It’s been over a month since the team returned from East Africa, and we thought it might be time to share some more moments and stories with you!
As we thought about what to share, there were so many stories we could tell. We could tell you about attendees who arrived from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and all across Tanzania. We could describe how many had traveled for three days by bus to be there, or celebrate that nearly 90 percent of the attendees from last year returned this year for CCW Part 2 (an incredible percentage considering these Local Experts come from many nations, and work in difficult situations with limited finances). We could even share how we covered topics like positive discipline, health and nutrition, and program management.
But more than this, we wanted to tell you stories about what it was like to learn alongside these Local Experts and how we were blessed by them as well. We asked each of those who went to share with us some moments that were specifically meaningful to them:
In particular we loved getting to know Geoffrey and Beatrice Mukolwe, our “desk mates” at CCW [my wife and I were both students and staff]. We formed a bond and a lasting friendship. Geoffrey and Beatrice lead Tumaini Children’s Program in Arusha. Over the course of two weeks, we heard their hearts about the difficulties and rewards of ministering to young people who are in desperate situations.
One mother suffering from HIV-Aids recently told Geoffrey that she is happy because she knows that when she dies, her child will be safe with the Mukolwe’s. They have three beautiful children of their own, but their love for these other children knows no bounds.
In Swahili, they say “Karibu” when they first meet and greet you, a word that translates into English as “welcome”. But I love how they stretch out their arms and say “you are welcome”; they pull you into their arms and straightaway into their hearts and you are friends for life! This is the African way. This is what we remember most.”
“My story is from our first discussion group as we got back together and heard reports from the previous year. I was overwhelmed emotionally — not sure whether to laugh or cry with joy.
One Local Expert, Jane Brenda, spoke about helping young pregnant moms who were alone — explaining to them what was going on in their wombs as their child developed and how they could take care of themselves and their child. She tells the young moms both that they have value and are precious, but also how valuable their children are. Because of learning about child protection in CCW, Jane was also able to rescue a girl who was facing abuse at home.
Edmond spoke of a child in his classroom who was being very aggressive and fighting with other children. Instead of simply writing him off as a troublemaker, he went on a home visit to meet this child’s family, and walked into a domestic violence scenario. Because of what he has learned from CCW, he was able to confront and counsel the parents, and teach them what their behavior was doing to their children and to their brain development. The family is now reconciled and continues to grow stronger.
David spoke of starting to give food to the children at his school — as he had learned they couldn’t focus and concentrate because they were hungry. It went on and on. As person after person shared, I was so impacted by the quality of the Local Experts we work with, how they listen and learn, their humility and initiative. They hear input and they apply it personally and in their community. According to the book of James — they practice true religion in powerful daily ways.”
“As adults we all still struggle with words spoken to us as children and it steals life and courage from us. The Local Experts have courage I have not experienced, overcoming the words and lies told about them and to them. I was reminded again how much personal healing and understanding comes out of the CCW.”
When I think about last CCW in TZ, I think about the evaluation reports I had with the 6 Local Experts I had been coaching the previous year. It was really powerful to take the time and reflect on the year, to think about the things they had started to put into practice, and the effect of this.
The story of Geoff especially touched me. His story is about the power of listening. He says:
“I have been listening to every child in the program, and now I am also doing it more with the children outside the program. I am thinking especially about this one boy. I have known this boy since 2009, especially because of all the bad reports from his village and from school, as he always got himself in trouble. I would only talk to him because of the troubles he was in.Then I decided to make him my project, and to talk to him once or twice a week. He started opening up to me about his situation at home, and now we have become friends. I include him, ask him to help me sometimes. It really gives him the feeling that someone sees him.
“I shared this in the staff meeting, with the 10 other staff, and I challenged them, can we love these challenging boys. This needs to be our priority, that we start investing in them in an early age. We need to go and see them, listen to them. We are the ones who have to take the initiative.”
These Local Experts are an inspiration to us, and we have benefited so much from their friendship. We look forward to continuing a partnership with them, a testament that together, change really is possible.