Enter as Strangers…Leave as Family

I remember seeing an interview with an actor where he said that one of the things he liked most about going to the movies or theater was this:  you entered with people from different places and different walks of life but you exited as a collective group because you had just shared a common experience.  Now if you take that sentiment and multipy it many times over you get what I got to experience with the 39 other people that I traveled with.  That common experience reaching much farther and deeper than a movie or play ever could.

A couple of weeks before I left I received the list of who I would be making this trip with…their names and where they were from.  I was excited to see that they were coming from all parts of the United States.  From Alaska to Florida, from Pennsylvania to California and everywhere in between.  Young, not as young, married, single, and widowed, we met sharing this common bond:  we believed in the mission of Compassion International and we had committed to investing in the life of a child.

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Over the course of 12 days, I came to realized what an amazing and talented group of people that God had seen fit to put together for this trip.  People like Dinah and Kelly.   Dinah works for Compassion in Colorado Springs.  Her husband, Kelly is an incredibly talented musician and artist who makes his own guitars.  You can see his work at www.montarado.com.  There was Don & Laura who were my group leaders.  I found out for a time they lived in a town in Indiana that was only 10 miles from a town where I used to live in Illinois.  Margaret and Lauren who shared my safari vehicle with me.  I found out near the end of the trip that Lauren was a highly skilled doctor.  Made me feel better that he was around when people started getting sick later in the week.

God had me meet up with Terri & Harlan early in Washington D.C. while waiting on a flight.  Instead of worrying about navigating JFK in New York, I just followed them.  They were on their 2nd trip to Tanzania.  Fun people, Harlan and I would share our “excitement” for rice for the duration of the trip.  I later discovered that Harlan has written several books about computer security.  At least I think that’s what they are about, after I read the title and description I quickly discovered that he’s far more intelligent than me.  Stacie and her daughter Emma.  Emma had been writing blog entries the entire time we were in Tanzania.  The talent displayed by this middle schooler was great.

I shared life changing experiences with people like Jeanie, Dave, Stephanie and others as we prayed over a beautiful girl so affected by Compassion’s investment in her life.  I got the benefit of sharing dinner with Robert, another Compassion employee, as he shared a unique perspective on the trip.  Robert is African-American.  He said he didn’t come looking for it, he couldn’t explain it, and it would take some time to process it, but traveling to Tanzania was like coming home.  It was a perspective on the trip that I could never have, but I was glad that he shared it with us.

I laughed with Krista as she realized that a phrase on a gift she had received from her sponsored child translated to “God Bless Your Marriage”.  Three days after we returned home, Krista’s boyfriend proposed.  Congratulations Krista!

I prayed with Elizabeth after she was notified of a family issue happening at home in Alaska.  It wasn’t life or death, but was still troubling to be so far away and not be able to do anything about it.  I danced in the African rain with Stephanie.

I am thankful for my roommate Amanda.  After I had to practically empty my luggage on the floor looking for something I had in my hand only moments before I’m sure she was wondering what she was in for.

All the time we were under the watchful care of our trip leaders, Sean & Keith.  Sean had 70 trips under his belt and wisely guided us through this entire experience.  Keith had a wonderful sense of humor and by the end of the trip I do believe we were cracking each other up joking about rednecks on planes.

There are so many more, and if anyone from our group is reading this what I want to say is Thank You!  Thanks for sharing this life-changing experience with me.  Thank you for making the time away from my family not as painful as it could have been.  I hope that I was able to bring just a fraction of the happiness to your lives that you did to mine.

Asante sana

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My wonderful family group: Teisha, Tawnya, Don, Laura, Kelley, & Dinah

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