Sponsor Cindy (left) has an opportunity to visit the home of her sponsored child, Medi (second from left). Eight other sponsors join Cindy for the visit. The group presents Medi's mother (center) with a sewing kit, much to her delight!
We were on our way to Medi's house and his sponsor, Cindy, grew more excited and nervous the closer we got. Our gray land cruiser turned off the paved road onto a bumpy dirt road leading into a community of small tin-roof homes. The farther we traveled, the bumpier the road became. Soon, our driver Moses stopped the vehicle. From there, we would walk.
We followed our guide a Compassion project worker through a narrow gap between two buildings. We walked along, a very obvious string of nine Americans, trying to avoid ditches, trash and sewage as we wound through the maze of homes.
We had divided into five groups to visit the homes of five sponsored children in central Kampala. Our group was on our way to the home of 12-year-old Medi Mpagi. Cindy had traveled from Emeryville, California, to meet him.
Finally, we reached a mud-and-stick structure identical to dozens we had passed, with several wood-framed doorways covered by cloths of various descriptions. Each one, we learned, was a separate home. We stopped before a doorway covered by a white sheet.
Small House, Big Hospitality
It stirred quite a commotion with the crowd we'd drawn when nine sponsors, one project worker and one translator tried to squeeze into a space perhaps six by 12 feet in size with five people already inside! The room seemed especially dark compared with the bright daylight we'd just come from. A little light streamed in through the doorway.
By the time I entered the room, Cindy was seated in the only good chair. Medi, his mother and three siblings were sitting on a mat beside her. Cindy visibly struggled between her urge to slip out of the chair onto the mat and her understanding that it was the family's strong desire that she sit in the place of honor.
After a short visit, we presented a group gift to the family a "thank you" for allowing us to invade their home and privacy. First, we gave them a small photo album, explaining that we'd send photos of this day back to her. Medi's mother smiled pleasantly and thanked us.
But it was the second part of the gift that drew the bigger response. As we pulled a small, basic sewing kit out of the bag, Medi's mother's eyes grew round, her smile grew big and she let out an exclamation. "Nyu, nyu, nyu, nyu, nyu," she repeated over and over.
This Luganda word literally means "very." But, as the translator explained to us, repeating it as she did was her way of saying, "I'm more thankful to you than I even know how to express."
The Gift of Thankfulness
We said our goodbyes and left Cindy to spend a few quiet moments alone with the family. As we wound our way back to Moses and the land cruiser, I thought about the reactions to the gifts.
To my North American mind, the sewing kit was useful, yes, but the photo album was the exciting gift. It was obvious that Medi's mom appreciated the album. But for this warm, loving Ugandan woman so accustomed to lacking what she needs the exciting thing was actually to have one of those needs met.
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