The Land of the Beautiful (My First Steps on Mkhombokati Soil)

Friends asked me, why did I want to go to Africa? And my response wasn’t the typical, to help people, to see the country, to make a difference. My answer was, unfortunately, I didn’t really want to go to Africa. But as much as I was trying to ignore it, there was something I was seeking, and without understanding why and how, I listened and decided I would be open to what I would find.

When you’re pulling up to the Care Point on the dirt road, there’s a million different emotions that I can’t begin to describe when first seeing the tiny little faces that are a blur because you notice their torn, ragged clothes, dirty hair, calloused and shoeless foot. I hear the laughter from their voices and now focus on their smile that stretched from ear to ear as they are running and waving alongside the bus. When the bus stops and they are lined outside the door, I get a closer look at their cuts and bloody knees, the bellies that look like they haven’t eaten in weeks, and their eyes that look sad and lost. I step off the bus, slowly and cautiously, as if I might scare the kids away, but really I’m the one who is terrified. “Will they like me? Will I have anything to contribute? Will I have the strength to give them what they need?”

As my foot sets upon the ground and I attempt to survey the Carepoint, I instead look down at one who has run over to me and grabbed my hand, or leg and is walking along side me. Suddenly, all the fear and anxious thoughts dissipate, because this face is simply smiling up at me without a word, expectation, or fear. And just when I feel like I have given this sweet face my whole heart, another hand is tugging for me to pull them up and they all circle around. Suddenly, I’m in the middle of all these perfect and innocent faces that just want your attention long enough to know that I see them, I take a moment to soak in their presence, as they come alive. Their eyes no longer look sad, but more open and joyful than any child I have seen at home. For a moment I forget about their torn clothes and bruised bodies and all I see is beautiful.

And this vantage point is only from day one…

-Michelle Tuffree

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