Africa. Tanzania. Maasai tribe.

—Erica Perkins / January 2016 trip

How these words stir emotions deep inside me. I had always dreamed of traveling to Africa, with visions of natives dancing and singing and amazing sunsets. However, I had no idea I would be welcomed and treated with such love. I learned so much. The cultural differences were there, but the most noticeable difference was their humility mixed with an indescribable joy. Their material possessions were few. They did not have access to clean water. Yet, none of these things kept them from having joy and peace beyond our understanding. Their song and dance in worship of our Lord was beyond comparison to anything I have experienced. We often find reasons that compel us to skip church gatherings, such as bad weather, nothing to wear, or just plain laziness. The people we met traveled miles on foot over hard terrain, to sit in a one-room building with little protection from the elements, often with no walls. There was no coffee bar, no water fountains, no projector to display lyrics or graphics. But the Holy Spirit was welcomed and celebrated in ways rarely seen in the United States. Their giving is truly beyond what they can easily afford and beautifully flows from the heart.

While visiting a Maji Hope water project that was in progress, we walked to their current water supply. I had seen many women walking to and from with buckets of water on their heads. I had envisioned a large clear running stream that women would dip and fill their buckets with one swift motion. What we found was a small muddy ditch that would require a smaller container being dipped many, many times to finally fill their buckets. The women would not only have to walk miles to the water supply, spend much time filling their containers, but then carry the weight on their heads while walking home. While there, I saw a small boy happily lay on the ground and sip from the small stream. This was his way of life. I stopped and thought of my own children at home, who had multiple faucets around the house that supplied clean water with the twist of a knob. How many times in the past year alone have I spent enough money at restaurants that would supply a year’s worth of water for that boy? I have always known I was blessed, but the understanding of that blessing became very apparent at that moment. I offer tithes and donate in other ways. But maybe, just maybe, there was more to give. Perhaps I have been blessed so that I can bless others. Do not get me wrong, I have lost every material thing more than once in my life. There were no major savings accounts or rich relatives for me during such times. But never once have I been thirsty due to lack of available water. I may have wondered where my next meal was coming from, but I always ate. While on the trip with Maji Hope, people we visited shared with us what was possibly the last of their food supply, knowing there would be no more until the next harvest.  That didn’t stop their hospitality.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned from them was this: while these precious people need our financial support for access to clean water – we need the type of love and contentment they have found in the Lord. While they would marvel at our amenities, I marvel at the love they share. It is not a matter of us having to do something to help them, but rather we GET to join God where He is already at work. I received so much more from them than I could have possibly given.