As a friend and fellow missionary so aptly described, an African missionary is very much like a sponge.
People ask for things all the time: church members who are sick, pastors who want to start another building project, friends or strangers who can't afford school fees, beggars in wheel chairs, street kids who plaster their face up to the window of your car as you're sitting at a stop light, fruit ladies who plead with you to help them out by buying a little fruit.
Sometimes I feel like I give and give and give all day long. And other times when I say no, I feel the constant nagging of guilt, guilt, guilt. The sponge of my emotions is constantly getting squeezed out till I have nothing left, and out of desperation I close the door and turn the phone off and try to recover.
But then something really bad happens like having a mirror stolen. Now I'm the one in need. And I get the hidden blessing of seeing who my real friends are.
Tito is a mid 40's Tanzanian who sells African souvenirs. His is a mobile shop: 2 boxes strapped to a bike, and he knows most all of the foreigners living in Mwanza. Go to the Uturn for a little grocery shopping in Mwanza and you'll meet Tito. Bald, rather intense... hoping for a chance to show you some new soapstone candlestick he's selling.
The day my mirror got stolen, Tito came up to my car as normal to greet me and see if I was in the mood for shopping. He noticed the mirror was gone and acted so shocked and sorry for me.... (like all my Tanzanians friends did.) But then I saw him a few days later. More then just feeling bad for me... Tito had spent all the previous day searching the repair shops of Mwanza for the best price for a replacement mirror. He showed me a phone # and said he was ready to take me there whenever I was ready! The next day we headed to a random car shop (on the side of the road). I pulled up. Tito got out, talked with a guy. In 5 minutes a new window had been popped in place! (And with Tito standing there I didn't have to endure even one rude comment, though surrounded by a bunch of rather rough looking men!)
Later I learned Tito was not the only friend in this story. My neighbor/ landlord, Tim Jarvis, was the initial mastermind. He had sent Tito on the task. If Tito could find a reasonable priced mirror he was to buy it and bring it to Tim who wanted to surprise me by popping it in without me knowing.
Whoooosh... Hear that? That's the sound of an emotional sponge all filled up again! :-)
Not only did I get the new window, I got it "engraved." For $6 a guy scratched my license plate number into both side mirrors... helps to discourage thieves.