{lessons learned from my friends in Tanzania…}

I went to Tanzania last week to help others, but really I think they helped me the most. Here’s what I mean…

* * *

Thursday night after dinner Shaun asked us what we thought would be the hardest part about going back home.

My answer?

“I don’t know how to go home after spending the last week here — I didn’t want to come here in the first place.” It was supposed to be funny — so I’m glad the group laughed at me, because I was sobbing at that point and really needed a bit of relief. {I cried so many times last week, really it was no surprise that I cried once again on Thursday.} We left on Friday, May 4th, and the entire week leading up was hugely emotional for me. I knew I needed go on the trip but I didn’t *want* to. Every feeling from this past week has been shot straight into my heart.

I think the second hardest part about going back home will be knowing HOW to put all that I’ve seen into action.

1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

My posts this week have been extremely personal. Maybe they’ve been hard for you to read ~ there were times this past week where they were hard for me to write. Being vulnerable is so hard. Being open to learn in a new country is even harder. Last week, before we boarded our first international flight, I prayed God would show me what to write about. And now, the start of a fresh new week, I pray my words were exactly what God wanted me to write.

* * *

Don’t throw a paper ball at me, I know I’ve said this like three or eight times already, but I really do feel like this trip was planned just for me. Zack and I have chatted many times this past week and we mutually agree there are big things in store for us. I think — I know — I needed to feel the Lord’s presence this strongly last week. I’m curious to when the door will be opened and we’ll see all that He has planned.

I mean, we were up early every morning and His presence was clear. It came in stunning wisps of beauty with a few patches of tough around the edges.

See? ~

This sunrise was like a little picture message from the Lord: Enjoy today, I’m going to show you clouds of beauty and clouds you must endure. “Trust me,” He said to me.

But I think the Lord wanted me to feel it, too. And to take this a step further, I think the Lord wanted this because of how it’s going to translate into others’ lives. I’m just dying to know how it’s translating to others. I’ll be able to read through + comment on the posts from this week very soon. I ran on adrenaline last week and very quickly on our final flights home it wore off Q U I C K! and so I’m being forced to act fast.

Everything about this past week has been shot straight into my heart and I pray many of you feel the same way.

* * *

Oh, Compassion, you’re so full of passion. It’s like the best ever, and I’m so thankful that Zack and I could travel with you. What a great organization to fly halfway around the world with, and thank you for the invitation from the bottom of my ruffly heart. I clearly remember telling Zack I’d never travel overseas with him because of my fear of flying. He has always wanted to go to England or Paris or Scotland, but I’ve always told him “I can’t”.

Looking back, comparing what was to what is, it feels so freeing and I’m already wanting to plan our next trip. ::cough cough:: Maybe it will be with Compassion again? ::cough cough::

{I just skipped around our house.}

Yeowwwww — would you look at this view?

The wild grass and dry dirt and exotic trees we don’t have back in the U.S. and pet goats and cows and so many lovely people that fill these plains ~ oh it’s a breath-taking view. Every day is it’s own breathtaking view. I told Nester I am looking for rhyme or reason here, because literally everything is everywhere all the time! Hah! And I don’t think writing that even begins to explain what I mean. Whenever we traveled to spend the morning + afternoon with the kids at the Child Development Centers my eyes were glued to the windows of our van. I want to remember this view forever, it’s the original meaning of natural.

* * *

Africa is a special place. I was warned it would take a piece of my heart, so once we landed in Tanzania I put it out on my sleeve and have left it there ever since. I wanted to feel happy things, like when the kids danced for us; and sad things, like seeing a knee-high pile of warm, dead fish with flies swarming over top, knowing that fish was dinner for many people. I wanted to feel encouraged. The best part is the local pastors that lead every Child Development Center didn’t have to try hard to make me feel that way :) Like I said, Compassion radiates passion.
Here’s my very first view of Tanzania. No skylines were found, only land where bread was broken and smiles were smiled and the sound of sweet songs flooded my heart ~

One day we visited Gidioni’s home. When we got there, there was another girl under Gidioni’s mother’s care. This sweet little girl was walking around, being watched after out of compassion by Gidioni’s mom. Her own mother was away trying to feed the family — Tanzanian people are kind like that. I snatched her up as soon as I saw her. I squeezed her chubby legs and I tickled her belly. Before we left I gave Gidioni’s mom my necklace. This little girl was playing with it nearly the entire time I held her, so I thought Gidioni’s mom needed it more.

I’ve given away a few things this week to the new heart friends I made. They weren’t expensive and I know the recipients will treat these items like gold, which settles my heart. After spending a week in a third-world country I knew it would mean more to me if my new friends had them.

a Maasai tribal woman wearing a new {my favorite} Lisa Leonard Designs necklace

* * *

While walking to the home tours of CDC children we walked across prairie lawns and eroded roads and women sitting on their front porch with all of their babies nearby ~ washing dishes with found water and laundering clothes with whatever was leftover.

As we passed through, homes were accented with colorful laundry: wraps and shirts and pants, strung between trees on found string. The constant color made me feel so relaxed. My home is colorful, and to see their home colorful was a settling feeling.

* * *

Midweek we got on a small plane and flew to Arusha, Tanzania to visit a few more Child Development Centers. We were hours away from the previous city and still there was so much dirt and homes sitting on homes sitting on small storefronts sitting on houses sitting on farmland sitting on… It was hard to make sense of it all. My mind kept trying to figure out how this could be. Who owned what? Where were their papers to prove it? Why weren’t there street signs? If sent out on my own I’d be lost as soon as I took my first step ~ I just know it.

Oh, I was constantly trying to figure out how this could really be…

The last CDC we went to had older children attending, which meant they had been a part of Compassion International + their local church’s  program for a few years now {yeow!}. It seems like all Compassion children, regardless of how many years they’ve been a part of Compassion, have hope. They radiate it and it takes one glance of the heart to feel it.

But to SEE with my blue eyes what a year or two or five looks like in terms of how long a child has been sponsored — it’s the most wonderful feeling.

Having an education and somewhere to be every day {because they now go to school}, eating nutritional meals and receiving letters from their sponsors — WRITING letters back to their sponsors, all gives them something to be hopeful about.

Shaun shared with us that children who receive letters do so much better with their schooling + vocational training, and have far better chances for success in their life.

There’s that Hope thing again :)

And did you know Compassion offers a Leadership Development Program? It’s an amazingly cool way to tell children “graduating” from the Child Development Centers that they can go on to higher-education at a University. The LDP will allow them to receive this schooling which includes a Christian mentor in their field of study.

LOOK AT THE GOATS! AND THEIR SMILES! These sweet kids above are sharing their gifts with us. Each Child Development Center documents the financial gifts a family enrolled in the Sponsorship program receives, and it was so fun to flip through the pages in the book and see hundreds of happy kids standing with their purchases. They are so proud!!!
Some of the other kids bought rice or fabric or cooking oil, buy my favorite purchases were the little goats. A few kids were able to buy multiple goats and their photos received additional giggles and screams from our group ;D Sooo awesome!

* * *

Ohhhh, just sippin’ tea with my new friends. We’re drinking Chai tea. Yup. And they are making me laugh. With tea in my mouth.

Seems like I was either crying or laughing this whole time ;) And aren’t their school uniforms precious? Purple sweaters, yellow collard shirts, light purple skirts for the girls + light purple pants for the boys… (right behind me is Mrs. Big is the New Small).

SERIOUSLY, their smiles…

* * *

Tanzania seemed to be decorated in two base colors: greens or browns. The greens went five shades lighter and five shades darker, creating an ombre look to every surface on the ground. And it was beautiful. Occasionally you’d see other colors break up the ombre-ness of it and those were like, extra special moments. Yellow was the most popular flower color but sometimes we’d see blue flowers. And this day we saw pink!

* * *

My friend + mentor, the Nester. I’m so glad she was here to experience all of these things alongside me. I think going on a trip this big, this life-changing, has been so much easier to process because of our group. Nester + I met about 2.5 years ago and I feel so blessed to be her friend.

I’ll be praying for her as we return ~ as she enters back into her daily routine with her family and her vision for Nesting Place.

* * *

Part of my, “Will you travel to Tanzania with us???” email from Shaun — at which I first told him NO! {hehe}, but later changed my mind to YES!, and then later I wondered why I changed my mind because I wasn’t sure what the Lord was trying to show me, but now I know {see example 1 and 2} — included a trip to the market to purchase African fabric for the biz.

Here’s an itty bitty preview ~

And hot diggity dog we DID go to the market, and now several cuts of fabric are sitting in the studio waiting to be transformed into a limited edition line of Gussy ruffles. Tracey tweeted a few days ago asking for a little preview. If I haven’t shared this enough, every single tweet + email + instagram comment {follow me, @gussysews} has meant so much. All week our eyes were held open with toothpicks called adrenaline, so thank you for all the encouragement.

* * *

Our trip began May 4th. Zack + I met the entire group in Detroit. From there we flew to Amsterdam, but before we got on the plane I cried. You knew it was coming, right? That was my very first International flight and I wasn’t sure what to think. I knew walking on that plane, putting my seatbelt on and controlling my breathing as the plane took off would be the last things I did before my life would be forever changed. Once we were in the air there was no going back ~ we were off to Africa!

We broke off into groups when we made our home visits and one particular day we hiked up a mountain. The mother shared with us some of the unfortunate events that happened to her family. They prayed through these misfortunes, and shortly after her son received a sponsor through Compassion. Their lives were forever changed.

She told us this story with us as we sat on her couch, with our feet on their concrete floor, with family photos hanging on their blue-painted walls. This was the only home we visited where family photos hung and the walls were painted, but every home we visited had hope and the family shared how their lives were forever changed.

* * *

3 things I learned from my friends in Tanzania:
– smile more
– find more joy in the everyday moments
– wake up asking myself, how can I serve others?


Prior to leaving on this trip I really questioned why I had agreed to go. It’s hard to write that, even if it’s the truth. But once we arrived in Tanzania, and the sewing machines and gifts of fabric appeared over + over again, I no longer questioned why I had agreed to go.

Purpose. We all had purpose there. We all have purpose.

And now that Zack + I are back in Minneapolis, I think this is just the beginning.


To be continued…

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  1. 1


    I am so excited to see where the Lord leads you and Zack for here. What a blessing it was to get to know you and experience this journey with you all. Praying for you in the days, weeks and years to come as God continues to refine and teach you what it means to be stitched up in Him. Love you, friend.

    • 2


      Thank you Kelli!!!!!!! I can’t believe we’re back home ~ definitely missing our group today. We’ll be praying for your family, too. Loved our chat in the jeep on the way to the airport Friday. I think we all needed it… ♥

  2. 3


    WOW! I loved this post and seeing all of your posts and instagram pics throughout your spectacular journey! It really touches the heart…I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to actually experience all that you did! :)

  3. 5


    Those three lessons are so important – and are ones I hope to follow too after following you through this journey. Thank you for sharing so openly, it’s truly a gift.

  4. 7


    Maggie, there is NOTHING like a trip like this. I’m so glad you have your blog posts to remember every inch of every person and every action and every blade of grass and every touch of God you experienced.
    Maybe print them out???

    Thank you for sharing with all of us.

  5. 10


    wow, this is really amazing. I love the lessons you learned from them, we could all do with a lot more smiling I think. This all seems like such a great experience, I hope I get to do something similar someday.

  6. 11


    I know how much traveling to a third world country can change your perspective. Not from personal experience, but from the changes I saw in my daughter, my nieces and my parents. I’m excited for you, to see what God has in store.

  7. 13


    Just LOVED your posts the whole time. Living through your experience, even though we only see a bit of it {but isn’t technology so cool??!} was amazing. I love your instagram pics and blog posts. Thank you so much for taking the time, even late at night, to share with us. :)

    • 14


      writing so late was super hard… we were all exhausted BUT — to have these posts and photos and feel things these in my heart, it was totally worth it. thanks laura! XO

  8. 18


    I just love it when you write from your heart. You’ve helped me realize that we all have purpose where ever we are. I’ve been longing to go, to do something to make a difference in someones life. Then you started writing about purpose and how God is the one who stitches up our stories and at the same time our neighbor kids started coming over and hanging out at our house. My boys and I would talk to them, play with them and feed them and i started to see that God has me here for a purpose. And even though we are at home a lot and at times I feel like my life isn’t touching anyone elses or making a difference God is bringing them to me since I can’t go to them right now! I don’t have to go to Africa (even though i would love to!) to love on these sweet kids.
    I just wanted to thank you for the part you played in all this. =) Please don’t stop sharing your heart and what the Lord is teaching you. You are always an encouragement!

  9. 19


    i have a VERY big smile on my face miss maggie.
    love that you went.
    so proud of you.
    africa is in your heart forever. and mine too.
    it was all worth it….the fear, the confusion, the emotion, the doubts…all worth it for the amazingness you saw.
    YAY GOD!!!
    wish i could give you a big hug.

    • 20


      today’s a hard day… and it’s hardly after 11am. i want to go back… i don’t know how to sit in our house and enjoy it. all i want is quiet time with the Lord so i can hear what His plans are for us. XO

      • 21


        then you are NORMAL. that is exactly what you should be feeling. questioning the normalcy of life before africa. asking yourself “how did not think about these things before?” “how can i be different HERE?” “how am i going to make a change in my life?” “God what do you want me to do now with this life i lived before?”
        i know that nothing at home seems important anymore. your stuff does not mean as much. it weighs you down actually when you get home. let God speak in to your heart. He will continue to build up His dreams in you. He will show you where this will go from here. i feel like when i got back…..no one REALLY understood. no one REALLY got it. so it just got hard to talk about because it felt no one actually cared about what i was talking about. until you have seen it with your own eyes….no one can understand. so you have zack and nester to share your deep thoughts. and that is AWESOME. what a blessing. and now…..when can we go back together???? :) ha ha ha

        • 22


          zack is telling everyone at work we’re going back next week.

          shall i keep you on stand-by?

          also — if you have any advice on your experience with getting back into your groove, your normal groove, a new groove?, i’d love to hear it. i’m not sure what to be looking or listening for but i really do believe this is “to be continued…” :)

  10. 23


    I’m excited to see all the purposes God will weave into your continuing story. For me, there’s nothing quite like seeing stitches in your life that you know could only have been crafted by God–those designs that you could never imagine yourself! I’ve recently begun following your blog and have so enjoyed your heart! Thanks for sharing :)

  11. 25


    Your stories were so inspiring. It truly makes me look at life differently and consider some changes that God has been talking to me about. Thanks so much Gussy. I think your trip has given all your readers a moment of pause and reflection. Blessings…Diana

  12. 26


    what an incredible experience for you and zack! i’m praying with you and looking forward to the “to be continued” part…i am so glad that you decided to go this week & i know i have been incredibly blessed by your words. i have been “stitched by Him” this week as well! love you friend!

  13. 27

    Nadir@StitchSense says

    I’m am beaming with excitement for you & all these lessons you have learn & will continue to learn as you keep processing this trip. Your heart is so beautiful & inspiring & I’m so blessed to read through your journey, I know it can’t be easy to divulge so much personal & heartfelt information but thank you for letting your readers be a part of it, it means more than you know. ♥♥♥

  14. 28


    I loved every word. And the pictures…how amazingly lovely? I sponsored my first child on Mother’s Day. I can’t wait to tell you the story. <3

  15. 30


    I don’t even know what to say really, it’s like I’m a little kid waiting , waiting, waiting for the teacher to come back and finish the lesson. This past year, now that my “baby” started school full time I’ve struggled with the purpose thing. How can God use me, a simple stay at home mom, whose kiddos are now gone most of the day? It seems like every time I hear, missions trip my ears perk up and I want to hear more, how, what, where, why.
    Then I think what if something happens, what if I go, selfishly thinking I’ll find my purpose, and then something happens…my kids without me because I went seeking, when I should have stayed put. Restlessness is so unbearable at times. You talked about your fear of flying, but how Maggie, how did you go? Not just a trip across the country, but around the world? Don’t be scared to tell us, you are so inspiring…

    • 31


      OK you have me in tears. i have no clue how i did it, aside from saying “i flew with God”. before our first International flight i was crying at the airport. i knew getting on that plane would be the biggest leap of faith ever, and really there were like 10 more flights i had to get on before we touched down at home, back in minneapolis. i think part of me has been wanting more from life, not in a materialistic way but in a “i want to feel the Lord more” way. i think getting on those flights was the fastest, best, most perfect way for me to feel these things.

      it seemed like the only option.

      i cried throughout our final group dinner in tanzania. i didn’t want to go home the next day. and now that i’m home, i don’t know how to enjoy being home…

      if you feel called to go on a missions trip i want to encourage you to look into it. even if you feel called to share your heart, or to see what the Lord has planned for you, ~ whatever it is, look into it…

      i once hid from this trip, but it found me + grabbed hold tight :)

  16. 32

    Deana says

    I have been reading your blog for a while now, it is truly beautiful. This past week has been such a blessing to read your posts and view your beautiful pictures. God has certainly moved and is continuing to move in the lives of your readers through your experience! Thank you so much for sharing!
    I’m also beginning to realize what a small world we live in, I follow Keely on Instagram and FB, and realized that you two must have been on the same trip! I worked in the high school that Keely graduated from!

    • 33


      ohhhh — i have a crazy story too! the pastor that married her + her husband was the same pastor that zack and i had in college, at the church we went to!

      deana, thank you — seriously thank you so much, for your comment. i feel like i have 100 more stories to share, the few posts i wrote last week are only the beginning of what i saw and felt ♥.

  17. 35


    WOW!! what an amazing experience. I seriously can’t tell you how happy this post made me to see what God is doing through YOU!!! Such an amazing experience for you!!

  18. 36

    Jordan Anne says

    So very cool to read this after my hubby and I returned home on Sunday from our week in the Domincan Republic with Compassion. We visited projects, did home visits, learned more about the organization we love so deeply. God changed us last week, and we’ll never be the same again. Jesus is the difference and I saw it first hand as we met people who were poor, but so rich in their spiritual lives. So wonderful and so thankful for such a great week. I can’t wait to do it again!

  19. 38

    mary ellen rawls says

    Hi agine I would like to send my frist note to you leaders but have no idea how to do it. I was happy I got it sent to you. Do you konw how to forwerd it on to them? They may have more info. on Mkwaw a phone # would be better for me than e-mail. ThNK YOU! It took about a hour for me to find this spot agine :) ME

  20. 39


    This is so touching. Some times when people leave their comfort zones to come and visit Africa is when they really see God at work. I always tell my work mates at Website designing and hosting Uganda, http://fox.co.ug that God has the plan as to why he made our people and country look like this.

  21. 40


    KLynn Posted on Dah ni kweli unayosema yani bongo full kihkucuana; and trust people I don’t how many decades it will take for people to change? It is really sad . HATERS R EVERYONE IN TANZANIA WE WILL NOT PROCEED IN THAT WAY ..

  22. 41


    Many of the locals are Muslim but many are also Christian. We went to Arusha + Mwanza. Is Mwanza the city you’re thinking of?

    Our first workday back I just sat in our living room and stared at the wall. It was the strangest feeling… suddenly our home felt TOO nice, TOO safe, TOO cozy, TOO big. I’m still not sure what God is trying to show us, but I know He’s trying to do something. I can feel it. I can’t quite describe it yet…

    I know the people of Africa would love your prayers. So yes :) Pray pray! xoxo


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