Monday, February 1, 2010
I've recently returned from the outreach trip that One Small Drop did in the Livingstone Mountains of Tanzania this past November. This was my first flight....EVER! So I thought, "Hey, let's go to Africa!!" My experience with this trip can't be summed up into just one thought or word, but if I HAD to pick one word, it would be 'humbling'. Humbling because we, as westerners, live in very privileged societies. Most of us have our basic human needs met with shelter, food, clean drinking water, educational possibilities, and a network of resources and people that are there to help us when we fall short. Not so in the places we visited within Tanzania.
There were many stories from widows, orphans, teachers, students, doctors and nurses, that ripped my heart wide open. But their stories also held great hope. They are a beautiful, kind, and gentle people.
One experience that stood out for me was when we visited a church and the women took us later to a widow's house to hear of her story. It was raining hard, and as we walked through the fields to this widow's hut, the women of the church took our gear, carried it for us and then picked these large banana leaves and held them over our heads for protection from the rain. What a beautiful thing to do for us. As we entered the widow's hut, for me, it was LITERALLY like stepping back into the pages of National Geographic. It was a grass hut with thatched roof. Holes in the roof and sides of the hut gave way to the harsh winds and rains as it came pounding through, making it very cold and wet. The floor was dirt. The fire, what little there was, was surrounded by three clay-like cylinders made out of mud and hardened. This is where the woman cooked and tried to stay warm. We all gathered in her tiny hut, shivering and cold from the rain, and listened to our translator tell us her story. She was a widow for many years now, no husband, no surviving children, all died most likely from AIDS, because this region has been extremely hard hit by this deadly disease. She raises her grandchildren all alone. Very little money helps to pay for the children to go to school. She is very frail and feeble. I went over to her and wrapped my hands around hers and began to pray for and with her. I knelt in front of her and told her I too, am a widow. My children have no father. I know and feel her pain, but can I really?
I have a large support of people who have been able to help me financially, prayerfully and emotionally. These widows are often times shunned in the community, literally pushed aside. I put a cross around her neck and looked into such sad eyes, but for the moment our eyes locked, I saw a glimmer of hope, a smile came to her lips. Can such seemingly small tokens give such great joy and hope, such as that of a simple felt cross, an offered prayer, a genuine, caring smile, a tender touch and holding of hands? I can answer that with a resounding YES! Sometimes we are so busy looking for the 'big things' we can do in this life, for a world that so desperately needs love and understanding, that we miss the 'small things' and what we can do for a wounded and saddened soul.
One Small Drop, is just that. And I am constantly reminded of the words of Mother Teresa when she said, “You can do no great things, only small things with great love!” How true those words echoed to me while on this trip. I am forever changed by what I saw, and by what I experienced with the two other amazing women that accompanied me on this journey. I am forever grateful for their support, their love and understanding as we traveled together to a place that will be forever and deeply in my heart. God Bless!