Good Friday morning ...
It was Wednesday ... the day before I was scheduled to leave the bush and return home. An evangelist friend of mine had invited me to visit a woman from his village. I had time ... so off we went together to a remote boma skirting the edge of the Serengeti.
We were greeted at the entrance to the woman's hut by a twelve-year old girl and her three younger siblings. As my eyes adjusted to the smoky darkness of the interior ... I was introduced to this Christian woman lying upon the dirt floor on a cow skin mat. She was in the final stages of the horrific disease of AIDS ... not yet four months past laying to rest her husband who died of the same cause. Flies buzzed busily around her head ... but she paid no mind ... nor did the active nest of wasps nestled against the center post of the hut cause her any concern. Her heart and her mind were focused on her children ... the four siblings I had met at the entrance.
The woman's body had shrunk to unimaginable proportions .... and despite her rheumy eyes ... she projected an almost heroic sense of courage, pride and dignity. She was dying ... but she was dying as a mother ... and as a Christian. From her mat on the floor, she gave instructions to her eldest daughter (the twelve year old) on chores and infant care; she would continue to give those instructions until she died ... just as her husband had done before he died, probably in front of the children.
She was a remarkable Christian ... touched by the presence of a white pastor who had come to pray with and for her. Abraham had done a marvelous job preparing her for eternity and assuring her of the power and presence of God ... even in the midst of tragedy, heartache and death.
As Abraham and I walked the dusty trail out of the village ... we were understandably silent ... both of us contemplating the faith we had just witnessed amidst the reality of a broken and distraught family. I was certain of this woman's faith and future ... but uncertain of the future of her children. It was a great help to know that Abraham and his community of faith would be there to help, to minister, to care for survival needs ... for I perceived I was witnessing the lives of people living on the very edge of survival itself. Their "givens" were a harsh and unforgiving environment with no assets and little enterprise ... where diseases like cholera and typhoid, long ago eradicated and forgotten in America, are still killers ... where children go blind from the lack of clean water with which to wash their faces and hands to remove the larvae left by the hordes of flies ... where it is common for woman to walk up to eight miles roundtrip each day to fetch water necessary to support their families and livestock.
I have been to East Africa many times and have witnessed firsthand the meaning of hopelessness ... people living in desperation, largely unnoticed by the rest of the world. I have seen obvious lack of provisions ... but in its place an abundance of soul ... and the deep richness of family and community relationships ... a wonderful blessing in the midst of lacking the very barest of resources. I have seen the great wealth of community, family and friends smack-dab in the midst of abject material poverty. I have seen the ability of God to invade the hearts of these precious people and prepare them for a desperately uncertain future. And, I admit unabashedly, I have seen the ability of that very same God to invade my own heart and teach me a thing or two about myself ... sometimes even about the poverty of my own soul.
That Wednesday experience comes to mind as I long to return ... and, in fact, prepare for such a return ... to that area this summer with TEAM TANZANIA 2020. It will be my joy to touch base with that community of faith and to witness again the continuous unfolding of God's hand of provision in a provision-less society.
Please pray for the poverty of my soul as I pray for yours ... and let us together seek to do more in the name of Him who called us to serve.
"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised." [Hebrews 10:35-36]