This week, we made a difference. Does that sound crazy? We came here to make a difference, right? We SAVE babies and make new families and employee thirty-three local people, mostly women, who are then able to support their families. We pour thousands of dollars, well Neema House does, into the local economy. Everyday we ‘make a difference.’ So what is different about the difference we made this week, you might ask.
First, the backstory: When Matt and I came to Arusha in August we searched for a school that would work for our daughters, and found NOTHING. All the schools were either too far away, too expensive or too in another language. At the same time, our plans for Camille’s schooling in Texas had also fallen through, so we took that as God’s way of saying that home schooling was the way to go. In making this decision we knew that we would need help in our home when we got to Africa, so that I could do school with the girls and work at Neema House. Even though we have water and electricity, even a stove and washing machine, EVERYTHING just takes longer here. Things get dirtier, food is harder to cook and takes hours of preparation, laundry is an all day affair, it just takes so much time. We had an idea of this going in, and we budgeted for hiring someone to help in our home and also watch the girls when needed. The question that kept me from hiring someone sooner was this, how do I find the right person? It is very intimate to have someone in your home everyday, to trust them to watch your children. The character trait that kept me from hiring someone sooner was PRIDE.
Ever since we arrived in Arusha, Matt has been working full time at Neema House, leaving early in the morning and coming home mid-afternoon. I do school with the girls in the mornings, Swahili class at 11am (with Matt) and then head to Neema House until after 5pm. The girls do school in the mornings, walk with me to Neema House, spend a few hours there and then come home with Matt. That is our normal day, very few days are normal. In my American Mother pride, I kept thinking I can work full time, be home full time, love my own girls and 25 other babies, and cook dinner, maybe even fit in a workout or two, read my Bible, learn a new language, make new friends…. I almost drove myself crazy. The ridiculous thing was, I KNEW from the beginning that I needed help, but it took me three months to beat down my pride to actually admit that I needed help and that we were able to hire someone. I kept thinking what would they do? How would we communicate? How do you ask them to wash your delicates and cook your dinner without apologizing a million times for thinking that they should do those jobs instead of you? Meanwhile ladies knocked weekly at my gate, asking if I was hiring.
You see, it is not just culturally acceptable to have help, but culturally unacceptable to not have help. Does that make sense? It is just sinking in to me. I feel that we have sacrificed our own security and live on the lowest budget we have ever had in our married life, only to hire someone to work for us full-time. Do not get me wrong, our budget is more than sufficient for our needs, your generosity made sure of that. It is just, one of you may see that we hired help, and think that I am being frivolous with your support, even though many of you have told me personally to just get over that crazytrain. Oh my the thoughts Satan put in my head! One day it just happened, I came to the end of my pride and realized I was being a selfish martyr for no reason, save my desire to do all the things myself. I was allowing my pride to prevent me from offering a sustainable living to a women in need. So, we started looking for a Sister of the House.
When you need to hire someone here it is all by word of mouth. One person knows another person whose cousin was a house girl and is looking for work. Our list of qualifications were a little more strenuous, mainly that they spoke some English and that they needed to be good with children, our children, who have been referred to as strong-willed, on occasion. Randomly, I asked a friend who works for Walk In Love, an NGO in the area, if she knew of anyone who might want to work for us. Her eyes lit up in excitement, saying that a women had just come into the center who speaks great English, has worked as house help in the past and is looking for work. She was selling clothes on the side of the road and had no where to live. Her husband had suddenly left her and the children. She had just arrived at Walk In Love, and was living with one of the volunteers, could she come for an interview? We agreed to interview the next day, and this is how we met Maria.
She is gentle and kind. The girls liked her instantly and she seemed good with them. I bumbled through questions, having never interviewed house help before. She talked about how much she wanted the job and how she knew how to be an excellent house girl (her words, not mine), she is probably in her 40’s, so I call her a House Sister, as I cannot get the words house girl out of my mouth. She has older children, I have not found out how old yet, and she could start immediately. We interviewed her and one other lady, but Matt and I agreed that we both felt the best about Maria. She has worked for us for two days and says she is so happy and that her life has changed. I am so happy, not just because my floors are clean, but because she is good for us, and we are good for her. There is so much brutality in this place for women, I am so excited to be able to be safe place and a good income. I just cannot write how I feel, the depth of knowing that even in our supposed sacrifice we are so rich, and in our richness we are able to bless those that need to be blessed and God is able to put those people in our path at the right time when our pride is low and our need great and we can come together to bless each other. That is a lot of blessing!
It is very hard to convey on this blog or even in conversation, the blessing of each other that my family has received from the people here. The ongoing battles with pride and humility, with sacrifice and richness, with having and needing, with blessing and being blessed. We came here to serve. We came here to decrease suffering, and we are doing that. We are also having our own suffering decreased, we are also having our own feet washed, sometimes quite literally (Not THAT literally! ed.). It brings me to tears to think that our budget can support a house sister, that we can enrich her life by providing a good, stable income in a safe place. It brings me to tears that I can learn from her, how to work, how to live, how to speak, how to bless by presence. There are so many blessings to be received in this place, very few of them am I giving. Not because I am not trying, but because God keeps opening my eyes to how much I need and how much He is still willing to pour out for me and for my family. At the beginning of the year, God put the word Humility in my mind and in my heart. Then He opened your pocket books, and He humbled me with your generosity. Then He took me to this place and He keeps showing me day by day what service and being served look like, and they are both humility. Father, open us to the blessings you have, so that we can bless others.