Our 2nd full day in Tanzania found us visiting Compassion centers in the Singida area. Since our group was so large we divided into 2 groups with each group visiting a different project. My group would be visiting TZ-901. But first, we organized all of the supplies that our group had brought. We were able to give each center we visited a suitcase full of school supplies, craft items, and toys.
Again we were treated to such a warm welcome when our bus pulled up. The children were singing and clapping. After getting off our bus we were immediately led to the office to sign the guest book. Then we greeted the children with plenty of “Jambo’s” and “Good Morning’s”. At each center we visited we would sit mixed in with the children. It was always fun to see which kid would gravitate toward your chair. The kids that would sit around us would tend to stay near to us the entire day.
The choir performed and again we got to enjoy some of the most wonderful singing and dancing. At this point I’m beginning to wonder if we might need to institute a little dancing at my church. It sure does add to the level of sheer joy! Testimonies were given and reports were presented. I was beginning to understand how important our visits were to the centers we went to, not only because we were the first sponsors to visit these projects, but we were also joined by staff from the country Compassion office.
We toured the grounds and saw the classrooms, computer lab, and offices. As in each center a detailed binder of documents was kept for each child. I loved to see the amount of care that is poured into each child.
We spent the next hour or so just playing with the kids. Bubbles and stickers were a big hit! We had stickers EVERYWHERE! On the hands, faces, and arms, everyone had a sticker on them. My camera was again popular. I had quite the little group of photographers before it was over. Girls or boys…it didn’t matter…everyone wanted a photo.
Before our lunch we made our first home visit. We divided up into smaller groups, and my group walked a short distance to Kassima’s home. He was a 15-year old boy who attended this Compassion project. He lived with his mother. His grandmother lived nearby and she joined them for our visit. We filed into a very humble home that was made of simply made bricks and a metal roof. Even though the floors were dirt, they had been meticulously swept as had the area around the home. We sat on a mat and some chairs and stools. There was very little light and after a few minutes our translator suggested that we might move outside and sit in the shade. It seemed a bit awkward. Here was 8 white Americans asking questions about this Tanzanian woman’s life. She seemed a bit shy or possibly overwhelmed by it all. The boy’s grandmother was quick to jump with with conversation. We talked for a while, asking Kassima about his goals and challenges. We presented the family with a box of food and some gifts for their home. Before we left we asked how we might pray for them. As we began to pray, the local mosque began broadcasting over their speakers.
There would be several moments over the course of this trip that would just hit me, and I would ask God to burn them into my memory. This was one of them. Here I was, a farm girl from Southern Illinois, and I was sitting on a mat in the shade of a African tree. I was sitting outside a home the was so simple and humble by American standards. In fact I’m sure most of you have sheds and outbuildings that are fancier. While Muslim prayers were being broadcast loudly, I joined with people from different parts of America that up until 3 days ago I had never met, and we prayed for this beautiful family.
I was amazed at where life had taken me!
After our visit we had lunch at the center. This day we went through the line with a plate in each hand. Then we served those plates to the children. You would not believe the food. I counted no less that 11 different items that were piled onto those plates. To the best of my memory it included: white rice, pasta, boiled potato, mashed potatoes, rice cooked in a broth, chicken, spinach, a meat curry, vegetables, plantains, fruit salad. It all got piled onto the plate. By the end I was starting to have trouble balancing my 2 full plates. When it was our turn I asked Sean, our group leader, if there was a polite way to decline an item. I didn’t want to offend anyone, but there was no way I could eat all of that food and I didn’t want to be wasteful. I was assured that I could just say “No, Thank You” and move on.
We had our lunch and the little girl next to me did take down all that food! We were then each presented a gift from the children. They brought a scarf to each of us that they had made. They were precious to us!
We left with plenty of smiles and joy in our hearts. We would share our day with the other group in the evening and hear their stories. I did my best to write down those things I wanted to remember. Then it was time to collapse into bed and do it all again the next day.