New around here? I’m currently in Tanzania with Compassion International. Read more about why I’m on this trip  here and read about our first day here.

It feels weird being here. Not because we are sleeping under mosquito nets or drinking Boysenberry Fanta (out of a GLASS BOTTLE, mind you!) and not because we are in Tanzania, a country that I couldn’t even point out on a map 5 months ago– but because our little group of 11 is being treated like royalty at these centers. The people at the Compassion Centers are thanking us and feeding us and showing off their grounds and clapping for us and singing for us and the children are smiling and waving as if we are famous or something.

And today. Today they lined up our entire little group and told us to “stand right there and face us” then all of the parents and teachers huddled together at the back of the center of the room and then turned to us and started singing some beautiful song (loudly and happily) and moseying/dancing/clapping their way up to us and then they handed us each a gift.

A gift? They gave us each a gift and told us thank you? I could hardly take it.

These leaders of the church, of the community of the Compassion Center working with people who live in poverty, some living in poverty themselves are giving us gifts? It was unfathomable, unthinkable, and other un words that conjure up tears and emotions that just don’t add up.

I immediately started bawling because the entire experience was humbling and overwhelming and I think that the guy who gave me my wooden giraffe was startled and confused yet ultimately secretly pleased with my reaction. He came back and took a photo of me in tears.

But then I remembered, they really aren’t thanking us. They are thanking you. They are thanking every sponsor in every country who has or ever will sponsor a child.  We are just a teeny tiny representation of all the sponsors whose contributions have impacted lives in their community. So they really didn’t care that not one of us in the group actually sponsors any of the children in their particular center. It wasn’t about that.

It was about gratitude.

Because the work that compassion is doing is making a difference and they know it.  And now I know it too.

Today, we were told we’d get a tour, sit with the children and listen to a message, play with the children, have some home visits, you know the regular stuff you get to do when you are on one of these trips. Well when the man got up to preach I was a little surprised.

He was 10.  His name is James and he spoke with confidence and boldness while Samson, the Project Director held the mic for him. The volunteers and leaders and staff at these centers LOVE these children.  They know what’s going on in their families, they pray for them, they lead them and teach them how to be leaders. That’s what was happening there, one of the adults could have made a fancy speech or preached a stirring sermon but instead they gave the opportunity to James so he could be trained in leadership.  It was profound and moving and a beautiful picture of mentorship,  manliness and discipleship.

I’ve trusted Compassion for years. I’ve followed other blogger’s trips, we sponsor three boys through Compassion, my sister’s been on a trip with Compassion, she sponsors children–I have never questioned anything about them.  But still, I never had any idea how deeply life changing the compassion program is for these children. Compassion brings True Hope to a community that most probably feels hopeless–it’s the most valuable gift you can give. And I’m convinced that it’s the best $38 you can spend.

As of 2011::

The Compassion Center that we visited today is only about a year and a half old.  Some of the children that we met today are waiting to be sponsored.  Some children have been waiting for almost a year. I wonder if you feel that tug right now, you know the one.

OH, there are many children throughout Tanzania eagerly waiting for a sponsor click here to sponsor now.

and….not only are they precious but they are really good at choreography, just in case you were wondering….

I taught them 16 counts of the Justin Bieber flash mob moves I had to learn for Caroline’s 40th birthday. So happy I could use my skills.

Have a few minutes? Click here to read what the other bloggers have to say about our Tanzania trip.

**Images from the beautiful, talented and funny Keely Marie Scott