We enjoyed the children and young adults in the TZ103 Child Development Center today. Saturday is their actual "project day" so all of the children were wearing their purple uniform and attended the Compassion classes as they usually would. As the students arrived they were given a drink and a piece of bread. My wish to be a fly on the wall came true today, as we were able to sit in the classes and watch the Compassion staff share their gifts with the children.
Once all the children received a snack, we began by attending a welcome service in the church. We were greeted by all the children , the Project Director and the Pastor. This center serves 284 kids, and 32 are not sponsored yet. We sang worship songs together, with heartfelt enthusiasm, and listened to a group of girls share a poem that they had written thanking all the sponsors around the world. Then the pastor shared a scripture, 1 Samuel 7:14, with us and delivered a powerful sermon. He thanked us for "doing big work" and explained that for the orphans in this center Compassion sponsors, ARE the child's mother and father. He reminded us that the center serves the poorest of the poor in Arusha, TZ.
Afterwards, we split up into groups and each group was invited to attend a different class. I chose to visit the 6-7 year old class. There were 35 children sitting on benches quietly, as we came in, and two young men and a woman were teaching the class. The class topic today was HIV/AIDS. The students began the class by singing fun worship songs that included clapping and swaying to the music. It was interesting that each of the songs was led by one of the students. Boy, were those kids good!
The female teacher led the teaching once the singing was finished. The main idea of the lesson was that if a person chooses to live a holy life you cannot get AIDS. However, they were reminded to love those with AIDS to show them the love of Jesus when they are sick. She also powerfully taught them that God can use children to speak for him. "He can put words in your mouth." The children were silent and riveted on her every word.
The highlight of the day was being able to see the secondary students (high school) in their life skill classes. There were four classes for them to choose from: cooking, carpentry, electrical, and tailoring. As we rotated from class to class a student spokesperson explained what they had learned in their skills class, and showed us the different projects that they had been working on. My favorite project was the lamp that required the work of the carpentry class for the wooden base and the electrical group for the wiring.
We served the children lunch which consisted of a big bowl of rice, broth, and one piece of meat. There were no utensils. The children ate with their fingers and sat on benches side by side. Most plates were returned clean, and a few asked for seconds, which they were given.
We had time to play and visit with the students and then, once again, it was time to say good-bye. We left a gift of supplies for the Project Director, which she thankfully accepted, and then one of our group members prayed for the center, the children, and the teachers.
It was apparent that good work is being done, in Jesus' name, in center TZ103. I felt sorry for the children peering in through the project gate, watching all of the children that were part of the activities. There is such an obvious difference between those in the center and those who are not.
As we loaded the bus I choked back a tear as I watched my friend give one last hug to her crying sponsored child. Never, never underestimate the power of your sponsorship. It means more to these kids than most of us will ever understand.