First Tears (Sorry this is from yesterday)

I knew I’d cry when I came to Tanzania, I do that… I cry. What the reason was would be a mystery to me. Would it be because I was afraid? Overwhelmed? I missed my boyfriend? Sleep deprivation (that’s usually the most common… I’m kind of like a toddler that way)? Those were my top choices, but I never thought it would come because of a middle aged man’s faith.
Today started off well, I only forgot one thing instead of 7 (I forgot my periodic tables for Joel…). I taught Chemistry for Form 1 and 2 and the lesson went splendidly. Then we went to the orphanage, which was beyond words. God is good. He does not tell us to take care of the orphans because we will be miserable doing it, it is because it is the most gratifying feeling in the world.
Driving up to it was a task, off of the main roads our expert driver took us up a winding two track muddy and slick due to the Tanzanian wet season rainfall earlier that day. We made our way to a set of small buildings, several under construction (they had been expanding!). The house we spent the most time in was set back on the edge of the property, opposite of the living quarters of the older children and the location of the church. It was the area for infants and toddlers.
A woman at the front gave both me and another girl leading the group an enormous hug, twice, like how Europeans kiss… One for each side.
“You are most welcome here! It is so good to be meeting you! You are most welcome here!” she said, she smelled like sweat and something else, a very unique thing, just like all the Tanzanians I have met so far.
After a warm greeting that only a truly joyous person can give, we walked through the mud to the white tile front porch kiddy corner to the clinic they were building, we were greeted by the two most angelic faces I had ever seen. They were sitting hanging on the bars on the door.
Then an older boy who was mentally handicapped opened the door and allowed the cautious little one who could walk wander out. The little one was wearing a dirty yellow shirt. Looking at me, I squatted down to get a better look at those gorgeous eyes that truly make me believe we were made in God’s image. We stared. He extended his tiny hand and took mine and this barely 3 year old child shook my hand, and then proceeded to shake all 30 of our hands.
We made our way inside and Lisa introduced us to Jehosephat. He runs the orphanage which is named “Samaritan.” He is a small man, skinny and shorter than I am, proudly wearing a GVSU shirt in honor of our first visit of the year there. Tanzanians sometimes have eyes the color of amber, Jehosephat is one of those people. Although I notice his eyes, he in all honesty, is average, normal looking from the outside. He insists that we all sit down, pulling out every chair they own for us to sit on—including tiny wooden children’s seats. Jehosephat tells us more about the orphanage and explains that there are 29 children currently living there, the cost to run it was around 3000 USD. He also explains that the large building outside under construction is a clinic that they hope to open someday to help the area receive medical care and help fund the orphanage. Then come the children’s stories. They are dumped, abandoned, murder attempts made on their tiny lives. It is sad, usually it destroys me on the inside like seeing the cripples on the sidewalk, but not when he tells it. His story is encouraging, one of redemption. Although there is room to house 40 children, only 29 are currently living here. He finds them, he rescues them, and gives them life again.
During his speech, the children begin to arrive from school and just like the small child earlier; they went around the circle and shook all of our hands. Their baba told them gently they must change out of their school uniforms before play, he is truly a gentle man. He never raised his voice, just spoke quietly and the children pick up his words and obey. So began the mad dash to the beach balls we brought and the scramble to inflate them as soon as we could. Shortly after the beautiful mass chaos that children produce when they are allowed to play consumed the front porch and their yard.
For some reason I wasn’t intensely inclined to play with the children, I felt lead to just observe, watch my friends around me experience the humbling pleasure of a child’s pure joy. I watched and was moved, it was wonderful, I could have cried right then. There was something amazing about that moment. I had always wanted to visit an orphanage, and as much as I wish they didn’t have to exist, that parents didn’t try to kill their children or abandon them because they are unwanted—it was more than I could have ever dreamed. The children were so gorgeous, thriving despite missing a father and mother. Jehosephat is their baba, and I can tell the other staff are somewhat like mothers, but still. Even without parents there was so much joy to be had and shared by these little ones.
The boy in the green shirt deserves honorable mention. He was a sneaky child with a smile that overtook his whole face. He reminded me of a monkey because his ears also took over most of his head. He kept poking at my pink watch that I purchased for the trip. Eventually I slipped it off and did him the honor of bestowing my clock onto his wrist. Never in my life had I seen a child get so excited! He immediately disappeared.
“There goes your watch,” my professor said shaking her head.
It turns out he ran off to brag about his new accessory to his older brothers, one of which came out and demanded to know who gave his brother a watch. So green shirt brought him over and introduced himself, disappointed I only had one watch.
As time passed my professor pulled me aside and said that I should take a look inside the orphanage. One of the tall boys on our trip, Brad, had been in the small dark room he whole time and was pelting the ball at the older kids and they were dishing it right back. My professor pushed open the door and pointed around the corner… there was Jehosephat throwing balls at the children and laughing hysterically. “Dahdy ovah heeya!” called his children. His children. Only a father would be pelting his own children in the head with a beach ball. My professor announced that we were leaving to the other students, snagged Jehosephat, and told him that I would like to talk to him.
Sweat pouring down his face he ushered me into his teeny office, the door was part of the wall. It opened into a room piled high with papers and notes from his kids.
“Welcome, you are most welcome here! It is so good to be meeting you here once again.” he said.
“Asante sana, it looks like you were having more fun than your children!” I laughed.
We chatted for a moment and after a pause I explained that I had come with money that I had raised back in the states.
And then it happened. The most magical moment yet in Tanzania.
This sweaty average man, laughed quietly, smiled, closed his eyes, and lifted his head and his hands and sat there for a moment. Silent thanks. Tears. “Thank you Eemilee. Thank you, thank you so much. Thank you thank you thank you.” He whispered, more of a prayer of thanks to God than to me.
A million and a half thoughts passed through my head. I was amazed. Never in my entire life had I ever seen some one so thankful. Eucharisto. So thankful for so little. People receive more than this than man is receiving from me right now… Scholarships, inheritance, receiving just the right things at just the right time, lottery winners, people with good paying jobs. All receive so much… but the thankfulness. It is not there. In that moment I realized what an amazing thing being thankful is. This man does not live a glorious life. Ask any man. Their first choice is not to be a father of 29 children, let alone in Tanzania, let alone in the bush, let alone by themselves, unmarried. But in this one man I found the joy that his children also had. It was overwhelming. His joy brought my tears. Because I too was so thankful. Thankful for this moment. Thankful for this man and his beautiful existence.
He opened his eyes, those amber eyes.
He grabbed my elbows which were on my knees holding up my head as I sat crying. Jehosaphat. The joyous man, pulled me in for a sweaty hug, he is such a small man. It was like hugging a toddler.
“God is so good,” he whispered more to himself than to me.
“I know… I am Christian. And God is very good.”
Letting go he caught my hands again and looked into my eyes. “Thank you Eemiley. I praise God for you. I praise God.”

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