The Sharing Season - 22 December 2015
As Christmas approaches and we relax relax a bit we have begun to focus on how we will spend that special day. Our older children suggested that we share Christmas day with the orphans in Mabugini. That will mean the these children will face their first real Christmas with a sense of hope and anticipation have some chance of actually being fulfilled. They have never had a day planned for them like what is being organized by our older children. Agness and Shedrack have made summaries of each of the children there. There are 13 boys and 27 girls. All of them dream of new clothing - a thing that has always been only a dream on such occasions. And thanks to Agness's brilliant idea, we think we can make it all happen. She suggested that we concentrate on making Christmas day festive with a good meal and games and then shop for these children the following week when the prices of things become reasonable rather than ridiculously expensive as things are here in the time leading up to the actual holiday. Such an approach can make new clothing a reality and not just a dream. We could not see how we were going to be able to do it all, but her solution makes it possible. She and Shedrack have helped us create a budget so that we can then shop with the children after Christmas to give them an experience unlike any they have ever had before. They will have money to actually spend to buy things that they want. We are working now to find this money. This may sound like a small thing, but for these children it will be a total novelty. Frank and Shedrack have taken the responsibility for the boys and Agness will be assisted by Zainabu Seleiman to plan the outings for the girls. Since there are so many girls we will break them into two groups to go shopping. Our children have taken it a step further in planning. They realized that so many children make everything more costly since you have to multiply anything purchased by 13 or 27. So they are devising different budgets based on what could be spent if we had this much money or this much money. I am so proud of all of them. They seem to have learned not only thhe beauty of sharing, but also the economic reality of doing so in a responsible manner. If all of the children who have been under our care have learned such lessons, then it finally seems to me that our years of work here have meant something.
We had to decide who to invite for Christmas so we met and planned that portion too. Everybody agreed that we should invite Bibi Thomasi, the 90+ year old grandmother of Thomas who lives not terribly far from the Mabugini orphanage (photoed with Shannon below). Daniel, Shedrack and I paid her a visit on Saturday to ask her. She looked remarkably well although her vision is now much worse than before. She did not recognize me until I spoke and then she lit up like a bright lamp. The rains came while we were there so we all sat inside her little mud and stick house to talk while waiting for the weather to change. She said that she could not come because she is planning her own festive meal with her own small family. This includes Thomas and the man who helps protect her cow and goats. Thieves routinely make forays onto her property to try to steal them. That is just the way it is in Africa. Daniel and I met with Thomas in town last week to buy him clothing to replace the clothing stolen off his clothes line the week before. It was our Christmas gift to him. We added a bright flashlight to make it more difficult for the thieves to get so close at night without being seen. As a rule they are cowards and will run as soon as they are found out.
There is a story of how Bibi Thomas even has her own place to live. This was almost taken from her several years ago. She knew she was growing older and was worried that Thomas would not get to inherit the small piece of land that she owns. She called together some nephews and since she knew and trusted us, Daniel and me. We marked off the edges of her land and then we wrote down how she wanted it distributed. She wanted one third to go to Thomas, one third to go to the man who helps her and she wanted the last third sold so that she could build Thomas a house. We gave the plans to the older nephew to draw up into a document and then agreed to meet one week later. The document he brought listed all of her property to go to him and not one thing that Bibi had requested was on the form. Daniel and I fired this man and then drew up our own document and got a lawyer to approve it. Since that event, that nephew has not been seen!
We met with Pastor Simion in town earlier in the week to help finalize all of the plans we are making for Christmas. He is the man who has taken care of the children in Mabugini for the past three+ years. I finally got to hear first hand his story of how hecame to only work with children. He has only a 7th grade education, but wanted to better himself so he took a course through the Mennonite Church in Dodoma to become a pastor. He did well and eventually was assigned to a church in this area. He worked hard to build the church and to establish a strong group of people to help. The parent Mennonite church then decided that they were doing so well that they began an expensive program to purchase 30 acres of land to farm after a bore hole was completed. I think anyone who knows me will guess where this story is headed! Because large money entered the picture, a group from the church began a campaign to remove Pastor because he was ''only an uneducated man'' and why should he be allowed to manage such an undertaking. He was removed from his duties by a coalition of members of his parish. He was so discouraged and depressed that he made up his mind to give up on adults and to only work with children if that was possible. That is what led to him finding all of the ''lost children'' in Mabugini. By the way - the farming project from his original church totally failed. Greed is often its own reward!
This is shaping up to be a wonderful Christmas. Our older children are showing us the lessons of caring and sharing that we so hoped they all would learn. The fees for the children at the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre are about to be paid so their schooling can continue uninterrupted. Everyone is healthy with some minor exceptions. God is giving us much to be grateful for.
Merry Christmas to all!