“Short term trip”…you have inevitably received a letter or two or three from a friend, a relative, a student, or a colleague about their opportunity to go on a short term service trip. Or perhaps you have had the chance to go yourself. As I ponder this term, though, I find that it really does not completely convey what a trip like this is really all about. For you see, it is our heart’s desire that the effects of these journeys will not be short term at all, but will have long lasting repercussions not only in Africa, but among those who go. We believe that a trip overseas is a life-changing event causing our lives to never be the same again.
I know it was for me! In the midst of a fulfilling teaching career I took up the challenge to go to Morocco during spring break in ‘04. What I saw with my eyes and felt with my heart turned my world upside down.
To rub lotion on the cracked hands of an old man and see his toothless grin or watch little boys giggle as they lather their faces, to witness the relief of an elderly woman as she has eye drops placed into her dry & hurting eyes, to observe in disbelief and humor as 75 children tumble out of a beat-up bus meant to hold 25 children just to have the chance to come to camp, to work side by side with local people to help their own, or to serve tea and cookies to African women who are rarely, if ever, shown such honor…these are ways of extending compassion to those who are hurting. This is what our teams seek to do and how our lives are changed as well. And as we go, working together in unity and love for the “least of these”, we lend credibility to our partners who live and work in these hard places. It opens doors that once were closed and has long-lasting, positive effects that can strengthen relationships and raise curiosities about why we would come.
Such is the case in Mali…Timbuktu to be exact, where a team of 10 of us served in early January ‘08. Our Compassion Corps partners, Pastor Nouh and his TNT staff, work long hours to bring hope to those living in the Belt of Misery that wraps around the city and in the outlying villages. Our medical professionals saw over 1,000 people in 4 days of clinics and were encouraged to hear stories back of how thankful people were that we had come. Mobilizing a team begins with its formation. It is no easy task to get to Timbuktu, and even up to the cutoff date we did not have the 10 people needed to go. But as so often happens, on the very last day we had a doctor and his daughter join on, not only giving us our ten, but giving us another doctor who was invaluable to the work ahead. It was a reminder not to worry but to trust that all would come together to be able to accomplish our hopeful and ambitious task.
The nation of Mali is ranked as the 4th poorest country in the world and Timbuktu is particularly needy, so it was important for us to take over as much as possible. In a remarkably unselfish gesture, every team member gave up their own personal suitcase so that each bag checked (24 in all, filled with medicines, clothing, sports equipment, a basketball hoop, pots, pans, and the fixings for an American spaghetti dinner for the TNT staff and delicious Archway cookies for our ladies’ tea) went to help our partners. What a blessing we find in giving! On top of that, every suitcase but one made it all the way to Timbuktu. And that lone bag happened to be the one piece of luggage we could do without until it came later in the week. Stories like these are just a sampling of what happens when we step out of our comfort zones to love and to serve. Come join us on a future trip if you can – you’ll never be the same again
In the United States, 1.8 million elderly live in nursing homes.[..]
“Short term trip”…you have inevitably received a letter or two or three from a friend, a relative, a student, or a colleague about their opportunity to go on a short term service trip.[..]
In the United States, 1.8 million elderly live in nursing homes. In Africa, no such entity exists. The elderly and infirmed live at home with their families. In North Africa, this may mean that an elderly stroke victim may have to lie on some mats or a bed all day while their family members have to go off to work or school. Or it may mean an accident victim in his mid-thirties will develop bed sores because he has no one who can change his position for him as he is unable to do it for himself. Or a man whose legs are so swollen that they are almost unrecognizable must drag himself to the “bathroom” or suffer the embarrassment and inconvenience of incontinence.
Enter onto the scene a 50-something dynamo of a man, small of stature, but huge of heart who has decided that he wants to do works of compassion in these later years of his life. Having diabetes himself, nothing stops him as he begins to really see the needs all around him in the large, rather prosperous city that he lives in. First he notices the many children who don’t go to school simply because their families cannot afford the bus pass that every child must have to journey to school. He begins to buy bus passes and little ones are now getting educated. Then his eyes fall on children with special needs who for so long have been looked on with shame. He arranges an opportunity for them to watch a Korean dance troupe perform and children who had barely moved for months are now swinging back and forth and laughing with glee.
But then his attention is captured first by a young man who has fallen from a ladder and is now a quadriplegic. He has been in bed since the accident and the bed sores on his buttocks are so deeply infected that it takes months of care before they heal. This one relationship then develops into others and our friend begins to visit precious elderly men and women who are just longing for a little bit of dignity. It comes to him that simple things like Depends, jugs of water, and fans to ward off the afternoon heat are just little ways of showing unconditional love. And it’s not just the things. It’s the love in a person that comes with it-a smiling face, a warm handshake, someone other than family who actually cares to make them feel like a person. Put simply, it’s loving your neighbor.
What happens when people begin to extend love in compassionate, caring ways? It becomes contagious to others. This man noticed that some of his elderly friends needed some medical care as well. He persuaded a local doctor to begin going with him to do a few checkups. It so touched her that now she has “adopted” some of these people and goes to see them on a regular basis. He is multiplying himself as others see and hear of his work and want to help make a difference too.
He does need our help though. The Depends cost about $70 a month in country which provides 2 Depends a day for one person. It’s a little thing that makes a huge difference in someone’s life. Think of the people in your own world whose dignity you guard so carefully. Would you consider doing the same for another son or daughter who can’t afford the very thing that would bring some sense of self-respect to their mother or father? Please contact us for more details.
The Marabout’s youngest wife offered us cakes she had prepared on an open fire as our team sat with her husband and 30 young boys given into his care by their families. As is usual in the Senegalese culture they earned their keep by begging during the day, and in the mornings and evenings memorized the Koran. They were thanking us for the sleeping mats and mosquito nets we had been able to give them for the room they all occupied in an abandoned building.