I have to admit I was a little nervous about this day. You know that feeling when you build an event up in your mind. You want it to be something wonderful and are nervous that it might not turn out the way you had hoped it would. That was not the case today. Meeting my girls, especially Mwajuma was everything I had hoped it would be and so much more. I found myself trying not to show favoritism toward Mwajuma. After all, she had been a part of my life for over 6 years. But we quickly settled into comfortable conversation. My translator for the day was great and help to make the day go smoothly. I asked them more detailed questions about their families and they did the same in return. Writing to the girls has been great, but I quickly discovered that there are some limits. I began to learn more about my girls and their families in those few minutes than I had previously in all my letters.
Mwajuma & Fadhila are about the same age. Mwajuma is 15 and Fadhila had just turned 16. They both live in Morogoro, but attend centers in different parts of the city. I found out that as they were traveling together the kids began asking what each other’s sponsor’s names were. The girls both said their sponsor’s name was Heidi, but they thought they were meeting 2 different people who happened to have the same name. They did not know that they shared the same sponsor until I grabbed them both in a big hug when I saw them.
We shared a morning tea break and the girls got out the presents they had brought for me. Mwajuma brought me a printed cloth that she tied around me as a skirt and another beautiful cloth that she wrapped around my shoulders. She also brought me a elephant carved out of wood which is now proudly displayed in our home. Fadhila brought me some bracelets. Then she pulled out an envelope. In it was a letter that her father had written to me. It was hard to hold it together as she read such beautiful words. He thanked me for caring for Fadhila. He said that his children are like my children and my children are like his. It was another moment of many that I experienced that confirmed that what we do as sponsors truly does make a difference.
I had brought them photo albums filled with photos of my family. One of the photos was a map with the route I took to Tanzania mapped out. They were surprised when I told them it took 4 different planes to get me there. One of them stated that it must have been expensive. I got to look both of them in the eye and tell them they were worth it.
Our day was full. There was time for conversation, but there was plenty of time for fun as well. The girls wanted to swim, but we ran out of time. Instead we dipped our toes in the pool and Mwajuma quickly decided that the water was way too cold to swim in. We kicked around soccer balls, passed the camera around and took a lot of photos, made bracelets together, and most of all we laughed.
Later in the day I gave them the gifts I had brought. For each of them I had a backpack filled with school supplies, some candy, a bracelet, and other items including a Swahili New Testaments that had been brought to Africa by one of our group members.
All too soon the day was coming to an end. We took the chance to pray together. After a group photo it was time to walk the girls to the bus and say goodbye. I took a moment with each of them to hold them, look them in the eye, and tell them how much I loved them and that I was proud of them. Fadhila first and then Mwajuma. By the time I hugged Mwajuma, I was sobbing. It was hard to watch their bus leave. Probably the hardest part was knowing that more and likely I would not see them again. I was asked by some in our group if I would be coming back. Anything is possible, but the truth is that it is unlikely. The girls are in their mid-teens and will age out of the program in several years. If I am ever blessed with the opportunity to travel again with Compassion, I will choose to go to Thailand and meet our other sponsored child, Wannaporn.
However I realize what a gift I have been given. Most sponsors never get to meet their children. I had just spent an unforgettable day with 2 of mine. I will hold the memory of that day in my heart for the rest of my life, and I will never be the same for it.