Saturday, May 5, 2012

some bricks, some blessings and a young boy's heart

connor came home on fire today.  my laid back, easy going, sometimes too cool son, arrived home with a spark in his eyes and words tumbling from his mouth. i was putting away groceries and half listening as he began,  "mom, today in chapel we heard a story about a lady named mama latoisha.  she is a widow and lives in tanzania...mrs. duffy knows her...her baby died...she lives in a mud hut which is falling scott is letting us wear jeans to school to raise money...we are going to help build mama latoisha a new house. can we help her mom, can we, can we? what can we do?"

i closed the pantry door and looked at this boy standing there in his navy blazer and tie, slightly disheveled after a long day at school.  my nine year old who only wants to think about riding his atv or building his legos or buying another unnecessary do-dad from target.  my son standing in our spacious suburban home with hardwood floors beneath his feet.  his cheeks flushed.  his eyes bright. and i leaned against that closed pantry door. thank you Jesus, i whispered watching my son tear into a bag of pretzels  while still talking about today's chapel.  thank you Jesus for this tiny spark in my boy's heart.  he cares.  he wants to be a part of something bigger than our own backyard.  my son, nestled in his nice life, has somehow connected with a practically homeless, widowed woman half a world away.  he wants to help build mama latoisha's house.

our dear art teacher, mrs. duffy, visited with mama latoisha last may while she was in karanse, tanzania.  she found mama latoisha and her children (latoisha - 7 and ester - 6 months) living in a stick and mud hut, sleeping on a dirt floor.  mama latoisha, a christian mother, a widow, an abandoned woman, had nothing.  when mrs. duffy visited again recently, she found out that baby ester had died this year and mama latoisha and her son were still sleeping on a dirt floor in a mud hut.  this is not an uncommon story in karanse, tanzania.

in chapel, on wednesday morning, melissa duffy shared this story with our children at perimeter christian school.  the boys and girls sitting neat and clean in their rows listened as mrs. duffy, through tears, shared the tragedy of mama latoisha.  little boys and girls with fidgeting hands and distracted minds listened.  some of them thinking about a math test they'd have to take later that day.  some wishing they had eaten more breakfast.  some picking at their fingernails.  some passing notes. some twirling strands of hair.  some still half asleep.  but some -- some listening.  some hearing every word and seeing each tear. and some somehow connecting with a woman and her need in a land far and foreign.

since 2002, our church (perimeter) has been involved in ministry in karanse, tanzania.  karanse is a community with a high number of widows, orphans and families living in extreme poverty.  it is place without electricity or running water.  our church has partnered with the church in karanse and has helped provide basic needs while sharing the gospel.  amazing things have transpired in this place in the past decade.  the church has grown, many have come to know Christ, lives are being transformed -- physically and spiritually.  in addition, a christian school was built years ago and our own perimeter school here in johns creek, has been instrumental in helping with this.  we partner with them sending teams of teachers, training and supplies each year.  this school which started with two classrooms and two grades, now serves over 380 students.   they have built one classroom at at time as numbers and need have determined.  

wendy williams, a pcs teacher very involved with this project, shared with me how when the program got started so many years ago the tanzanian pastor said to perimeter church,  “if you aren’t interested in starting a school, i’m not interested.  if you feed an orphan for 10 years and then stop feeding him, he’ll die.  if you give a child an education, he can build himself a life.”   and that was the beginning.  now that school is in place and even has graduates who have gone off to high school/boarding school.  perimeter helps, but this is absolutely a tanzanian school, with a tanzanian pastor, school board and staff.  as wendy said, "we come alongside to mentor, encourage, support ...and learn!"

a drawing diana sent to us
in addition, there are many in our community who have helped sponsor the children and their schooling in karanse.  for approximately $38 a month people can sponsor a karanse child helping to provide an education, supplies, uniforms, school fees, books, medical attention and one hot meal a day.  a few years ago, our family began to sponsor a little girl named  diana.  we asked one of the teachers to send home the binder with the stories and pictures of the kids who were in need of sponsorship.  our family poured over the pages of that book and finally settled on diana.  we chose her for 3 reasons.  1.  her favorite subject is english  2.  she is the same age and shares the same birthdate as our sarah, and 3. we loved her sassy striped socks!  so over these last few years we have been connected with diana.  we send our check and occasionally write letters.  we could do more.  i was deeply convicted of that recently, realizing much time had gone by since we'd last communicated with her.  it is easy to just write a check, but we desire to do more.  in every letter we have received from diana she writes, "i pray for you every day, will you also pray for me?"  i know she and her family appreciate our financial support, but what she really wants is our prayers and our friendship. being even a little bit involved in her life is a blessing for our family. 

and then from this same community we hear about mama latoisha this week.  our hearts expand wider.  what can we do?  my son stands in the kitchen and asks me, "can we help mom, can we?"  that was wednesday and mama latoisha hasn't been far from our minds since.  friday night sarah spent an hour scavenging around our home finding loose change and random coins.  she went through purses and pockets and came up with a bag of money.  (crazy what you can find when you look).  today she has plans to go and turn it all into dollar bills to donate. she showed me this morning how she had it sorted and ready to go. we want to help build mama latoisha's new house.  

our school is going to build this house.  it will be a three room, brick home with windows, a wood door, a concrete floor and a metal roof. the goal is to raise $4000 - one brick, one roof truss, one window, one bag of sand at at time.  to monitor the progress of this goal, a mock "home" will be constructed on the wall outside of mrs. duffy's art room. brick at a time!  our headmaster, mr. scott, is allowing the children to wear jeans and t-shirts in lieu of their school uniform any day from may 9th to the 21st.  they can pay $5 for this privilege (that means a lot to kids who wear uniforms each day, i assure you!)

the supplies needed for mama latoisha's new house:

$10 buys bricks                                                 need 100
$10 buys a padlock                                           need 3
$10 buys nails                                                   need 6
$20 buys roof trusses                                        need 8
$50 buys metal bars or a window or door         need 3,5,3
$100 buys metal sheeting for roof                     need 3
$100 buys rocks for foundation                          need 2
$200 buys transportation for supplies                 need 1
$250 buys sand and cement for the house         need 2
$1000 supplies the labor to build the house        need 1

here's the deal though, this isn't about what the mcnatt family is doing, it is not nearly enough, this is about what others are doing and what more of us can do!  there are still 100 students in need of sponsorship in karanse. that same binder we looked through several years ago is still available.  wendy williams has it and is willing to share.  go ask her.  take a look.  there are 100 children in this community still waiting for someone to help them receive a little education...a little love...a little chance at life.  you can write me at and i'll connect you or click on the link i've listed below.  even if you don't live nearby, you can connect with one of these children. we can make that happen.

one brick at time...
one child at a time...

as connor asked me this week standing in our kitchen, "what can we do?"


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