On Tuesday morning at 6:15, I was picked up by Christian and Mama Maria to accompany them on a “home visit”. The details of the trip were very vague, my understanding was that we were visiting the home of a girl formerly in the care of ICH. (Tom was on a separate trip, taking two of the children to the hospital for check-ups, along with Mama Mdemu and two of the child care workers.)
We drove all the way down the mountain and headed east at Mombo. After another half hour on the highway we turned right onto a dirt road and continued about twenty more minutes. When we came over the crest of a hill we could see the plain before us. Ahead was the Morogoro River, which had flooded its banks. Mama said, “This is very bad”. The road was impassable by car. Christian parked the vehicle before the bridge and we all got out. Mama said, “Pole sana (very sorry). We will walk from here”. So we took off our shoes and socks, hitched up our skirts, and two very nice young men (with machetes) took our hands and escorted Mama and I through the water, which was over my knees, and about thirty yards wide. There were fish swimming in the water. I thought of my training, which advised never to go swimming here. Well, one rule broken! Christian had to wait with the vehicle.
After the water, we started walking up hill on a long winding road. I asked if it was far, and Mama said, “Yes, very far”. We climbed for about 25 minutes and came to a small cluster of mud houses, really a “sub-village” with perhaps a dozen or two houses. Mama walked toward one house and called, “Hodi, hodi” which translates something like a verbal “Knock, knock”. In front of the house were four young women, eleven children and one older woman. We were here to visit with her, the grandmother of Zawadi. Greetings were exchanged and then Zawadi appeared. Mama gave her a big hug, told her she loved her, and said how glad she was to see her.
First, we sat on small stools in front of the house, but a large crowd of women and children began to gather. So we moved our stools inside the small stick and mud house where Zawadi and her grandparents lived. The house had three very small rooms; a kitchen area, a sitting room and the third was no doubt the bedroom. The whole house was no more than 10 x 12 feet. It had a corrugated roof with many holes in it.
A long conversation in Kiswahili began between Mama and the grandmother. Many sounds of sympathy were made by Mama as the grandmother spoke. At first, Zawadi was in the room with us, but then one of the young women came and took her outside. With my limited Kiswahili, I could not follow, but Mama gave me some details. Zawadi’s mother had died and her father left. She was being cared for by her grandparents. Her grandmother spoke and Mama translated, “We have no money, we have little food”. I said to her in Kiswahili, “You love Zawadi. Thank God for grandparents”.
After more discussion, we left the house and sat out front. The young woman had finished washing Zawadi, who was standing there in her underpants. She then got a small bottle of baby oil and tenderly rubbed it all over her head, face and body. It reminded me of an anointing. Everyone was silent. She put a long dark dress over Zawadi’s head and helped her into her sandals. Then the women and all of the children said good bye and we left with Zawadi and her grandmother. Zawadi was coming with us. She is being adopted by a couple, former missionaries somewhere in the Lushoto area.
We walked back to the river and Grandmother carried Zawadi on her back through the water. After a brief good bye, we got into the vehicle and left. I asked Mama and was told that Zawadi is about 5 or 6 years old. I thought of our grandaughter Avery, who is about that age and how it would be for her or for us if we were in a position to have to give her away. I thought of the tragic circumstances, but also of the faith that allows someone to make the decision and sacrifice to give their child a better chance in life. I also thought of the couple who are adopting Zawadi, the third child they will bring into their family. In my head I hummed the hymn “God Will Take Care of You”. It is not one that is sung at our church, but has a wonderful carousel tune and is so upbeat with the promise of God’s love in the midst of sorrow.
When we returned to the Home, I stopped in to see the two newborn babies, and found out that one of the two year olds was leaving that day to go with her grandparents. Asma (which is pronounced like Ahz-ma) is a very lovely, active and determined girl. She is smart and also clever. I looked at her grandparents, who appeared to be about our age and prayed for them.
In Room 2, where Asma has lived for most of her life, the room was filled with joy and excitement. A one point, five of the child care workers were busy picking out clothes to send with her. She was washed and dressed, then changed into a different outfit, then back into the first one. Like Zawadi, she seemed not to understand what was going on. They packed a bag with clothes, shoes, and even a few things to grow into. Asma was sent on her way with many kisses and hugs.
Please pray for these two girls and their families, new and old. Thanks be to God for the opportunities that came their way for a better life. Pray also for those left behind who struggle day to day to provide food for their families. We are so blessed. We should thank God everyday and look for ways to share His blessings.
Susan and Tom