An Early Wake-Up Call

An Early Wake-Up Call

By: Wess Stafford

Pastor Samwell Msaki of Tanzania

For Pastor Samwel Msaki, God's voice came in 2009 from a small and unnerving source — and it altered the direction of his church forever.

Samwel had arrived at his church early for morning devotions, the sun warming the rocky Tanzanian landscape after a cold night.

As he prayed in the quiet of his office, Samwel thought he heard a voice, one he describes as "the cry of a kitten."

"It made me attentive," Samwel says, "and I decided to go around the church, looking for the voice and where it was coming from."

Scouring the rooms of the church, he found nothing and went back to his office to continue praying. Again, he says, "The voice started crying, this time even louder than the time before."

Now Samwel walked hesitantly outside the small church building, led by the kitten-like sounds he heard.

"Hardly had I gone halfway around the church when I saw on the ground, next to a cement pillar, a cardboard box used to ship liter bottles of drinking water.

"The small box started twisting. The voice was certainly coming from inside.

"My body became numb. I felt like there was no more breath in me. But I gathered my strength and decided to come closer to the box to see what was inside it.

"I could not believe my eyes. Before me was a small newborn baby boy put into the box without even a cloth to cover him.

"In my shock I lifted the box closely and saw that the baby was not attended when he was born, nor was his umbilical cord cut and dressed. He was crying not only because of the cold, but his new, bloodstained body had attracted ants, which were all over him."

Samwel rushed the boy to the local police station in anticipation of getting him to a hospital over 30 miles away.

"The name of the child and his father, please?" the officer asked. Samwel stood silently. He did not know the father.

Did not know the mother. There had been no nurse. No care. Just a pastor who followed a frail sound. Samwel sensed the direction of the Spirit.

"Wait for a moment and I will answer your question," Samwel said, and he rushed out of the station to a small store down the road. He bought a bottle of water.

Arriving back at the station, the strong, loving hands of Samwel lifted the baby out of the box.

As he cradled him, he tenderly poured water on the little one's forehead. "Daniel, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Samwel looked at the officer. "The child was found at the pillar of the church. The Church is his father. He will be taken care of and raised by the church. Write that his name is Daniel — Daniel the Church."

And so the officer took his pen and wrote in Swahili the name with which Samwel had christened the baby — Daniel Kanisa — Daniel the Church.

Samwel then transported Daniel 31 miles to the large Christian hospital in Moshi. It comforted him to see the nurses wash Daniel and care for his umbilical cord. They determined that Daniel was premature, so they placed him in the warmth of an incubator.

And Daniel received the love of Pastor Samwel. Every day for three weeks Samwel drove the 62-mile round trip for one simple reason. "I had fallen in love with Daniel."

That's why the phone call from the hospital devastated him.

"Pastor, we are sorry to inform you that Daniel lost the battle. He passed away today at 10 a.m."

The child found at the church and cared for by the church would now be buried by the church. That was the day Pastor Samwel Msaki decided his congregation would do more for the children in his community, called Njia Panda.

Located at the crossroads of four major highways, Njia Panda is a destination for truckers who blow into town and use the local women and girls for an inexpensive night's entertainment, leaving them pregnant with babies they will bear alone.

Pastor Samwel is sure Daniel was one of their victims. Samwel sought out the Compassion office in Tanzania. Within months, the Evangelical Lutheran Church Njia Panda Student Center was born.

Today it cares for 260 children under Samwel's watchful eye. Children who were once sorely in need of physical, spiritual and emotional health are now taking what they learn at the center home to their parents, brothers and sisters.

"As I remembered the cry of Daniel that fateful morning, it dawned on me that Daniel was just a voice awakening us to the plight of children. "His cry was a prayer to God that He should send rescue to children who are being abandoned, thrown away, and victims of decisions that adults make."

And that is the inspiration behind just one of the 5,600-plus churches with whom Compassion partners to minister through our holistic child development program.

I think you understand why they are my heroes.