Good Friday Morning ...
It was a typical bright, clear northern Tanzania day. Not a cloud in sight, dry and dusty.
My team of fourteen was packed into two Land Cruisers with all our gear, food and supplies stowed under tarps on top for the overnight trip into the Serengeti. We were on our way to the remote village of Arash where we would work with traditional Maasai warriors on a new medical clinic building that would provide prenatal and birthing care for local women.
I was in the lead vehicle as we came up out of a dried-up creek bed ... when a young out-of-breath Maasai warrior popped out of the bush just ahead of us. Startled, at first, I was annoyed that yet another person wanted to hitch a ride with our already overloaded vehicles, a very common occurrence in Maasailand.
Then suddenly I realized who it was.
The warrior who came dashing toward our vehicle was Philipo, a dear friend and Evangelist who was studying to become a pastor through the funding of the Maasai Education Fund. Philipo had run, double-time, to catch our two-vehicle caravan before we disappeared into places he had never been. He had heard through the "Tanzanian grapevine" that I was coming to Tanzania with a team and had left his school near Kilimanjaro the day before in hopes of catching me. He had caught an overnight bus to Arusha, then hitched a ride for the four-hour trip to Ketumbeine and had just barely caught up to our vehicle before I was gone. He knew he would not see me again for another year ... if he did not catch me then.
I jumped from my vehicle and ran to embrace my friend as the dust from the dry creek bed settled over us and my team sighed at yet another delay in our trek to Arash. After introducing this remarkable man to the team, we sat on several creekside rocks and shared greetings and information. All he really wanted to do was to convey his thanks for the support that allowed him the opportunity to, first become an Evangelist, and then to study to become a pastor.
With slow, dripping tears, Philipo hugged me to his boney chest and kissed my neck behind my ear ... whispering in his sputtering, broken English his words of thanks: "I thanks God. Your gifty gives me hope. I learn to preach Jesus. I say over again to give thanks!"
The tender moment brought tears to my eyes as I realized the sacrifice this man had made to express a simple THANK YOU. He had incurred the cost of a round-trip, six-hour bus ride, the agony of hitching a ride to his home village and back and losing at least two days of time ... just to say THANK YOU!
I have often marveled at the commitment of these Maasai men who undertake to become Evangelists and pastors. They have such desire, determination and dedication. They are so appreciative of every opportunity. They take nothing for granted, but by simple faith, trust and believe in the Call that God has placed on them and are confident God will supply their every need. I am humbled by their faith and dedication to their work. They are indeed called by God and are doing a fabulous work in His name.
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." [Philippians 1:3-7]
As God leads you, please pray for these men ... Lazaro, Philipo, Enok, Thomas, Kusmos, Lomayani, and Yohana.
Have a blessed weekend in the Lord ...