*Special thanks to Photographer Keely Scott for capturing the stories through her photos.
I met Hospitality today. Yep, her.
I’ve always known the requirement for being hospitable isn’t about finally getting to the place where you love where you live and can have the most up to date flooring and look cute in the Anthropologie apron while making that delicious meal Ina Garden made on TV when Jeffrey was out-of-town. We all know that. But few of us live that.
Well, I’m reporting to you live from Africa, Tanzania to be exact and you very well may already know what we do here while on this Tanzania trip with Compassion but I’ll give you a quick recap. We travel (what seemed long enough to reach the moon) and then we travel more and just when we think we are done? We travel more. And then finally, when we reach our destination with our greasy hair and bossy intestines we get in a bus and head to a church.
We get out of the bus and wind our way around a well-worn 12 inch dirt path (don’t fall off) until it opens up to the biggest collection of children you can imagine. Smiling children. Children who are sponsored (or waiting to be sponsored) by someone like you and someone like me. It was a sight.
We split up our group and a few of us go to little Jennifer’s house. She’s 6 years old and lives with her grandmother. Her grandmother, who if you saw her randomly, walking around New York City, you would naturally assume she’s an African runway model with her beautifully patterned dress that I’m sure has a proper name and gauzy head scarf and stately features. And she smiles and greets us and asks us to come into her home. Her home that is made of concrete that is beginning to come apart. You can see holes in the roof.
I watched her face as she invited us in. It was pure joy. There was no shame. It was as if she was honored we were there. What? You mean she wasn’t all “I’m so sorry I don’t have a rug, I’ve been meaning to repair my concrete floors, try to ignore the fact that 12 of us sleep in a three room house the size of your family room”… How many of us do that on a daily basis when we sheepishly invite someone into our homes?
There was absolutely none of that. I cannot even imagine a word of ungratefulness even coming out of her mouth. She was simply thrilled we were there. I want to be like that. When I invite someone in, am I more worried about what they think of me and my stuff or do I put the focus on people? That is Hospitality.
She doesn’t have much, a table covered with a floral vinyl table-cloth, a plastic flower arrangement set centered on the table, a few random wall hangings, a sofa, a sheet covering a doorway to a bedroom. She is one of twelve people who live in the three room house. She sells tomatoes. And her dream? Not too unlike my own, her dream is to be able to buy her own home. Then she’ll be able to have her own land and hopefully grow more tomatoes to help her family.
But for now she has a huge load lifted off her shoulders because Jennifer is one of the children sponsored through Compassion International. Someone, someplace in the world spends $38 a month and somehow the Compassion people are able to magically make that little bit of money transform into something that is life changing. Which in turn can affect the entire family. So no one has to fret over making sure Jennifer gets the medical attention, nutrition, schooling, and Bible teaching that will shape her future. And because Compassion works with the local church, a two minute walk from little Jennifer’s rented home, when the family had some extra needs recently, Compassion stepped in to help. Compassion has a special fund set up especially for families who experience extreme circumstances like famine, illness, and natural disasters.
There are 50 Children at the Center/Church that we visited today that are patiently waiting on a sponsor. Have you ever considered sponsoring a child? I’d love for you to click over and just find out a little more information about the children patiently waiting on a sponsor, you can choose a boy or a girl or a birthday or find the child who’s been waiting the longest for a sponsor (my personal favorite).
I’ve just traveled further than I thought was possible without getting right back to my house and you know what I found? Moms and dads and grandmas and families just like me. They love their children, dress them in their best when company’s coming, have dreams for tomorrow, live in community, put flowers in the center of the table on a special occasion, and have a hope for a better future for their children.
To be continued…