vincent stressed to him that this was his opportunity to learn and to take advantage of it. Rehema said she too wanted to learn. And then cute little Miriam said “I cant say anything in English!” But Vincent said they are so eager to learn so we can all communicate. I’m also desperately trying to learn Swahili so I can speak to them in their own language and its coming but ever so pole pole (slowly). I figure they will learn a lot more quickly than I, so im waiting on them.  Probably so American of me to expect them to just learn English…
After dropping them at home and experiencing such a day of rich blessings with them, I came across a couple of situations that were not so wonderful. First, I was introduced to this tiny boy who was in raggedy clothes and filthy. Apparently he has a twin sister and they just roam the streets all day long looking for money and food. Their parents are alcoholics and not only refuse to take responsibility for them, but they are also beaten and starved. I asked how old he was and was expecting him to say like 4 or 5 but he told me he was 8 years old. I was shocked. Jumanne’s age but he looked more like Fabien. He has obviously not developed at a normal rate most likely due to malnutrition and possibly exposure to drugs and alcohol when his mother was pregnant. His twin was not there but I would be interested to see what she looked like and how she was doing. Oh how I wish I could provide homes for more of these children im constantly meeting but as of now I must continue doing my best for these four.
Next, there is a 4 year old boy who pulled a pot of boiling chai down on himself severely burning is whole left side including his face. He is at the hospital but his parents cant afford the medication needed for reducing his pain much less any procedure which could prevent the skin from growing together improperly. Fortunately, I happen to know a girl coming from Norway at the end of this month and she is bringing with her a group of doctors who work on third degree or worse burn victims. They already have over 30 operations lined up, but I am going to go and take this baby boy to see them tomorrow and see if they can squeeze in an appointment for him to see one of the physicians. It is so hard to see these children in such pain and no one being able to help. Either they can’t help because of finances or addictions or maybe because they are just so tired of living the hard life they don’t care, but these are helpless children who must endure the pain. But I remember… “Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering…..”and I just have to choose to trust him. For we know that He is good. His sovereignty remains. All of that being said, I believe it is our obligation to do what we can. To do our part. What are we doing to contribute to the Body of Christ? Sometimes we can become so comfortable in our own realities that we are never brought face to face with such suffering but let me just tell you, it is all around. Not just Tanzania, not just Africa, but everywhere. And in meeting someone’s needs you might just find your own needs being met.

This is sweet Aziza who cries every time we leave her. Today she snuck in the car trying to come with us. I want to take her with me so badly.
Jumanne reunited with his baby sister Umi.
Dropping the kids off at their new house after church.
Rehema, Fabien, Jumanne, and Miriam back in their home village.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

does it get any better than this!?

So yesterday I took Juma, Rehema, Miriam, and Fabien to get some new clothes. We piled into my car and headed to this huge second hand market here in Arusha. They have never seen anything like this! I was amazed at their patience as they waited while I picked out clothes for each one. They were even helping me pick clothes for each other. No one was saying "me me me!!" or "my turn!" They were just happy that the other was getting new stuff. It was beautiful. I can learn so much from them.

I am sad to report that I didnt take my camera. I was so bummed when I realized I had forgotten it. But if you can just imagine the smiles of trying on something new. Maybe the first new thing you have ever had! The first thing that you could call your own. It was those kinds of smiles.

They each got a couple of new pair of pants, some shirts, a sweater, and pajamas! We were there for over an hour and by the time we left all the vendors knew their names and were calling out to them....they felt so special. On the way to the car they all said "Thank you Mama" as they were running and skipping through the rain drizzling from the sky.

I told them that I loved them so very much but these new clothes and their new house and the beds where they sleep are all because of Jesus. That his love for them far exceeds anything I can give them. May they always see Jesus as their Savior...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And they're off.....

Today Jumanne, Rehema, Miriam, and Fabien went to live in their new house with Mama Kimaro. I was so nervous when I went to the village to get them because I did not know how the families would react. Would they be sad? Would they be glad to see them go? Would there be any emotion at all?
When we went to get the boys they told us Jumanne had been ready to go for hours. He was so excited! A few minutes later Fabien walked over in his best outfit, im sure. He was quiet yet poised for the departure. As we walked to pick up Rehema and Miriam other children I have come to know in the village joined us until we had a pack of little followers.
We all met by my car where Rehema and Miriam were dressed in their Sunday dresses and their little coats each with a tiny book bag containing what was most likely their only possessions. It is an exciting beginning for these four, but the moment was bittersweet as some of the other children began crying. At first, I was thinking Oh no, im breaking up families and friends, but then I realized they were not crying for the loss of these children, but they were crying because they were being left behind. It broke my heart to have to leave anyone in the kinds of living situations these innocent children are experiencing on a daily basis. But I know there is only so much I can do and I have to focus on the task God has presented to me and that is first and foremost caring for the four he has entrusted me with.
During the goodbyes, four year old, Fabien walked over to his father and just matter of factly said “im leaving, ill never see you again.” I was quick to correct him and assured him and his father that of course they will see each other again!
As we were pulling away, Jumanne informs me that his mother has told him to now call me ‘mama’ and the other children all agree that they have been told to call me ‘mama’ too. My heart fills with joy but in all honesty, fear sneaks in too. What an incredible responsibility. I am taking these children from the poorest of the poor and to these relatives, it is seen as a promise for a bright future for their children.
Tomorrow we are all going to the big second hand market here in Arusha to buy some new clothes, pajamas, socks, shoes, etc. I will try to post some pictures afterwards of them in their new digs. ☺
Thank you to everyone who purchased an item or simply donated for the benefit of the TAWV children. Your contributions helped us raise enough for all four to start English medium school in January! I know its cliché but God really does work in mysterious ways and I’m in awe of how he continues to encourage me through His grace that I see in all of you! From the bottom of my heart, thank you!