The things I will miss most

May 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Daily life in Senegal has often been frustrating, but it has also been full of blessings. As the day of our departure for home draws nearer, I have been thinking of all the good things I am going to miss about Senegal.

The children… Yes, I am going to miss all of the people, especially those at the Mission Center, but I think it is the smiling, laughing, snotty-nosed children that I will miss most. The children of Senegal have taught me that there is really no difference in children anywhere. When they are hungry, they cry. I pick one up, and she reaches for my glasses. A little boy sees a ball on the ground, and he begins to kick it. Leave two small children to play together, and one will soon be crying. I will take with me to the US many memories of happy Senegalese children, playing in the dusty sand of the streets, who have no idea that they have so little because no one they play with has more. I remember some of those days!

Slow mornings… All of you who really know me know I am not a morning person. I think Senegal must have been made for me, because it is not a morning country. Seldom have I arrived at work before 10:00 am, and still, most mornings, I am there before Pastor Joe. A typical morning for me is to wake around 8:00 am and drink a cup of tea while sitting in my “quiet” chair, checking e-mail and the Braves score from the night before. When that cup is gone, I fix another to drink while I am doing my devotional reading and praying “The Hours” with Phyllis Tickle’s little book. Then it is a shower, a third cup of tea as I think about the day and visit with Kittie, and then out the door. And that is just the week days!

On Saturdays, I forbid Kittie to speak to me before noon. I just sit in my chair, read, think, contemplate the world, and do a little writing. It has really been Sabbath and is the best medicine I have ever taken for my soul. It is what I fear I will miss the most back in Alabama.

A clean car in the morning… We live in a five-apartment complex where guards, and friends, usually sit outside the double garage door. Every afternoon, I pull up to those doors, the guard slowly swings them open, and I pull into my parking place at the head of the line, since I am usually the last to leave. When I come down in the morning, a strange thing has often occurred: my car has been washed. It is always done my Mam, the guard/apartment manager, who seems to consider it part of his job. For this service, I will usually slip him an extra $5 per month. It is well worth the money. Do you think I will be able to find anyone who will do this for me at Sumatanga? I’m not betting on it.

The $20 fix… One of the most amazing things about Senegal is that 10,000 cfa, or about $20 US, fixes most any kind of problem. Break down on the road in the wellness bus; $20 seems to always cover the mechanic, who comes to where you are, and the parts. Someone is sick, and $20 will pay for the doctor and medicine. A family is hungry; $20 will feed them for a week. The Mission has been doing a little better financially, so at Easter we gave all of the employees a $20 bonus. You would think I had given them a $1,000 by the smiles on their faces and the “Hallelujahs!” and raised arms. If only life was always this simple to fix.

Papa Paul… I grew up calling my Grandfather Wilson “Papa” and was very pleased when my children chose it as my grandfather name. Over here, age is really respected; it is very difficult for a younger man to be the supervisor of anyone who is older. The average male life expectancy in Senegal is fifty-seven, which just happens to be my age right now, so I am an “old” man here. Thus, most of the people in the church call me “Papa Paul.”

I’ve got some mixed feelings about that title. Although it is loving and respectful, it is also very paternalistic and promotes the image that I am the top-dog, man-in-charge to whom everyone must defer. Even more, it conveys the message – and they know this – that I am responsible for everyone as a father is responsible for his children.

In a recent meeting, one of the pastors attempted to express his appreciation for what I have done in Senegal, and, most importantly, send me the message that I must continue to help them.

He stood, looked at me and said, “Papa Paul!” Either a strange look crossed my face, or he was baiting the hook hoping I would grab it, because he then said/asked, “You are our Papa, aren’t you?” I must have got a little wisdom with all this white hair because I paused, looked down while I gathered my thoughts, and then replied, “No, Pastor Valentin, I am not your Papa. I love all of you. I care what happens to you in the future. I will help as I can. But I am not your Papa. I will not take responsibility for you.”

He is still calling me “Papa Paul” which I think proves that our children do not quit loving us when we tell them “No.” And I suspect it also expresses the persistence of Africans that keeps them alive.

I will not miss the power outages or the crazy traffic and taxi drivers in Senegal. I will not miss the young tallibe boys who always wait outside my favorite bakery begging for money when I walk out with my morning sweet roll. And I really won’t miss the long meetings that never start on time, and in which I never really know what is being said.

But I sure will miss all the love I have found here.

Following Community Health Workers

March 25, 2011 § Leave a comment


Last year around this time, the Wellness Program, with the help of an experienced Volunteer in Mission (VIM) team, began teaching Community Health Workers (CHW). CHWs are members of a community who are chosen by that community or the local health committee, to provide basic health and medical care to their community (see Wikepedia-community health workers). Most CHWs receive little to no salary. Some may receive what we call ‘motivation money’- a small amount of money that hopefully does what its name implies-from the sell of medications at the facility. This is the only health care most villagers receive and often it runs out of medicines and supplies.

The Wellness staff has followed the 2010 class of health workers over the past year, having a meeting with them in February when our VIM team returned to teach week one of the three week course for our 2011 class.

For me, it has been interesting getting to know these CHWs and following their progress over the last year. The following descriptions are the bits of information I found interesting about the workers, their communities, and in some cases, their families.

Fatou, Mariana, and Moussa are from Soulouf, population 3,000. They work at Soulouf’s health house which Mariana’s grandmother has managed for the last 20 years. All three are bright, attractive, and personable young adults. Moussa teaches at the community’s primary school but still manages to find time to work at the health house.

Mbayang is from a surburb of Dakar and sells tickets for RN consultations, and collects money from the sell of medications at the local health post. This is a much larger and much busier health post unlike some of the other CHW’s small village health house. She describes how her post has two RNs, one is paid, and the other is a volunteer who also lives at the health post. She is concerned the post has little money to buy more medications and most people who visit cannot afford to pay so they often get free services.

Mamadou from Makla Khay is a tall slim son of a Marabout and father of four. He speaks some English. The health house in that village is in the process of being built so Mamadou is functioning independently as a CHW. When he runs out of medications he buys them at the pharmacy and sells them to the people he sees. He took a patient to the hospital after completing a written assessment and the doctor was impressed and got him to hang around and work in the ER some. He wanted Mamadou to train more in the hospital but since he could not pay him Mamadou declined. When Mamadou runs out of money to run his household he travels to Dakar and drives a Taxi for two weeks then goes back to his village. I think our friend is a real businessman. When encouraged to go to nursing school and he said he planned to.

Antoine from Thieo, a Catholic community, is also a bright young man. He has his own apartment in the family compound. The day I visited he took me to the local health house to meet the CHW/Birth Attendant who has managed the care for the community for the last 12 years. It was neat and clean with a sparsely furnished birthing room. Antoine had just taken a bookkeeping job for the local cement factory, therefore, he did not know how much he would be able to work as a CHW.

Aissatou is from the village of Sebiponty, population 4000. She is a pretty and bright girl who lives in her family’s compound with her 4-year-old son. Her brother and sister and their families also live there. Her brother has studied agriculture in the US for six months the last three years and speaks very good English. Her father has a good job at a nearby cement factory. Aissatou has taken a leadership role, having several CHW meetings at her house and working with the local CHW organization. She helps the staff of the Sebiponty Health Post and she also works independently. When introduced to the RN who manages the post and mentors Aissatou, I noticed an adequate supply of medications and equipment and a clean, friendly environment.

There are several other CHWs, some successful in their new role, others not as much. The literature reports the importance of the new CHWs receiving encouragement and support from their trainers and villages. We will continue to follow these and the 2011 class as long as needed.

Is Jesus the only way to salvation?

March 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

As I sat in my bedroom chair last Friday afternoon praying the Vesper Office from Phyllis Tickle’s little pocket edition of The Divine Hours, I suddenly began to hear voices singing outside my window. They were male voices sounding as if they were singing as loud as they could. I did not recognize the words or language. I don’t think they were French. But as has often happened over the last twenty-six months, though I didn’t recognize the words, I knew exactly what they were saying. They were singing praise to God. It was as surely praise music as any praise music I have ever heard.

When my curiosity finally got the best of me and I walked outside to see from where the music was coming, I discovered about ten teenage boys sitting in a circle on the garage floor beneath our apartment. They had large song books inscribed with big words and musical notes in their laps. Some were bowing their upper bodies in count with the music. Others were keeping beat with their heads. I watched and rocked my body slowly with the music for a couple of minutes, but feeling somewhat like an intruder on holy ground, I went back up to the apartment and continued to listen. It must have gone on for thirty minutes. As I joined my prayers with the young men singing outside my window, these felt like the most holy thirty minutes of all my time in Senegal.

I am a Christian. They are Muslims. Growing up, I was taught they were going to hell because they didn’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The subliminal message I heard was that anyone who was of a different faith was not only lost, he or she was evil and an enemy of Christianity in great need of conversion. When I met Jesus as a struggling nineteen year old and gave my life to him, I just assumed that what I had been taught was true because Jesus had so wonderfully changed and reoriented my life. Later, as my world and life experience grew larger, I would begin to question this. Today, I question it even more.

When I was a seminary student, I took an evangelism course with Dr. George Morris, then the William Cannon Professor of Evangelism at Candler School of Theology. George had quite a reputation as an evangelical in Methodist circles, and was far from being a liberal, or probably even a progressive of more recent years.

The only thing I remember from that course was the day that Dr. Morris raised the issue, “Is Jesus Christ the only way to salvation?”

Of course, there is scriptural basis for this belief. In his long farewell discourse in John 14, Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father except through me” (14:6). We also have the wonderful words of Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (3:16). However, there are also plenty of places where Jesus tells his disciples that it is our actions that distinguish us as his followers.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (13:34-35)

What Dr. Morris said that day, as I remember it, – Wow, that was thirty-two years ago! – was he didn’t know if Jesus was the only way to salvation, but he was certain that Jesus was a way to salvation because he was sure that Jesus had saved him. Therefore, he could gladly and boldly proclaim that Jesus was the “sure” way to salvation. It made sense to me and helped me to claim myself as an evangelical through the years. I really believe that Jesus Christ forgives sins and transform lives. I am sure he is the only chance I have of sneaking through the Pearly Gates.

But is Jesus the only way to salvation? What about the young Muslim boys praying below me? What about Mam, the young Muslim man who watches over us and our apartment, who is always putting down his prayer mat as I come home at 5 pm?

I’ve been pondering an answer to this question based on some recent thoughts about what the Kingdom of God looks like, or will look like on that day when it fully comes in all its glory. I’m still wrestling with this – It is hard to give up what you have believed for fifty years! – so I will propose it to you with some of the questions I am trying to answer.

Are Christians going to be the only folks in the Kingdom of God, or will people of all faiths who have sought to honor God and serve those made in God’s image be there? Is the Kingdom of God going to be composed only of people of like minds and thoughts, or will it be a hodgepodge of people who have learned to live together in peace despite their religious, cultural, and political differences? Are only those who have been on the right side of the issues of their day – Whatever the right side is! – be there, or will the Kingdom of God be composed of all those who have learned that being in right relationship with each other is more important than being right about the issues that divide us? Will the Kingdom of God only fully arrive when all enemies of the church have been defeated, or will it be a world in which governments have learned that the cost of having enemies is too high, and they have turned their guns and missiles into food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless?

Is it God’s goal to include or exclude folks from the Kingdom? Will the Kingdom of God be a place where one must confess that Jesus Christ is Lord before the door is thrown open, or will it be a gathering of surprised, wide-eyed, bewildered folks offering praise to God on bended knee because Jesus stood inside the door welcoming them in a blood-stained robe and we finally understand that it really is Jesus who has paid for this great party we call the Kingdom of God?

I know which way I am leaning. And some days in Senegal when I rub shoulders with smiling, dark-skinned Muslims, and play with their children, I think I have experienced a bit of just how good it will be.

Celebrating the almost perfect

January 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

You could not ask for much better temperatures than we have had since returning to Senegal on January 1. Days are usually in the low-80’s, with nights dropping into the mid-60’s. Over here, that is considered cold weather, and you see many people bundled in heavy coats and wearing toboggans.

Of course, I am sure all of you would like to swap weather right now. It sounds like it is being a hard winter in the US, especially in the south.

The only weather problem this time of year is usually there is a lot of dust in the air. I’m told it is brought by the cooler northern winds blowing across the Sahara Desert. People here often have respiratory problems during this time.

But the big problem since returning has been that the electricity seems to be staying off almost as much as it is on. I’m told by friends who have been here for almost ten years that these are the worst shortages they have ever experienced. Today, for example, the electricity went off around 7:30 am and it is now 4:40 pm. It has been off all that time except for about forty-five minutes around 3 pm. I guess they just like to tease us.

Don’t get me wrong. It is much easier to live without electricity at these temperatures than at the 95+gegree temperatures of August and September. Still, it is very frustrating when the electricity is off and the internet does not work, especially when you have promised information or pictures to people in the US.

I almost blew a gasket two weeks ago when I decided to solve this problem by cranking up the generator, only to discover that the power chord which connects the generator to the wall outlet was missing, and no one knew where it was. Talk about feeling powerless! And I am not talking about the electrical kind.

Since I do try to learn from the daily frustrations of life here in Senegal, I have been pondering the lesson of my powerless days. The thought that comes to me most strongly is there are few, if any, perfect days in life, whether here or in the US. Full bank accounts can be made to feel empty by the illness of a loved one. The happiness of your good day may become weighed down with the burdens of a friend. A day of success and solid accomplishments can be overshadowed by the person who misunderstood your intentions and took offense at your words.

Every day seems to bring its fair share of problems and challenges. Perhaps that is why Jesus told his disciples that “in this life you will have tribulations” (John 16:33). But Jesus did not stop with those seemingly discouraging words. He went on to say, “…but be of good cheer (courage), for I have overcome the world.”

Few days are ever perfect! And seldom are things as bad as they seem when you are being overwhelmed with life’s troubles. And a lot of how we handle both is determined by our faith and the mental attitude we bring to each day. Do you wake up looking for the day to bring more good or bad?

Too often in life I have only really celebrated when things were perfect. But life, I am learning, is much happier when you can celebrate the “almost perfect.” I suspect it is even better when we learn to be happy with the “good.”

Leftovers!

October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

It seems like I see a story and a lesson everywhere I look and in everything that happens to me these days.

Tonight it was while I was cooking supper.

When I uncovered the little blue pot in the refrigerator, I discovered some okra and fresh tomatoes Marie, the maid/cook/wash lady, had boiled for me earlier this week. Vegetables are a little scarce over here, especially green vegetables, and I’ve always loved slimy boiled okra. Thank you, Mary Dunn and Aunt Precious, two ladies who loved me and fed me when I was a little kid!

And while in Senegal, I’ve really come to love boiled okra and tomatoes, and I ask Marie to fix it for me at least every other week.

Earlier this week, I had pork chops with my tomatoes and okra. Tonight, however, I had no meat to go with them. What was I to do?

Looking on the kitchen counter, I saw a little box of tomato sauce left over from when I made chili the night before. Yes, without Kittie here things don’t always get put back in their place every night. Marie, who comes three times a week, seldom puts thing that I leave out on the counter back in the pantry. She seems to think that if I left it out, I must have wanted it out. Strange for a women, don’t you think guys?

Tomatoes and okra… tomato sauce… I’ll make vegetable soup, I quickly decided.

Now I’ve eaten lots of soup over the last three months; probably more soup than I have ever eaten in any three months in my life. When I returned in June, knowing I was here by myself, I brought with me several boxes of Lipton’s Instant Chicken noodle soup. They will be gone by the time I leave next Friday morning. And I’ve made two or three bowls of chili from the Wal-mart seasoning packets I brought back. It’s sort of different eating hot chili in 95 degree weather, but still it tastes American, which helps survive over here.

But what I have perfected these last three months is homemade vegetable soup.

I make it every two of three weeks and it lasts me for several days. (Yes, Kittie, there are weeks when I have eaten vegetable soup three nights in a row. But don’t get any ideas!)

Ground beef…canned tomatoes, whole kernel corn, green beans…fresh carrots and onions… salt, pepper, Tabasco…some of the Senegal Maggi seasoning fresh okra at the very end; I’ve got it down almost to a science.

But tonight was different. Instead of starting with an empty pot and browning the beef first, this was a little pot of left-over okra and tomatoes, a box of tomato sauce, and no meat or canned vegetables. Could I do it Could I turn these almost ready to throw away leftovers into a tasty soup?

Into the blue pot with the tomatoes and okra went the box of tomato sauce. Then I chopped and added half of a small onion, a cube of Maggi, dash of salt, bit of black pepper…it looked too thick, so I added half a cup of water.

And then I remembered the black-eyed peas that had been in the refrigerator for almost two weeks.

Now these peas are a story in themselves. In fact, I was going to use them in a story on the difficulty of doing supervision in a very different culture that I almost wrote a couple of weeks ago, but I never quite got it on paper. Maybe one day.

I bought the peas in a market outside of Dakar, fresh and already shelled. I was having some friends over for dinner on Saturday night and thought, “Oh, these will be wonderful.” I could see my Mama’s black-eyed peas floating in a greasy liquid from the streak-o-lean pork she always used when cooking peas, just like her Mama did. I couldn’t wait for Saturday night. They were going to be so good with the pork roast in the freezer.

So Saturday comes and Marie arrives. I tell her I am having guests for dinner that evening and show her the peas. She smiles and nods her head. I return to my recliner, where I remain from most of the day doing various things. A couple of times the smell tempts me and I go in and raise the lid on the pot and smile at what I am seeing.

Later in the day, when I think perhaps they have had time to get tender, I take a little sample.

Oh! They are so hot they almost blow the top of my head off. Instead of streak-o-lean, or even vegetable oil, Marie has added hot Senegalese peppers.

Oh, I’m so disappointed! Then I decide, “OK, this is Senegal. Everything is hot over here. It will be OK!”

And then things got worse.

I’d also asked her to prepare some carrots and potatoes, assuming she would cook them with the pork roast as she had been known to do in the past. Wrong! I went in later and saw the carrots and potatoes boiling in a pot on top of the stove. (We have a real stove over here; four eyes and everything, but gas!)

Again, I said, “OK, boiled carrots and potatoes, I can handle this and so can my guests.” I returned to my chair.

After a while I had to go out and buy some water. When I returned, Marie came to the door, said, “Finne,” and motioned with her finger for me to come to the kitchen. The peas were finished!

I went excitedly to the pot resting on the stove top, lifted the lid, and sucked in a big gasp of air that Marie had to have heard. She had put the carrots and potatoes in the peas and stirred them all together in what I can only describe as a “mush!”

“Oh, my God!” I thought, or maybe it was something not quite that nice. Such disappointment!

But being the nice Christian person that my Mama taught me to be, I recovered, looked at an anxious Marie, and smiled. It was not her fault I had not been able to communicate to her what I wanted and had failed to supervise her as I should have to get the result that I wanted.

But tonight, I was cooking this soup, not Marie. I knew what I wanted it to taste like.

I opened the cold peas and looked inside. No mold. No bad smell. I put in two big spoonfuls of the peppery peas! I let it cook and simmer until the glob of cold pea mush had warmed and separated into individual peas. Then, I poured it into a bowl, let it cool, and tasted.

Ummmm! I could not believe it. I believe it was the best soup I have ever made!

Leftovers! No recipe! A little of this, a little of that! A surprisingly great result!

You know, that’s just like our God. We give him the leftovers of our lives of which we very often can’t see the rhyme or reason, and he makes something beautiful of us in a very surprising and unexpected way. Sometimes, we don’t even see it except in the rear-view mirror of life.

Yea, I’m seeing some really amazing things these days looking through that mirror; learning, and relearning some great lessons. And sometimes, I feel like I can see them as they are happening.

And that, my friends, is a great blessing!

I am connected

October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

I received an e-mail in my “In-box” today from beliefnet.com with a subject line of “Tips for Making Meaningful Connections.”

I don’t often pat myself on the back, but when I saw this my reaction was, “Well, that’s one link I don’t need to follow!”

Over and over in the last two years those of you on this list have taught me that you and I have a connection; that you appreciate me, and who I have been in your life.

I want you to know just how mutual that feeling is.

I guess it really is true what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder. I know that I love and appreciate all of you back in the US more than I ever have. Seldom do I end a conversation, or e-mail, without saying “I love you!”

There are even a few United Methodist bishops I am thinking more kindly of these days!

Thanks to Facebook, I’ve even reconnected with some “old” girl friends from young years, (though there never were that many). Mainly I’ve been saying, “I’m sorry!”

And I’ve made some new US friends since arriving in Senegal. Although some were only passing through on short visits, we have “connected” and made a life-long bond. At least I hope so.

It’s so much easier to do with today’s technology.

Just like me being able to sit here and express to all of you “thanks” for loving me and supporting me and Kittie in this ministry.

Almost twenty folks responded to my e-mail last week and said, “I want to help with a child’s school this year.” Some even wrote to friends who are not on my mailing list.

I am grateful and humbled!

And I’m still taking donations! (Mail them to Langdale UMC, PO Box 185, Valley, AL 36854 and mark checks “Senegal Mission – Children”).

I am reminded of a little song I learned early in my life, either in school or Sunday school, I guess:

“Make new friends, and keep the old,
Some are silver, and the others gold.”

Whether you are an old friend who can probably still sink me if you tell too many stories, or a new friend who has only known me in my better days, thank you for being my friend, for loving me, and helping me love myself better.

I did follow the link on BeliefNet and the first page took me to a quote I really liked. It quoted an old African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I haven’t heard that over here, but I sure do like it! I hope you and I are blessed to go together even further in life.

Thank you for being my friends! Even those of you who are also family!

Broke in Senegal

September 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Being broke is no fun!

I know that from experience, as do many of you, though some may have to dig a bit deeper for that memory than others.

For most folks in Senegal, being broke is a daily experience.

My driver, Jeannot, carried the Pathfinder Monday to have a brake job. When he returned, knowing he had been out in the hot sun all afternoon, I offered to buy him a soft drink. He told me that he would rather have the money; that he didn’t have anything in his pocket. Thankfully, he will get paid on Wednesday.

Almost every day I receive some request for financial assistance. Since school is about to start, parents have been lining up outside my office door the last two weeks asking if the mission (or me and Kittie!) will pay their children’s tuition. Although tuition is not high here by American standards – only about a $30 dollar registration fee and about $15 per month – it is a lot if you only make $200 per month and have three or four children.

Although Kittie and I had some tight times raising three kids on a preacher’s and a teacher’s salary, we always managed to have money for their school.

And if I didn’t, I knew my Mama would find it. However, from what I can see here, there is no fall back to parents. In fact, once parents retire, it is the children’s responsibility to provide for them.

My friend Tom Corson, the Executive Director at SIFAT — a wonderful mission ministry near my home in Randolph County, AL — told me a very moving story just before my arrival here in January 2009. This story has become very real to me during my time in Senegal.

It seems that one of the students in their 2008 International Training Practicum — where they train folks from all over the world in appropriate and practical technology — was from an African country, Cameroon or Kenya as I remember. Toward the end of the ten-week training, the leader for the day asked the students, “What has been the biggest change in your life since your arrival at SIFAT?”

The student replied, “I no longer pray for daily bread.”

Now, was that a good or bad thing?

In Senegal, as in all developing countries, the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is real and personal.

I’m learning some really important things here in Senegal. One of them: the poor are very special to Jesus.

“Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).

Jesus even told his disciples not to worry about where their next meal was coming from, or where they were going to get the clothes to put on their backs; to not worry about tomorrow. (Mt. 5)

Sometimes I think Jesus must have been crazy for that sure doesn’t make any sense in the economics I learned and have always respected.

Could it be that this kind of need creates a unique closeness to God: a closeness that folks who never have to worry about daily bread will never know? Should we hope and pray we never have to find that out?

The last time I looked none of my friends had made it onto the Forbes list of the richest people in the world. Perhaps that is why we never think Jesus is talking about us when he points an accusing finger at the rich folks. Maybe it is a blessing that we are blessed to miss.

It is hard for me to see the blessing in poverty. Instead, I see the faces of desperation, the splotched skin, the children and disabled begging on the streets, which are its victims.

I do see the blessing of helping those in poverty almost every day. The smiles, the tears of appreciation, the words: “Thank you, Papa Paul!” My hunch is that is why those of us who do what I do keep doing it.

If you want to help some of these kids to go to school this year, just let me know. I promise that I will pass along their smiles, tears, and hugs to you when I see you in October and November.

And don’t worry about giving too much! There are plenty of other needs over here we can pass the money on to.