Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Friends Forever

This was my first mission trip to Tanzania with the 2008 Mid-South District's mission team. I am a registered nurse and volunteered at the Nyakato Health Centre in Nyakato, a poor suburb of Mwanza, with a pediatrician, Dr. Doug Campbell from Memphis, also on the team. (The Nyakato Heath Center is an outreach arm of the East of Lake Victoria Diocese ELVD)

But one memory I will always carry with me, not from Nyakato, but from the village of Nyangokolwa, where Doug and I joined the rest of the team 120 miles away for two days during the first weekend of our stay. After our church service ended under a large tree in the company of over 100 congregation members, the team was fed nearby with a wonderful meal cooked by six women. After our meal was over, the cooks wanted to have their pictures taken with the team. One woman chose me with whom to have her picture taken. She was full of excitement, and as she gripped my hand and grinned from ear to ear, she repeatedly exclaimed in Sukuma to our interpreter, Mimii, "Friends forever, we are friends forever!" She then led me, along with Mimii, to her neighborhood and absolutely insisted that I come in and see her home. Mimii told her the rest of the team was leaving and that sadly I could not take the time to visit, so she said, "Then let me give you a gift!" She ran inside with the boundless energy of a young child, and emerged gleefully with a large bag of peanuts, packaged in hand-sized bags. Mimii explained to me this was this woman's business, but she wanted me to "take all of the peanuts to America." I was so touched by this act of love, but knew I could not take away her livelihood. This was a large sack full! Mimii then told her this, but she was not dismayed - she then took out the small packages and stuffed as many in my hand as it could hold and told me to "at least take these back to America!" How could I refuse? I took them, and she gave me a bear hug I will never forget. She jumped up and down, held my hand, and happily chattered all the way back to the van. Sad thing was, I never asked her name. I don't know why. But almost every day I think of her, and if I return next year with Mid-South's team to Nyangokolwa for a visit, I will look her up and tell her just how wonderful her peanuts really were. She was such a blessing to me, and I will always remember her.

Laurie Gent is a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church Cabot, AR