Good Friday morning ...
Long time no write. As most of you know, I have been in Tanzania for the past three weeks, sharing another experience of a life time with TEAM TANZANIA 2018. It was another marvelous trip with great things happening for the Lord.
One moment stands out.
It was two weeks ago today. We were gathering for a farewell celebration hosted by the women of the church at Olkoleriti. They were ecstatic! One of our projects had been to provide a concrete floor for their unfinished church.
The building itself was quite simple, a rectangular affair made of burnt brick covered by a tin roof. It had window openings, but no windows, a doorway with a hand-hewn wooden door and a small "office." A small home-made table served as an altar while some sort of silver glitter rope was draped across the front just below the rafters.
But the building had nothing but dirt for a floor. Of course it was dirty, dusty and unsightly. When the choir sang and danced, they raised a dust storm. When the little children crawled on the floor, they came up filthy. When it rained and the water came in the uncovered window openings, the dirt turned to muck.
So we gathered to say farewell and to celebrate the new concrete floor. It was a packed house with TEAM TANZANIA seated on backless benches, the choir positioned across from us, and the remainder of the building teeming with people … men, women and scads of children.
The celebration began with the choir singing and swaying and dancing. They clapped and beat their drum to the beat of the music. They shuffled to the right and to the left; they leaned in and they leaned out; they stepped back and then stepped forward; they shouted and hooped and sounded their trademark high-pitched shrill.
Then the gift-giving began. They singled out individuals by name, then groups of women, leaders, and the youngest among us. They paid tribute to everyone, multiple times, bestowing gifts of beaded crosses, hand-made beaded capes, shukas, decorated gourds, scepters and more. Pastor Filipo peppered the event with his animated style, calling forward both the women to bestow the gifts and the recipients.
Then came the moment. It was toward the end of the celebration, the crowd pushing forward to say goodbye to the TEAM, the TEAM still sitting in rapt amazement at these wonderful people expressing their appreciation for their new floor.
From my vantage point, I saw a small hand protrude from the edge of the crowd. It was followed by a small body, that of eleven-year old Lucas whom Jacob had befriended during the week. Lucas had been deformed from birth, his left arm a dangling mass of tissue and useless muscle; his left leg and foot skewed outward, leaving him with a severe and awkward, slow limp.
From out of the mass of people Lucas pushed himself, limping as he came forward, his right arm and hand extended and holding a beaded cross. His face carried a determined look, his mouth spread wide in a blazing, happy smile, his teeth a mass of shining white, exuding the joy in his heart. He maneuvered directly toward Jacob and with his good right hand extended, presented him with the cross, delight written all over his face, and then, embarrassed, he quickly ducked away and disappeared in the crowd.
We all saw it. We were all touched. Our hearts affected by this kind, gracious gesture. Our eyes moistened with tears. Our emotions wrenched from celebration, to deep compassion and empathy and concern, and back to celebration. Though quickly overwhelmed with people saying goodbye, the heart of a young eleven-year old disabled boy had touched our own. The moment, fleeting as it was, will always be etched in my mind: the gift of a needy Maasai boy to an American who has it all.
You will be delighted to know that Lucas accompanied our TEAM back to Arusha (an eight plus hour grueling trip) where he was received at a hospital to undergo corrective surgery for his left leg and foot which will enable him to walk more normally. It is questionable if anything can be done for his arm. Lucas was to have had surgery this past Wednesday and will remain in Arusha for as much as two weeks, then will be returned home to his parents. In your prayers, please remember Lucas.
Have a great weekend in the Lord ...