{letting your dirty feet rub against the dirty feet of your neighbor.}

This post was written while in Tanzania, Africa. My husband and I were invited to travel with Compassion International to share from a personal experience the wonders of their child sponsorship programs. Compassion exists as a ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults. Each day in Tanzania was different from the next. As the evening came to a close I logged into my blog to share my experiences with my online community. Here is one of my posts…

i’ve been trying to find the perfect words to describe to you all that i see and feel and hear and smell and taste here in tanzania, but it’s taken a bit longer for my words to form. i think i’ve been trying too hard to describe all of these things to you ~ all at once, through a perfect post. have i mentioned perfection yet? i’m really struggling with that right now, but i think i’ve figured out how to share all of this with you by sharing a story from earlier today ~ one that really broke my heart.

here, let me explain :)

we were gathered around in a circle playing games: a vibrant mix of little boys and girls from the compassion program ~ dressed in their best clothes, along with a few program directions {remember how compassion works with the local church to create a child development center for the kids?}, and our team.

the beautiful african children were showing off their favorite games and the songs they love to sing. there was one leader in particular that i couldn’t stop watching. she was wearing a purple satin floor-length dress with a heavier, darker blanket wrapped around her tiny waist. she had her hair woven into teeny tiny braids, then pulled back into a ponytail. her voice was loud and confident as she spoke to the kids. even though she spoke in swahili and i couldn’t translate her words, i could understand her love.

at one point this leader separated the boys from the girls and they stood facing each other in a half-circle. she picked one child from each side, gave them both a small stick to hold, and told them to run around the opposite gender group ~ whoever made a complete circle first, won. the kids played a few rounds and it seemed simple.

super, super simple.

then the leader asked two people from our team to race. if you know how to predict scenarios you’ll know to put me down for the GIRLS team. she yelled something and i knew that was our cue to start the race. so off i want, running to the edge of the boys half circle and then behind them, quickly running across to the other side.

i could hear everyone cheering for us.

GO MAGGIE! GO MAGGIE! GO SCOTT!

i could feel my adrenaline building — i needed my legs to keep up with my brain, i could feel them starting to buckle as i turned the last corner to run home and my heart was pounding and the kids were cheering for us. their smiles were so bright they were practically glowing, lighting up the humid, sunny day a little bit brighter. {come to tanzania if you don’t believe me, wink!} i was so close to finishing first, to beating my teammate.

but i totally hit the dirt

i could blame it on the fact that my feet were sweaty inside my shoes and my legs were moving faster than my brain was spitting out commands, but know that’s not true.

i hit the dirt because God wanted to show me something. remember yesterday when i wrote that God has been trying to teach me that my earthly struggles don’t matter? He wants my purpose to be stitched up by Him. and yup, He’s still mending me.

earlier today he added another stitch to my heart.

back to the race, i was about to hit the dirt. and then i did fall ~ it happened so fast i hardly had time to process it. but when i stood up and saw the damage, i mean it was pretty hard to miss the dirt covering my arms and shirt and pants, i felt a teeny bit embarrassed. there i was, our day at the child development center had JUST begun, and i was covered in dirt.

everyone was so sweet — asking if i was OK and telling me how close to the finish line i was — telling me how great of a job i did. a few came over and patted me on the back, zack gave me a little wink to silently remind me it was OK that i just fell. {thanks, babe.}

my feelings had time to settle just a bit, but only just long enough to turn into a fierce embarrassment over how dirty i was.

that’s when my heart broke. i could feel my eyes starting to burn, a few tears filling up each eye. i turned around for just a second and acted like i was brushing the dirt off my pants. oh, my arms are filthy too, i better brush the dirt off my arms too while i cry with my back to the rest of the group. but after those few seconds passed the tears didn’t pass. actually, the burning in my eyes increased and those few tears turned into too many tears to count. but God was counting.

one of the little girls came over to check on me. she couldn’t have been more than four-years-old. she saw my tears and moved a little bit closer to me. then another girl came over and started brushing the dirt off my pants. a third came over and did the same to my shirt.

how can it be that the start of a second i’m standing here in africa, feeling so incredibly embarrassed that i fell — my once-clean outfit is now covered in dirt — and the end of that one second i’m feeling the love of Christ like i never have before?

these children don’t care about my clothes. they don’t care that my now-dirty clothes look just like their always-dirty clothes. why couldn’t i see that before?

we don’t speak the same language but my tears spoke to them quicker than the rate my tears were falling onto my cheeks.

they saw me hurting and they rushed to my side.

earlier this year, when i agreed to travel with compassion, i had absolutely no clue the lessons i’d be learning. i thought i was agreeing to travel to teach lessons. geez, how selfish does that sound?

OH, it is so hard to not bring all of these children home with me. i mean, aside from how beautiful and spunky they are, they have so much to teach us…

like how life is SO not about how clean your clothes are, or what your house looks like, or whether you have to share a car with someone else in your family.

life is about loving on each other — all the time — in the name of Jesus.

matthew 25:40, The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

and letting your favorite pair of dirty bow flats feet rub against the dirty feet of your neighbor.

and feeling like you know your purpose.

because we all have a purpose, and it is beautiful.

click here to sponsor a child from compassion and allow them to help you see your purpose…

or click here to sponsor a child from the child development center we visited today.

♥ these children, my are they beautiful.
*supplemental photos by keely marie scott.

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