This post was originally published May 9, 2012, during my time in Tanzania with Compassion International. Currently Compassion is in the Dominican Republic with a group of bloggers, sharing the story of how Compassion is releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Please follow their journey in the #compassionbloggers hashtag and through the Compassion site then join us TONIGHT at 8 p.m. ET on Twitter as we tweet live with the blogging team.
Please also join me in remembering the time that I spent learning about the work Compassion is doing in Tanzania.
But the connections that I have witnessed during this trip are nothing short of affirmation that God’s hand is in all that we are doing this week, his plan being laid out before us as clearly as a map, leading us to share the story of the children of Tanzania with the rest of the world.
It began with the little things. The email I received asking if I would consider joining Compassion on a trip to Tanzania was the third time a similar opportunity through other organizations had come before me. Each of the other two times I chose work obligations over the leap of faith, but this time I felt that God was trying to tell me something…loudly. Today is not only my sponsored child, Meke’s, birthday, but it also my son’s birthday. I needed to give up being with him as he turned six to support Compassion, spending today in Africa, the home of Meke. It was a decision to sacrifice and ask my son to do the same, but it somehow not only felt like the right decision, but also felt necessary.
Next was when we received the information about our newest sponsored child, Mektrida, and the similarity in her name to Meke’s. As I shared yesterday, I felt goosebumps when I heard the Child Development Center staff call Mektrida, Meke. Connections…
Earlier this week we met with a family whose children, Doto and Kurwa, are both enrolled in the Compassion Child Development Center near their home. Twins, they go by the traditional names Doto and Kurwa to indicate first and second born. Both children were new to Compassion, and while we learned about the family’s situation and how Compassion was helping to release them from poverty, it felt very much like only the beginning of the story. And I wanted more.
Today God provided much, much more.
We began our walk up the steep hill to the home of another sponsored child, and it was not until we were nearly there that I realized a second child was joining us. I asked the name of the boy whose home we would visit. Doto. The other child following? Kurwa, his twin sister.
Unlike the other family whose twins were enrolled in Compassion, this Doto and Kurwa had been involved for a number of years. We were welcomed openly into their home by their incredibly grateful and gracious father, who invited us to sit with his family. Doto and Kurwa proudly showed us the many letters from their sponsors, pieces of paper to us, treasures to them. Their father spoke to us about how Compassion International has dramatically changed their lives, providing an education to their children and hope for the future to the entire family, hope that someday these two children would move the whole family up and out of poverty. He shared with us that family gifts from Doto’s sponsor, a trumpet player in the U.S. Navy, have allowed them to purchase the supplies necessary to build their home, which houses seven family members.
Another connection. Just yesterday my fellow blogger, Jolanthe, left a home visit with a heavy heart, realizing that just $120 would allow the family she visited to build their home and live together under one roof. Today she saw the next chapter of the story. She was able to witness another child’s home built to completion with money from his sponsor’s family gifts, and her hope for the home of the first child was renewed.
We walked back down the hill to the Child Development Center to meet up with the rest of the blogging team before leaving Mwanza to complete our journey in the city of Arusha. We were met with the smiling faces of the center’s children, eagerly waiting for us to return, covering us in hugs and grabbing for our hands. I looked from face to face, asking “Jina lako nani?”, what is your name in Swahili. We continued to walk down the hill, joining the crowd of children waiting in the shade of a tree.
And then my eyes connected with this smiling face.
I knew her immediately. Yesterday during my time in Mektrida’s incredibly financially depressed community, we spent hours with a large group of children who all lived in the same area of concrete block homes. Many spoke to my heart, their wide eyes fascinated by these strange visitors to their homes, and many impressed me, their ability to pick up our English words quickly. But one girl became my friend. This older girl – maybe 11 or even 12 years old – appeared out of nowhere halfway through our visit, towering above the smaller children, her smile shining. She called me missus and helped me calm the children while we played with bubbles, her own excitement for this new treasure barely able to be contained. She allowed the other kids to take their turns first and we exchanged a knowing glance and a nod, a promise that I would protect her chance to take a turn if she continued to be the calm in the chaos.
It didn’t make a bit of sense, this familiar face from a community appearing at a Child Development Center and not the same center where Mektrida attends and receives services. Could I be mistaken? But I knew I wasn’t. I walked over to her, she embraced me, and I got the translator’s attention. Did she know Mektrida? She laughed, smiled, and nodded yes. Was she just with me the day before playing with bubbles? More laughter and nodding, a stronger embrace.
Jino lako nani?
Damari, we are friends.
I believe that there is a plan, and that God reveals moments such as these to remind us of His plan for all of us, for each of these children, for their families. I also believe that His plan includes more children being released from poverty in Jesus’ name as a result of this trip and these posts, sharing our experiences and connections, and leading you to make your own.
I have made and felt so many connections this week. Will you connect with a child in Tanzania right now, a child who needs you?
Please sponsor a Compassion child today.