The teachers in Tanzania have a fund that they've been contributing every month to for the past several years. In a country where there is no medical insurance it allows them to provide a safety net for each other in case something bad happens to someone. Unlike an insurance policy where you have a contractual right, with their system that they've set up you can't even ask for help if you need it -- the group just sees those who need it and helps them out. Godfrey wrote this morning to say that they had decided to send three million shillings (well over $1300) to Mama to help with the expenses of taking care of me at the hospital.
It took my breath away when I first read his email and my face is flush with emotion as I write about it even now. I've tried so hard to check my emotions at the door these past few days, but I'll admit to losing it all in a flood when I read his words. I couldn't sleep last night and so I got up at one in the morning and came downstairs and turned on my computer to read emails. For me to find out that what had started a couple of days ago amongst our college students -- meeting every morning to pray for my upcoming surgery -- has now spread around the country into all of our schools -- and getting so many kind emails and texts -- was in itself enough to really touch me to my core. But for the teachers to give the money that they had saved up either means I'm really going to die (I hope not!) or that Susan and I are loved more than I thought (I hope that's it!).
I know that there are some who might question whether or not it is right to take this money that they have saved up. It is, after all, the thought that counts, and the very fact that they want to do this, is what is really meaningful; we could find a polite way to thank them profusely and to return the funds -- and some might suggest that that's what we should do. I know how much our new missionaries struggle when they visit the home of one of their students and after people have gone all out for the weekend, sacrificing so much to feed them, that the kids are sent to chase down the last chicken and it is brought with its legs all nicely tied as a parting gift to take home with. It invariably leaves them all with a lump in their throat not knowing what to say and how they can possibly leave with that family's last chicken. But it would be unthinkable to not receive that gift. I miss eating food and having Susan say and this is a gift from so and so, and the peas are from some woman in Mwefu, and the rice -- isn't it good? -- it's a gift from .... Meat here in America just comes in a cellophane wrapper at the grocery store; I miss ours being delivered to the door by Bahati -- it's always the best cut of meat, it comes delivered with that big grin of his, it's a continual reminder for us all that it was years ago he was skin and bones and near death and that Susan helped him.
To say that there are times that I wish that I didn't have this heart problem would be the ultimate in understatement. I wish that all the time, every moment. I just somehow wish my heart were in perfect health, that we were back in the village right now, that life were just going on as it always was, that I was teaching linear programming to my students at the college, eating rice and cabbage with Justin and dreaming dreams of our next projects. I wish somehow I could have my cake and eat it too -- that somehow I could have a perfectly healthy heart and at the same time I'd still get to have our friends give those three million shillings, that somehow I could not be having surgery and at the same time I could still have my students spontaneously decide to pray and have what they've started spread across the country, that somehow I could having this not be happening to me, and yet I still could get the thrill of a glimpse of God at work to take care of everything -- maybe just perhaps He could take care of everything in a much less melodramatic situation. Of course I can't have my cake and eat it too.
Susan and I get to lead lives that are so incredibly enriched by the goodness of other people. Eventually (I hope!) I'll forget the needles and the time in the hospital, but I can't imagine I'll ever forget waking up at 1 in the morning today, not being able to sleep, and reading Godfrey's email about the three million shillings.
Everyone back in Tanzania was to be a part of everything here and Yotam has the phone all charged and set up so it's time to send the 140 character SMS from this computer here to my phone back in Tanzania and then out to all of the phones around the country know that we're heading down to the hospital. Mimi na Mama tunaanza safari sasa kwenda hospitalini!