*Note – My day in Itigi was so rich in experience that it deserves 2 posts. This is part one.
On this day we loaded onto our buses for the ride to Itigi. We would drive for a couple hours further into the heart of Tanzania. I had the wonderful experience of sitting next to Peter on this trip. Peter is a staff member with the Tanzanian Compassion country office. We spoke about the differences in our cultures. I learned that Peter paid 2 cows for his wife. When we asked him if that meant the money equivalent of 2 cows he said, “No! I gave her father 2 cows!” Peter is from the Maasai tribe. Because my youngest brother’s name is Peter I referred to him as “My other brother Peter” or “My Maasai brother Peter” for the rest of the week.
Itigi was a noticeably poorer area than where we had previously been. However as we pulled up to the project we were again greeting with more warmth and enthusiasm than you can imagine. The children were clapping and singing. We got off the bus and after the round of handshakes and “Jambo”s I was greeted by the project director. This man took me by the hand and joyfully led me and another lady from our group to the church.
Again we got the privilege of hearing some beautiful singing courtesy of the choir. They broke into harmonies and I started recording some of it. I was sitting in my chair thinking, “This is one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard!” As I was recording I began to notice some of the children. They were singing with such intensity and emotion. I looked closer and noticed that some of them had tears streaming down their faces as they sung. As they continued to sing you could sense the Spirit in the room. I switched off the camera and just took it in, committing it to memory. As I wiped tears from my eyes the song concluded. Our translator wanted to explain the meaning of the song. The theme was that parents should lovingly watch after and take care of their children and not abandon them. He went on to explain how the children were not sad, but the deep meaning of what they were singing about.
Not for one moment did I believe that what I had just seen was an act. It was too real, too intense. Those tears did not just switch off for the kids after the song was over. I had to believe that some of them had experienced or closely knew someone who had experienced just what they were singing about.
The “God” moment was just about to get bigger.
A girl came up to give her testimony. As soon as she began I could tell it was very emotional for her. As she spoke she became visibly more emotional. Joseph, our translator told how that when her dad found out that her mom was pregnant, he left them. Then at some point he sent someone to kill both of them. They were unharmed, but her dad returned when she was 3 and kicked her and her mom out of the house. She spoke a little more and then began to tell of the difference Compassion and the church had made in her life. By the end she was on her knees, sobbing. She was so thankful for Compassion and the church for the change in her life. As you can imagine we are all a wreck at this point. As she made her way back to her seat several of our group jumped up and embraced her….sobbing. I was sitting next to Keith, our team leader. Joseph turned to Keith and asked if someone would pray for her. Keith turned to me and asked if I would. I stood up and walked to her. I put one hand on her shoulder and the other in the air. Our group gathered around her and I prayed. I can’t tell you what I prayed, but I know that I have rarely prayed with that much force in my voice. You could feel God’s presence. I know that the words coming out of my mouth were not of my doing.
But this story gets even better. At each center it seems that a certain child or group of children would hang around with one particular sponsor. On that day this beautiful child seemed to spend a lot of time with Stephanie. I even have a photo of them together. Sean our other team leader had brought several child sponsorship packets with him from Tanzania. Two days later, Stephanie was flipping through the packets and she saw this beautiful girl’s face! She was unsponsored. Stephanie had traveled to Tanzania with her grandmother, who is a sponsor, but Stephanie herself did not sponsor a child. Immediately she grabbed hold of the packet and as of today Stephanie is the brand new sponsor or this precious girl in Itigi!
God knew this beautiful child in Africa before she was born and had a plan for her. God knew Stephanie would travel to Africa. On a warm African day in March 2014 he brought them together….and 2 days later He would show us why! I’m just so happy that I got to witness the moment.