The red dirt, ebony skin, and huge white smiles are the three most natural, strikingly beautiful colors of our new home. These coexist in stark contrast to the brilliantly bright blues, greens, oranges, and yellows of the kitenge dresses worn by our African friends. Through the last few months, our team has been seeking the Lord in order to know how we fit into this intricate coat of many colors He is weaving in our lives.
In the midst of the chaos of our transition to life here in Tanzania, the Lord has gently been loving on us. We participate in parish life in Holy Family parish, do outreach in a small village a few hours from town, and share in fellowship with numerous religious orders who are also in this beautiful country.
One day in particular, during Holy Week, we were on foot, going on home visits in the small village. It was a long, hot day and we had just walked around the entire town trying to visit the sick and to build real relationships with the people. And no one had been home. Haha! Missions is not always glamorous. I was discouraged and tired and a little bit grumpy, so when we finally found this last house, I was excited to have an opportunity for a real encounter – and relieved that the end of our day was in sight.
We were greeted by a wide, African smile from a babu, a grandpa, who welcomed us into his home. He led us into a large, dark, mostly unfurnished room. We sat down on worn, dirty couches, and then he disappeared. I thought to myself, “Praise the Lord! He doesn’t look too sick; this should be good!” When he reappeared, he and two of his nephews were carrying a tiny, frail bibi, his wife, who could no longer walk or care for herself. They came and gently lowered her right next to me.
As we spoke with her and got to hear her story, I was absolutely floored and flooded with emotions. Bibi Esther was only 65 years old. She has had diabetes for the last 15 years, but five years ago, it became much worse. She continued getting wounds on her body that wouldn’t heal, and that left her in this current situation.
As we sat there and prayed, I was flooded with images of my mom in place of this precious bibi. What if my mom was in her situation? What if she was a poor, immobile grandma with a chronic illness, suffering and uncomfortable? Where is the Lord in that? Lord, where are you? As I held her hands in mine, I continued to ask the Lord, “Where are you in this life of your precious one? In the life of this lady who is no different than my own mom?” And He said, “MC, I’m taking care of my little ones. I am caring for her. And I sent you here today to just be with her.”
We continued to pray and then our time came to leave. I was so excited at the prospects of returning to her home the next week, bringing bandages and ointment for her wounds. We returned the next week and discovered she was in the hospital. A few more weeks went by, and we visited different families in different parts of town, but I was always so hopeful of returning to visit our dear bibi.
Then just last week, our priest informed us that a few weeks ago, our precious bibi died.
She was no longer suffering and I rejoiced in that, but my heart was broken. I could have done so much more: I could have spent more time with her, sharing life and loving her.
As I sought the Lord in this sorrow and in this loss of a lady I barely knew, I knew without a doubt that there wasn’t anything else He wanted of me. I always seek to act, to do something for Him, but mostly He just desires me to be: to be with Him, to be with His people, to be with sweet Bibi Esther, to be wholly present to the opportunities of love He shares with me: to hold hands with His precious child one hundred times – or just once.