Way More Good Than Bad

Way More Good Than Bad

July 11, 2021

Thursday we went out to see the triplet girls, Anna, Esther and Deborah who had lived at Neema for two years after their birth. We always love visiting our babies who have returned home especially this sweet family. Their original mud house is in the back and their newer cement house is in front.

Most of our babies go home to families that are able to send them to school, like one of our abandoned babies who was adopted by a surgeon in Dar. Unfortunately some of them need help going to school when they return home. Our second set of triplets, Anna, Esther and Deborah are a part of our outreach school kids program and Thursday we went out to see how they were doing in school.

Above, our beautiful triplet girls are looking at Neema’s business card which has their picture on it. If you have followed Neema you have probably seen this picture below. It is on all our business cards.

Three of these babies above came to Neema in July of 2012 a few hours after their birth. Their mother was close to death and the babies were very small so we brought all of them with the mother to Neema. Deborah weighed 1.13 kg when Michael went out to pick them up.

Now they are big school girls and Ashley and I along with a couple of volunteers had gone out to see how they were doing in school.

They are in a government school and their grades are not good. It was the only school available when they first went home but now there is a new English Medium school out in their area and we will to try to get them moved to the new school. Government schools are crowded and have very little equipment. Private schools are expensive but we want the girls to have a good education.

We had a great visit with the family and then the mother wanted the girls to sing for us. It was quite fun and lively as “Jesu ni Mwamba” filled the crowded room.

They brought out the drum (the blue bucket) and we all sang while a couple of our more energetic visitors danced in the back of the room. We had given their mother a sewing machine and she had made the girl’s skirts.

They live by a beautiful river but we had to cross this little stream below to get to the river first. It was about 2 feet deep and they were jumping across when Ashley fell in and was soaking wet. Thank Goodness they brought a board for the rest of us. Poli Sana Ashley!

The triplet girl’s mother, Elisifa, is such a gracious host and fixed us chicken and rice for lunch. I always love her name, it means God is Praised. We love this little family and want the girls to have a good education but they will not get it in the government school.

After we left the triplet girl’s house we stopped by to check on Gloria. Gloria was one of our favorite kids from the beginning of Neema. She had been brought to Neema as a baby almost starved to death. Now she is a big school girl. We had put her grandmother into our MAP program and set her up in a little Duka (shop), so that Gloria could return home. The shop seems to be doing very well.

Ashley looked at Gloria’s school work and we were a bit disappointed when the teachers told us Gloria was 19th in her class. She had been number one in class when we first put her in the school. They said grandmother had not bought her books and she had no exercise books for her homework. We give all our school families 200,000 TSH for uniforms and books so we will need to find out why grandmother did not buy them. I guess without books 19th was not bad.

Then we stopped in to check on Meshack and Ema who are in foster care with one of our MAP moms. She is doing great and Meshack is number one in class and Ema is number four. So proud of this mom and the boys.

We made one final visit on the way home to see a woman who has been keeping a disabled child for ten years. She is retired without an income which is common here and was needing help with diapers and milk for the child. We were quite touched by the years of dedication and love of this sweet woman for a child that was not even hers.

Volunteers Ylva and Billie Axell from Sweden decided to take on the support of this kind woman and Ashley is buying her a blender for preparing food for the child. The kindness of good people always astounds me! In case you have ever wondered there are way more good people in the world than bad!

We all know how important education is for the children of Africa, especially the girls. When you educate a girl you not only change her world you change ours! Thank you to all of you who support our school kids. You will probably never know the far reaching good you have done.

Blessings,

Dorris and Michael

If you are strong of heart and over 18 I will tell you a true story.

“I heard this story of a Maasai girl whose father told her she must be circumcised. If she didn’t he would be shamed in the village. Unbelievably she made a deal with her father. If he would let her stay in school she would agree to be circumcised. On the appointed day she walked into the cow pen with all the village looking on and a rusty razor blade was used to cut off all her female parts. The pain was unbearable and she fainted but two weeks later she was back in the classroom.” God help us.

If you want to help us educate these children please go to www.neemavillage.org.

His Plan Is Always Better

His Plan Is Always Better

June 25, 2021

We have been talking, planning, and dreaming for a few years about building birthing centers out in the remote areas of Tanzania to help save some of the moms who die in childbirth. We would staff it with medical grads, we thought, who would spend six months working in Africa before they settled down to a practice. It sounded good. Thankfully, God stepped in and had a better plan.

Instead, let’s bring them in for two weeks of training! Meet our first Maasai “Birthers.” Twelve Bibis (grandmothers) came in to learn new techniques on how to save mothers during childbirth. Kassie and I were close to tears as we realized they actually were coming in. For most of them this was their first trip to a big town; many of them had never seen a paved road, flush toilets, or water running in a sink; we know because Kassie had to turn it off the first day! And yet they came to spend two weeks with strangers, in a place they did not know, to learn how to save the mothers. Amazing.

Kassie loves to hold the Neema babies, so the seminar took away some of her baby holding time. Hopefully she can make it up. That is cutie pie little Venosa with her. Kassie had prepared two weeks of lessons with videos, since none of the birthers knew how to read or write. She started by just listening to them.

Each lesson had to be translated twice, from Kassie’s English, into KiSwahili by Mercy, a midwife, and then into KiMaasai by Juliette, one of our nannies. These three made quite a team!

We had planned all their meals starting with Chai at 8:30 every morning. We knew that Maasai do not eat game meat but we did not know they do not like chicken so we had to scramble to change some of our menus.

Classes started at 9am sharp or somewhere close to that! We had something fun, like drawing, for them to do each day. They didn’t like playdough!

I think I have seen some of these drawings on a cliff somewhere, haven’t you??

As the women began to open up and talk Kassie kept notes.

It would be hard to tell you all we learned from listening to them but one thing for sure, their customs run deep, are generational and will be hard to change

There was plenty of one on one visiting time, too

We learned to love these grandmothers, even though some of their customs were harsh to hear, left Kassie in tears and were unimaginable to think about. I couldn’t pronounce most of their names but I think this Bibi was Sweet Face.

In the mornings after Chai, we had a short Bible lesson. Kelle Samsill, Leslie Miller and Ashley Berlin did some beautiful lessons on God’s love and plan for His people. Ashley, in the middle below, is our wonderful teacher at Neema Village.

On Sunday the volunteers took the Bibis to a local Swahili church. They sang some Maasai songs and said a few words to the group. Maasai women always look dressed up because they wear so much beautiful, sparkly jewelry

One afternoon after classes I took them down to the barn to see our big Holstein milk cows. That may have been a mistake since most of the wars in this country have been fought over cows. Maasai believe God gave them all the cows on the earth and if you have a cow, they want it back.

They wanted to see how a sewing machine worked so Orupa came down one day to show them a machine.

Four of them proceeded to sew a bag.

Two weeks later on graduation day, they each got a certificate and a red Maasai Bible.

Our little granddaughter, Maria, a Maasai herself, got to hand out the Bibles. You must use two hands when giving and receiving to the Maasai.

Esther was our fabulous, after-hours director for the Bibis. She walked them everywhere, made sure they made it to class and meals on time and slept in the MAP houses with them. She lives in an orphanage down the street from Neema Village. Esther had run away from her village to keep from marrying an old man. Hiring Esther was one of the best things we did!

At graduation they each got a T-Shirt with the “Save the Mothers” Emblem on the back and “We love Mothers and We will Save Them” written in KiMaasai on the front.

I love the SAVE THE MOTHERS logo on the back.

During graduation they each had to tell one thing they had learned in their two weeks at Neema Village

Some of them said that they learned how to do a Shoulder Dystocia. Others learned how to safely deliver a breech birth.

Michael and I do not know how to do most of what we do here at Neema Village but one thing we have learned is that God’s plan is always better and we are never afraid to drop our plans to do His.

You deserve a medal if you made it to the end of this marathon blog!

Blessings,

Dorris and Michael

Bibis sing Ache IMG 4983

God’s Mercy and Grace

God’s Mercy and Grace

June 4, 2021

We were already down four drivers and needing to make a hospital run with a Neema baby when Anna, tears streaming down her face, walked up from the Mothering Center carrying a scrappy, dirty bundle of rags. Last week Hayley, our granddaughter and a couple of volunteers had gone out with Anna on a MAP run checking on a mom in trouble.

After the first MAP visit last week here is Anna’s report:

“Salma is 23 years old with two kids and we think pregnant. Abandoned by her mother when she was age one, she lived with her grandfather until marriage. After her husband left she moved back to live with her grandfather. She had never known her mother or father and then a few years ago her grandfather died and Salma was alone in the world. She started begging on the street and that is where she got pregnant again. She used to sleep with many men to get money to feed her kids. One day while begging she met Ema, our Neema Village driver. He knew she needed help and he gave her 10,000 TSH ( about $5) to get a pikipiki ride to Neema Village.”

Anna’s little bundle of rags this morning contained a perfect little baby girl with a slip of bloody rag tied to the umbilical cord.

Kelle Samsill describes this morning:

“Last night Salma was in labor so she fed her other 2 children and put them to bed. She knew that she would have to deliver this baby at home alone. The baby was born during the night. She cut the umbilical cord with a razor and tied it off with a piece of torn material. When it was light, she left her other 2 children and walked to Neema Village with her newborn baby. You see, she knew where to come for help. She knew where she could come and be loved and not judged. When she walked into the office carrying some material, we did not know what was was in it. As we opened it up, there lay the most perfect baby girl, still naked, sleeping peacefully. As we took her into our arms, we began to realize what was taking place. Anna and Dorris jumped into action. They took Salma to get cleaned up and to rest while the others of us held this sweet angel and sang to her and prayed over her.”

Nanny Glory giving the newborn a bath below.

Salma was worried about her other two young children, five and three, left at home alone so Michael took “Ole Bob” our big truck (Thank You Karen Harmon) and three volunteers with Anna to pick up the two children and the new bed and household items Neema had bought for her last week. She said people would come in and take everything.

And so the little family is reunited again and safe at Neema Village. She doesn’t know it yet but a new and different life is in store for this little mom. Mercy has come to her and Hope is on the way.

In her sweet, soft voice Salma tells Kelle the new baby’s name is Neema. Once again we cry.

With a few more tears we see our precious Dallas off to his new life this afternoon. An abandoned baby, Dallas is being adopted by one of the happiest couples we have ever seen pick up a baby from Neema. I wish I could show you their pictures as they laughed and played with happy little Dallas today but it is their story to tell now.

And so another day of God’s Mercy and Grace ends at Neema Village and these two old folks are ready for bed.

Love you guys,

Michael and Dorris

From Black Mamba to Graduation, What a Week!

From Black Mamba to Graduation, What A Week!

May 20, 2021

What a week! From seeing a black Mamba eat a chicken, a giraffe almost eating out of Kassie’s hand, to the MAP moms graduation, it has been an exciting past few days. Last Thursday our school kids, Frankie, Julius and Maria got to go to the snake farm, ride camels and tour a Maasai village.

Kids, you would want to stay as far away as possible from this snake! The black mamba struck so fast we missed it!

Just a little less dangerous, Kassie was ready to feed the giraffe on our trip out to visit with the village leaders about the Midwife classes starting this Sunday. We have never seen so many giraffe along the road and right outside the petrol station.

A new member of Parliament, Mr. Mrisho M. Gambo, came for a visit on Wednesday and brought gifts of food and a goat. A friend from our long ago Chimala days came with him; it was fun to get caught up on the family.

Tuesday was an amazing graduation day for our MAP Moms. The Computer classes, Sewing classes and Women’s Rights Program at Neema Village all had graduates this time. Women, who just a few months ago were so beaten down and abused they could hardly hold their heads up, now have hope through the Mothers Against Poverty program. Linnet and her baby, homeless and abandoned by her husband, now has a successful used clothing business and look at that smile of joy as she sings for us!

Margreth who was working at the dump picking up used water bottles took the computer classes and sewing classes at Neema. We are so happy for this young woman.

The sewing classes did a lively style show so we could see the beautiful dresses they each designed and made at the MAP Center.

Tausi was one of sixteen women who received sewing machines at graduation. Last year she had been abandoned by her husband because she had two Albino children. She was begging around a small village outside Arusha when an older woman let her stay with her. There were two adults and five children sleeping in a mud hut that was ready to fall down when we drove out to see if we could help. We cannot say thank you enough for those of you who donated sewing machines. I hope Tausi’s smile says Thank You to you.

After graduation, the women and village leaders walked up to the new MAP Houses. Over a year ago Kristi May came for a visit at Neema Village. We told her of our dream to build small apartment rooms for our MAP moms. When we bring a woman in who has been living on the street or in unsafe places we have been renting houses for them to stay while they rebuild their lives and start their MAP businesses. Kristi emailed later that she wanted to build the houses in memory of her husband Jeffrey Scott May. God’s people showing His love never cease to amaze us!!

Furnishings for the six apartments, beds, stoves, pots, pans, etc were given by another supporter of Neema Village. Purple and white bougainvillea will line the fence in front and there are dobi wash tubs, showers, toilets and a clothes line all across the back for the moms.

The MAP logo on the front was painted by a local artist at the Maasai Market. We chose the name The Mercy House because the women know we are all in great need of God’s Mercy. Rehema means Mercy in Swahili. Titus 3:5 “It was not because of our righteousness but because of His Mercy that He saved us.”

With ribbon cutting, hanging the plaque, cutting the cake, prayers and songs, the MAP houses were dedicated and are now open and ready for the next MAP moms.

Not to forget our babies, new little twins came to Neema last week, Isaya and Isaka. Their mom has HIV and is very depressed. Social Welfare decided she was not able to keep the babies. Hopefully she will be well enough to take the little guys home soon. In the meantime they will need sponsors.

So glad you made it to the bottom of this long blog!

Love you guys,

Dorris and Michael Fortson

Save The Mothers

Save The Mothers

May 9, 2021

I’ve tried to pick her face out in a crowd. We’ve sung with village girls like her many times, maybe she is one of them here. She was just 15, a few years short of hips wide enough to birth, when she had her first baby and died.

Frankie Village Girls Dancing IMG 7697

It is beyond sad, these young girls dancing their hearts out, never knowing that one in seven of them will most likely die in their teens having their first baby.

Baby Israel was born in January 2021 and his fifteen year old mother died three days later. The baby was brought in to Neema Village on Feb 5. At two weeks old he weighed 4.5 lbs or 2.05 kg. His head was terribly misshapen, it must have been a horrific birth, and he had a ringworm on his forehead. We are calling the baby Israel because we cannot pronounce his Maasai name, which is Ndorosi Ndiono Makarot.

He is looking better now in the picture below.

What happened you ask? Why do we lose so many young moms here?

I’m sure there are many reasons, lack of good medical care out in the remote villages, girls having babies too young, not enough healthy foods for pregnant women, the hard work of women carrying large loads of wood to cook the meals, carrying water long distances for the family and scarring from female circumcision. Scar tissue does not stretch like normal tissue. Maasai people are traditionally very tall, thin, narrow-hipped, beautiful people and they have learned over the years to try to have small babies. We learned at some of our Safe Birthing Seminars out in the villages that they stop eating the last month of pregnancy or they eat grass to vomit so they will have small babies.

The traditional “birthers” in a village are also the “cutters.” If a girl was not circumcised as a young girl between three to ten years old, when she has her first baby they will often circumcise her then. if we are going to do anything to help save these moms we have to work with the older women birthers.

We have decided it is time to stop asking “Why” and begin to ask “What.” What can we do to help save these mothers?

Isn’t it amazing, when the time is right God sends just the right person and in waltzes happy, giggly, energetic, extremely bright, talented, dedicated Kassie Stanfield, who is a certified CPA and left a good paying job in DC to come work free of charge at Neema Village. She also came with about 35 pages of lessons on Safe Birthing, some eye opening videos and an idea of training these “birthers” to become sort of “local midwives.” We have also hired an excellent midwife to teach the classes and she is already working on getting permission from the local government officials for the program. The midwife’s name is Mercy (teaching one of our birthing seminars below)

We plan to have our first Save the Mothers class at Neema the last of May. Twelve women from two Maasai villages will come for two weeks of intensive training and classes. They will stay in the new “Jeffery May MAP Houses.” The rooms are open , brightly painted and ready for moms!

It is going to be a big project, one that will save lives and if you want to help please let me know. We will schedule how many classes we have a year by how God moves people to help.

We are praying the “Save The Mothers” project will be a game changer for Africa’s moms. Please be praying for Kassie, Mercy and the women God will send for training. Also pray for our newest baby Sarah who weighs 1.25kg and still in the hospital with a feeding tube.

Have we told you lately that we think you are awesome!

dorris and michael at Neema Village

www.neemavillage.org

Who Will Cry For Me?

Who Will Cry For Me?

April 13, 2021

Michael and I have been back in our home in Africa a week and a half and it is time to get you caught up on the new babies who came in while we were gone. We are always anxious to get back to Neema Village to meet these new little ones.

Meet our new baby Hope. She is an abandoned baby and our nannies named her Hope, which we love since we have a granddaughter named Hope. Baby Hope was left at the hospital on March 8th. She weighed 4.6 lbs.

Little Hopie has been in the hospital for almost two weeks with pneumonia symptoms. While the babies are in the hospital our nannies take turns staying 24 hours a day with them. We take our own formula, clean water, clothes and often have to go to a pharmacy to buy the meds prescribed by the doctor. God is preparing just the right family to adopt this beautiful baby. Please remember you must live in Tanzania three years before you can adopt. Neither Neema Village nor Social Welfare receives money for adoptions.

Gideon #2, above, came to Neema in March. He is from the same family as our beloved gardener David Massawe who was killed in a car accident this year. The family realized the mother needed a blood transfusion after the birth and tried to get her to the hospital but they were too late and she passed away.

Gideon, above, is getting his first bath at Neema. Hopefully his family will be able to take him home when a family member is able to keep him. You may not know but Neema Village has reunified 84 babies back into their family unit. Many of them we still help through our Outreach program. Once a Neema baby, always a Neema baby!

Ibrahim #2 was born March 18th, his mom and dad had two girls and was so excited to have their first boy. Sadly later the father received a phone call that her blood pressure had fallen too low and she passed away.

Such a worried look little Ibrahim, above. Don’t worry sweet baby, Neema Village will take good care of you until you can go home to your father who loves you very much.

Ernest, above, was abandoned in a grave yard. The police were able to identify the mother through the hospital blanket. She had been afraid to let her parents know she was pregnant.

Once the police learned her story they decided not to take her to jail. Our hearts go out to these young girls. We have heard many of their stories from being kicked out and living on the street, to the threat of being stoned, they are too afraid to tell their parents. This family has come together now and they have been able to take baby Ernest home. Praise God another family saved!

Daudi, with his grandmother above, was born out in a Maasai village and only weighed 4.6 lbs. He was born in the same village as our first two babies, Franki and Meshack. His mom was 45 years old and had six children. When she began to hemorrhage they realized she was in trouble. They tried to get her in to the hospital but she died on the way.

Daudi is a beautiful baby now and hopefully he will be able to return to his village soon. We are hoping to do some training in safe birthing techniques out in this village.

Israel’s mom was fifteen years old when she had her first baby at home. In a Maasai village where there is little medical care, she simply bled to death. The baby only weighed 4.5 lbs. The nannies are calling him Israel because they cannot pronounce his Maasai name. He was in bad shape and had a ringworm on his head when he was brought in to Neema Village. I see such deep sadness in his eyes. It is a sadness beyond words.

After a few weeks at Neema, Israel is now a beautiful healthy baby. With God’s help he will have a beautiful life. But his mom’s short life is done. We lose so many Maasai moms in childbirth, I’ve heard it is like a major airplane crash happening every day but no one is reporting it, there is in no newspaper story, there are no marches to save the mothers, no banners, no t-shirts, no Oprah Winfrey. Who will cry for these moms?

Dorris and Michael Fortson

www.neemavillage.org

Rehema Means Mercy

Rehema Means Mercy

March 30, 20221

I just have to get you caught up on the story of the mom with the special needs child and the witch doctor.  Last blog I didn’t have pictures of her or her name. Rehema is her name and this is a story of Mercy.

If you remember after Rehema (in the yellow above) had the baby and they realized he was not going to be like other kids, the dad asked her to get rid of the baby. She said no. When she would not agree he brought his family in to ask for the baby. She found out they intended to kill him and again she said no. Survival of the fittest was practiced in the old days out in the villages. They would take a baby like this and put him outside the thorn bush fence for the hyenas. Rehema was holding tight to her baby and again she said no. We see this time and again with these moms of special needs babies that we work with here in Africa. They clutch them with a fierceness of “you’re not taking my baby.”

That is when the husband took her out to a witch doctor and abandoned her and Rehema became a prisoner/slave. She had no money and no way to get away. When she finally got a little money for a bus ticket she returned home to find her husband had married another woman and they would not let her in the house. She had lost everything.

Anna above going to see Rehema at her room.

Somehow, she rented a room but she couldn’t pay the rent and the landlord was ready to kick her out.  She had been praying, “God please help me.”

That is when Kim, Kassie and Anna went to see her. After listening to her story Kim told her, “At every step of the way, you made the right decision, the hard decisions, the choice for life and your family. God has heard you and now He will bless you. You have come in contact with His people. You’re going to be okay.”

Then they brought her to Neema Village and the MAP Center where our other moms were meeting and singing together. The MAP mom’s songs are not only loud and boisterous but healing and powerful. When Rehema joined in the singing Kim knew, yes this was the right decision. (Special Needs moms and nannies singing below)

Neema Village Special Needs Moms sing IMG 2273

Rehema has found friends and other moms with special needs babies. She will be starting her new MAP business soon and after talking with Kim and Anna her landlord has forgiven her debt and given her a place to set up her little store.   

God’s Mercy has struck again! And now you know the rest of the story

We will be praying God’s Mercy for you dear friends as you love and support these lion hearted women of Africa.

Michael and Dorris at Neema Village

A Good News Day at Neema Village

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A Good News Day at Neema Village

March 22, 2021

Don’t you just love to get Good News! Kim called this morning with her morning report from Neema Village. It was Thursday in Africa and the MAP moms were having their “Women’s Rights” class at the MAP Center when something happened that completely changed the day for Kim (pictured below with Dorcas).

A woman came in to the MAP center to ask for help. She was carrying a special needs baby, the family had no food, they could not pay their rent and were about to be evicted onto the street. 

This is not new, it is something we hear almost weekly at Neema Village now but the interesting thing was she had been to Neema a year ago looking for help. She had a husband then and did not fit our criteria, so we recommended that she take a three-month training course to learn how to care for her handicapped child.

But instead, the husband took her and the child to a witch doctor in a remote village. He left her there with the witch doctor. She had no money to get away and he kept adding to what she owed him for room and board so she now owed him a large sum of money and he would not let her leave. She had become a prisoner/slave.

Finally, after months of this she was able to get away and buy a bus ticket home.   When she got back to her home she saw that her husband had moved in another woman, the new wife had taken all her household items and stolen her children and they would not let her in the door.

She and her handicapped child were homeless, hungry and hopeless when they came to Neema Village. What happened next was the surprise.

Angel (pictured above with Zawadi who was returning home) and Anna, Olivia and Kim were visiting with the mom in the office when Kim finally said let’s tell her what we have been saying. That is Olivia below with abandoned baby Hope.

They had been talking in English in the meeting so the woman did not know what they were saying.  Finally Kim turned to her and said, “You have been accepted into the program, you are going to be ok, don’t be afraid, we are going to help you.”

When the mother heard that, she dropped to her knees, crawled across the room and began to kiss Kim’s feet and legs while crying profusely, thanking and blessing her. By the time it was over everyone was crying. Kim assured her that she had not done this, that God does all the good and we just get to help.

This makes us so happy, like Anna, below, singing her Happy Song which she always does after she sets a new women up in business.

Anna sings her happy song.

That evening at the volunteer house around the dinner table they were talking through the events of the day. We like to hear from our volunteers how God has worked in their lives that day at Neema.

Kim asked them, “What in your life could someone do for you that would make you drop to your knees and crawl across the floor and kiss someone’s feet to say thank you?”   Hmmmm, other than when we will all see Jesus, I could not think of a thing.  But I do know He will say the same thing to us, “You have been accepted, you are going to be okay. Don’t be Afraid.”

Surely it was a Good News day at Neema Village!

Michael and Dorris Fortson

A Scruffy Little Boy

A Scruffy Little Boy

February 17, 2021

It was late in the afternoon when Social Welfare called. “Can we bring a two-year-old boy to Neema? The little guy was found going from house to business in downtown Arusha asking for food.” They called him “a walker” but his name was Emanuel.

They told us Ema’s mother was a drunk and an addict, homeless, and sometimes slept in a cardboard box behind businesses. Ema was a scruffy little boy with scars on his face. When we took his clothes off for a bath, we saw other cuts and bruises. He had been living hard. And with a mouth full of teeth, he was way over two!

Neema Village does not take babies over age two but we said okay, for a few nights only, until you find a place that takes older children. For the next few days we watched this little boy run from one toy to the next, we saw him hide food in his pockets and climb any fence that got in his way and oh my goodness, we saw his smiles!  

This little boy has the brightest smiles. Beggar children always seem to have the best smiles. After a few weeks when Social Welfare did not return, we decided he was two and we would keep him. We have been in love with this tough-as-boot-leather, little boy ever since.

It is always our goal to get the babies back home by age two. With Ema it was beginning to be a challenge.  He can’t go back with his mother to live on the street. We have been out to his grandmother’s house a couple of times. 

We have seen poor before, this was really poor.

After visiting grandmother later we found she had moved into the goat shed and was sleeping there. There is no room for Ema with his grandmother.

Now for the happy ending, last year Neema Village took in a new MAP mom named Anetha. Anetha and her husband were leaders in the community and their church. Her husband had a good job and with two kids all seemed well, until the husband decided to take a second wife. Anetha would not agree so he kicked her out. She was destitute when she came to Neema Village for help. Kim and Anna, our MAP Director, went out to interview her.

Through MAP we set her up in a small shop selling vegetables, salt, sugar etc. We also learned she was a great seamstress so we gave her a sewing machine. She is doing well and is fostering Meshack, one of our older Neema boys. 

Meshack is one of Michael’s favorite little guys since he had picked Meshack up at a Maasai village eight years ago after his mom died in childbirth. Grandmother had been feeding the baby raw cows milk and Meshack was close to death. Meshack is Frankie’s half-brother from his dad’s number two wife. 

A few weeks ago, we had one of those Aha moments. Let’s see if Anetha will keep Ema, too! We were so happy when she said she would keep him. Anetha is a very calm mom, just what Ema needs, I think.  Their MAP home is just a few blocks away from a really good English school, Tumaini, in Usa River. 

We think Meshack will be a good influence on Ema too. At Neema Village devotionals Meshack says the sweetest prayers.

In January, Ema went to live with Meshack and Anetha and started school at Tumaini. Angel tells us he has already been in one fight at school.  Maybe for this scruffy little boy one is not bad!

Many of you have asked when the babies go home do we check on them. Yes we do! Yesterday Ashley got to visit Ema and check his school work while Kim and Debbie got to see Ema’s new home and bed.

It is pretty special for us when our work with the babies connects with our work with MAP moms. We like that.

Please pray this plan works. God always has good plans, we just want to make sure ours fits His!

“I know the plans I have for you… plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11. With a good education the future for these two boys looks bright.

Thank you to those of you who make this happen.

Being about the Father’s Business at Neema Village,

Dorris and Michael.

God Is Still Good

God Is Still Good

February 3, 2021

With a new baby just six weeks old, David had dinner and was planning the trip tomorrow to bring his wife and baby home from Moshi. He must have been excited as he crossed the road at the crosswalk heading home after a long day’s work at Neema Village. That was where David Masawe was hit by two dala dalas and life here was done, all plans were cancelled and this chapter of his life was closed.

To those of you who do not do Facebook and have been to Neema, we knew you would want to know. David was killed January 30, 2021.

David was in charge of “beauty” at Neema Village. He planted all the flowers, kept the grass cut and trimmed all those hedges he had planted to keep the soil on Neema’s hillside from sliding down the mountain.

So many of you have asked if we will be helping David’s young wife and family. Our daughter, Kim, has visited with her and assured her that Neema Village will continue David’s salary for six months. The baby will be 8 months old then and we can give her a job at Neema or set her up in a MAP business. We have also had one friend offer to send the two children to school so they will be added to our list of Neema children going to school.

At the bottom of the garden there is a spot where there are no flowers or hedges, because David kept reminding me that we planned to put a Gazebo there. Volunteers come to Neema to help with the babies and they live in the volunteer house sometimes with 15 or 20 other volunteers. It can get crowded. We talked about a Gazebo where volunteers could get away from the crowd and have quiet time with God. When we return to Neema the “David Masawe Place of Rest” Gazebo will be constructed at the foot of the hill in his memory. I think he will like that.

I pulled David from his garden work more than I should have when we needed a driver to go with Anna to help the MAP moms. He never once said, I am too busy. Some of those trips were scary and dangerous. It was always good to have this strong, young man with us. What made it fun was David loved to sing about Jesus as he drove. I can hear him singing, “We are walking in the light of God” as we drove, and then laugh as he changed the words to “We are driving in the light of God!”.

Kim called this morning to tell us about the funeral. There were 300 to 400 people present. Neema took four buses full of friends, co-workers and MAP moms from Arusha. Kim read the sermon Michael had emailed, David’s minister talked and then Neema Village fed all of the people. David was laid to rest in a banana grove at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I know he would like that.

But life must go on; there are babies wanting their bottles and needing their diapers changed, like our Little Mighty Warrior, Gideon, above. He is at 2 kg now!

Amidst such great loss, life is still worth living and God is still Good indeed.

We love you guys,

Dorris and Michael

Please remember that if you want your donation tax deductible in the U.S. you cannot specify a person. The funeral expenses and help for David’s family and school for the children will all come out of general funds.

The A&M Students Visit A Maasai Village in Africa

The A&M Students Visit A Maasai Village in Africa

January 8, 2021

“I’ve Lost my heart to these beautiful people,” one of them told me when a visit to the grandmothers turned into an event that fifteen young people volunteering in Africa will never forget.

Yesterday we took Memusi and Nengai out to their Maasai family villages for a visit. The girls are home for Christmas break from boarding school and we always try to get them out to see their grandmothers.  We have had these two girls since their moms died in childbirth. Memusi wears glasses now.

Nengai’s father welcomed us into the first village.

Nengai was a bit scared, well a lot scared actually, and cried every time someone from the village tried to pick her up. We kept assuring her that we were not leaving her.  She got to hand out candy to her cousins and that helped some.

The Aggies for Christ group from A & M University in Texas brought beads for making bracelets, which turned into a great time for making friends. 

Big sisters helping little sisters make a bracelet was fun to watch. Some of the older folks, experts at bead making themselves, got in on the fun too.

In a song trade, the Aggies sang fun songs for the village kids and then the village kids sang their Maasai songs for the Aggies. 

After taking poloroid pictures to leave with them, we traveled on down the road to Memusi’s village.  This gracious woman invited us in and we soon realized she was preparing tea for all of us. 

“Guys, you will pray and drink this tea,” I said. They didn’t know if it was made with goat’s milk or cow’s milk, if it had been boiled, or if the cup had been cleaned with sterile water?   

 But we were determined not to offend and the students were troopers and drank their tea, everyone.  As Grandmother tried to cram more of the students into the tiny room of her hut, we were humbled as she shared cup after cup of the precious tea and sugar with us.

After tea I visited with the elders and grandmother about Memusi’s future schooling while the students sang outside.

Then we had a surprise when one of our former babies, little Zawadi, walked over from her village with her mom and dad.  Zawadi is doing great, and is ready to start to school. 

We are so grateful to God that she has survived and is happy and seems well adjusted.  Zawadi came to Neema after her birth when her mother,who had not been expected to live, could not feed the baby due to advanced breast cancer.  

Mom did survive and had another baby, after treatment with the local traditional medicine man, who, if you remember from previous blogs, is also Memusi’s grandfather.  

There were some fun things to see on the way home, like this rare long metal Maasai spear which was used in the old days to kill a lion single handedly. Miles has a way of talking people into letting him handle their weapons!

On the way home we caught this young boy with his homemade motorcycle which he seemed quite proud of.

A great day was had by all and we arrived back at Neema in time for dinner.

You might ask what good does short term missions like this do? You hand out sticky candy, you sing a few songs, you drink tea, you make a bracelet, and then you go home.

Michael came on a short-term mission trip to Africa in 1963. It changed the direction of his life and mine and the lives of our four children and our nine grandchildren and the three hundred plus babies God has placed in our care. And I think it has changed the lives of these 13 young people serving at Neema Village today.

If you helped send these young people to Africa, Bless you! You may never know what comes from this but God has a plan and it’s a good one! I’m sure of it.

Heri Ya Mwaka Mpya! Happy New Year, Everyone!

Michael and Dorris Fortson at Neema Village

Where Have All The Babies Gone?

Where Have All The Babies Gone?

December 31, 2020

It is always encouraging to see the totals for the year at Neema Village in Arusha Tanzania. Due to your generosity, in the midst of a world pandemic, our doors have remained open to receive babies who have been abandoned, like baby Dallas below,

or orphaned like Ruwayda below with Bekah,

or at risk babies, like Phillip who was almost starved and near death when he was brought to Neema Village. Look at this little cutie pie now and below that when he came in. Amazing, yes, it is the same baby!

By the end of December 2020, twenty-four babies have been admitted to Neema Village this year and Twenty-Six babies have been adopted or reunified with a family member, like baby Dorcas who came back for the Christmas celebration last week when Kassie Stanfield got a big hug! 

Our highest number of babies in house for one month in 2020 was 52 and as of today there are 43 babies living at Neema Village. We have you to thank for that as you help us “Stand in the Gap” for these precious little ones.  In eight and half year’s operation through in-house care and off campus support Neema Village has supported over 300 babies! Our God is not only Good, He is Big!

On our Christmas Celebration day last week some of our kids came back to Neema for a visit. It was quite a day especially when the five babies who are on our business cards came in and we took their picture in the same order they were in for the original picture. Elliott, the little boy in the picture above, was abandoned at the hospital and weighed only 1.65 kg, Zawadi on the right was abandoned at the bus station. The triplet girls were so tiny and the mother so near death that we brought all of them and the mother to Neema. All five were adopted or returned home by age two.

We cannot even describe to you how it makes us feel seeing all these beautiful children who lived at Neema as babies and then were adopted or reunified with family. Even Michael teared up once or twice that day.

Our goal has always been to get them back into a family. This year was a good year.  I lost almost my whole two-year-old bible class!

Shabani came back for a visit with his teacher/preacher last week. Shabani was one of our abandoned babies five years ago. After leaving him on the road, his young mom was found and taken off to jail and she became the impetus for our women’s program. But that is not the end of this incredible story. Stay with me!

Shabani went home with his grandmother at age four to a remote village where the elephants still occasionally came through and destroyed her corn field. She was very poor but loved Shabani and sent him to a little Christian village school.

Even though Grandmother was not a Christian she said Shabani could be raised Christian since he had started Christian at Neema Village and she changed his name to Jackson, a Christian name. This year Grandmother became a Christian.

Jackson’s teacher told us that Jackson called his grandmother from school and told her that now you must have a Christian name too and he named his grandmother Neema, which as you know means Grace.

If you have been following the story of Gideon, our little Mighty Warrior baby, here he is a couple of days ago. From 800 grams when he came to Neema to 1.69 kg, he is growing big and beautiful!

So you ask, Where have all the babies gone? Some have been adopted, some returned to grandmothers, some in Foster homes, some in boarding schools but each one left Neema Village with a song in their hearts, “Jesus Loves me This I know.”

He loves you too!

Michael and Dorris