I Can Only Imagine

I Can Only Imagine

November 19. 2019

It’s the end of the year and graduation time in Arusha, Tanzania, East Africa.

Our beautiful, boy Julius graduated from kindergarten yesterday. At just a few days old, Julius and his twin were brought to Neema after the death of their Maasai moher in childbirth.

Since he is the smartest one in his class (not bragging, just sayin’) he got to read a welcome and long introduction to three or four hundred people. He didn’t miss a beat. They have probably never had a kindergarten student do that, so he received a huge applause. A year ago he was reading at a two and half grade level. Can you even imagine how far this young man can go in life?

I do have to say that the whole kindergarten class quoted Matt 5: 1 – 10 .

Julius’s twin, Malikia pictured below, as most of you know is our little song bird at Neema and is in Blind school in Moshi. She will be coming home to Neema for Christmas break!! 

Amazingly Neema Village now has 22 children who will be in schools off campus in 2020,  

like Frankie and Ema pictured below. Thanks for the cool picture Vern Fernandes!

Our school on campus is a preschool and Ashley and Napendaella (her name means I love God) have done a fabulous job getting our kids, like Angel and Angelous, ready for primary school. Both are doing very well in their classes at Green Peace School. where Angel was top in her class. 

And our big girl Gloria, below, who was top of her class last year at Tumaini School. Gloria had been abandoned and lived at Neema for 4 years. She returned home to live with her Grandmother and now walks to school every day. Her grandmother is in our MAP program and by God’s Abundant Grace through MAP has started a small successful shop selling rice and beans, soap and cooking oil. She is able to keep Gloria at home now but she can’t afford school fees.

We would love to have a primary school at Neema Village but it is almost impossible to get a new school registered these days. The Tanzanian government wants all kids to go to government schools. Those schools are overcrowded, understaffed and provide little or no teaching aids for teachers. We visited a school that had about 100 kids in one classroom, no posters on the walls and 3 kids to a desk. There was a black board on the wall, but the teacher had no chalk, so he wrote on the board with his finger! Many Maasai kids without help will never get to go to school. Our little boy, Jackson with Neema’s help will be able to go to one of the top schools in his area.

Our children come to Neema as babies, like Joycie pictured below. Her father was too old to keep the little baby after the mother died in childbirth. We fall in love with these babies and want the best for them in life. So we send our kids to good private schools when possible.

Joycie went home to her grandparents farm (pictured below) and lives with her older brother and his wife in a mud hut. Joycie is also at the top of her class in school and by God’s Grace will someday be able to afford a nice home for her family.

Without electricity though you have to wonder how they can ever get their homework done!

As babies we can save their lives, we can teach them about God and we can feed and clothe them but if we don’t go on to give them an education, we have not helped them reach their full potential in life.  An uneducated man can love his family and take good care of his cows and goats but he will do little to change his society.  

Someday Shabani could change Africa! Yes, you can Shabani!

Below our kids, Bakari and Sophia, both are doing great in school. Sophia, in the wheel chair, was begging on the street and had never been to school. At fifteen we started her in first grade and in one year she was reading.

Amazingly we now have 22 kids who will be going to school in January! The average amount for school fees at our different schools is $700 per year per student and all the schools expect full payment in January for the coming year.

Cute little Joeli who will begin school in January is pictured below with volunteer Brooke.

Here is a full list of our 22 Neema Village children who will have school fees due in January.

Angel and Angelous, the twins

Malikia and Julius

Bakari

Zawadi

Jackson

Sharon

Shabani

Meshack

Joycie

The triplets, Anna, Esther and Deborah

Gloria

Riziki

Joeli

Memusi

Yacinta and Lucia (Franki’s triplet sisters)

Sophia

Franki

All of these children wil be living off campus in Foster care or have returned to a family member who cannot afford school fees.

If you have not been sponsoring a child to go to school in a developing country, you could make such a huge difference in their lives and in this beautiful country of Tanzania. We can only imagine what God will do with these precious children someday.

Bless you,

Dorris and Michael

Rescued by School Children

Rescued by School Children

November 4, 2019

One of my favorite babies at Neema Village in Arusha, Tanzania has been a tough little guy the nannies named Baraka.

He was found in the road by children on their way to school early one morning. We do not know how long he had been there. He was cold and crying when the children found him. One of the neighbors kept him for about a week hoping someone would come back for him. They finally called Social Welfare who picked him up and brought him to Neema.

This spunky, determined little guy would not let me help him up the rope climb and when he got to the top he was so proud of himself.  

Baraka has a new family now, his father is a doctor in Moshi and he will never be abandoned again. Praise God!

A year ago a beautiful but tiny little girl came to Neema from another Social Welfare department in the Arusha District.  Pictured below, her name is Namnyaki.

She was probably over two but was so little she looked like a one year old. She had been abandoned by her mother who left her with a neighbor. 

When the mother did not return the neighbor tried to take the child to her grandmother who said if you leave her with me I will kill her. So sad! Now this beautiful child has a new family. Her new mom is a nurse in Arusha. Once again what evil meant for death, God meant for life!

And finally, the twins pictured below, Mary and Mercy were adopted on Friday. Their mother had died in childbirth and the father was unknown. There were other relatives but none of them would take the little twins so they have been with us since their birth.

They are identical and when they were little the nannies put nail polish on one baby to tell them apart. I called them both MerMar when I could not tell them apart.

I loved this little picture of one of the twins praying.  

This makes 42 adoptions from Neema Village! It is what we pray for, good homes for our babies. No baby belongs in an orphanage has been our goal from the beginning, not that we are an orphanage. We are a rescue center.  

We could not do this work of saving babies in Tanzania East Africa without you and our all powerful, all knowing, all loving Father God.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay that the power might be from God and not from us.”

Dorris and Michael Fortson

Lets Do Some Dancing

Lets Do Some Dancing

October 23, 2019

There is a beauty to the dusty brown of the Maasai country. In this goat infested and over grazed land it is the people who display the vibrant color to the land. The Maasai love deep reds and blues and look like colorful birds walking through the dry thorn bush.

Recently Neema Village volunteers went with Hannah Patterson, our volunteer coordinator pictured above, to a Maasai village where our baby Neema Grace’s family lives. It was our first trip to this village. Below is Neema Grace. You know that Neema means Grace so she is really Grace Grace!

Below is what Neema Grace looked like when Bekah picked her up at the hospital. She is a year and half old now. She was born in the hospital in Arusha. Her mother had died in childbirth which is so common for these slender Maasai women. The father was unknown. Neema Grace was premature and very small about 2 lbs.  No one came to see the baby in the hospital for two months so Social Welfare called Neema Village to come pick her up.  

Now Neema Grace is a beautiful little girl and it was time for her to meet her family.  Her mother’s brother had been located and has been coming quite often to Neema Village to see her. He had arranged the long trip out to see the family. Neema Grace was a bit tired by the time they got to the village and fell asleep in her grandmother’s lap.

As the cars got near the village the women began running and trilling to meet the car.  They had never seen Neema Grace so were anxious to meet this little relative.

She got to meet the Bibi’s, (her grandmothers, most older Maasai men have multiple wives and they are all called Bibi) and she met her grandfather and all the cousins and children of the village.

Her Babu (Grandfather) is pictured below and other relatives from the village.

At dinner last night the volunteers talked about how hospitable the Maasai people are. They invited them into their homes even though they are very poor and have very little. The village looked desolate and uninhabitable from their pictures.

But we never fail to see that the Maasai are very happy, giving people. They sang and danced for the Wazungu and our volunteers sang a song for them led by Judy Pankow from Buena Vista, Colorado. Neema’s family had cooked a goat and bought soft drinks for the visitor’s lunch.  It is almost too precious to drink when you see how poor they are.

Dr. Vanisha Chaugh, a neurologist volunteering from the UK, got in a little dance with the Maasai women too.

At the end of the day the volunteers had to say goodbye to the cousins and all the family and make the long drive home. I suspect a good day was had by all!

Neema Grace’s uncle has agreed that we can put her in a good school in Arusha. She will be in boarding school and be able to come to Neema Village on school holidays and we will take her out to see her Maasai family again.    

So put on some bright colors today and do some dancing! It lifts the soul, just ask the Maasai.

Be Blessed,

Dorris and Michael

What Neema Village Does Best

What Neema Village Does Best

October 23, 2019

Six months ago this tiny baby was brought to Neema Village by Arusha Social Welfare. She was so small we were praying she would survive. Cain Langhoff, a volunteer teacher at Neema, was holding tiny Tessa for this photo.

Tessa’s mother was a young girl in school in Mwanza and her grandmother was paying her tuition. The mother was too young to take care of such a preemie baby and she was scared her grandmother would cut off her education if she found out. 

Social Welfare was called and agreed to help by letting Neema Village keep the baby until she was out of danger and had put on some weight. The mom was also able to finish her classes.

Yesterday the mother and her aunt came to pick up healthy little six month old Tessa. We don’t always have the perfect solution to what happens to these babies but prayerfully this one turned out okay. The mom’s aunt, pictured below with Tessa will be helping her raise Tessa.

Another baby left Neema yesterday, too

Four month old Ivan came to Neema Village in July, 2018. His mother had abandoned him in a field where the father was working but the father had no way to keep the baby.

When we recieve a baby Angel, our social worker, begins a plan on how they will return to their family if possible and if not can they be adopted. We are always happy when a grandmother or aunt steps in to take the baby. That is what happened for Ivan yesterday.

Ivan’s Auntie has agreed to keep him and Ivan seems quite comfortable with that. from looking at the picture below! 

We fall in love with these babies and it is hard to let them go.  It was another bittersweet day when these two flew the nest at Neema. But it is what Neema Village does best, putting families back together.

Just to remind you that we live in Africa, Vern Fernandes took this incredible photo of a daddy lion and baby, I call it “Family is always best!”

God knew what he was doing when He made a family and called it “Very Good”

Be Blessed,

Dorris and Michael

What A Day!

Neema Village Kids Help with VBS

October 14, 2019

What a day! As part of Neema’s spiritual outreach program seven of our volunteers and our big school kids from Neema Village in Arusha, Tanzania went out to help Emily Broadbent with a VBS for Shabani’s school.   Pictured below Shabani in the middle with our kids Elesha, Julius, Joshua and Nengai.

Neema bought juice boxes, apples and cookies for gift bags for the students and our kids had a lot of fun packing the bags to give out to the students at Shabani’s school. It is an extremely poor school with no government help so we take big bags of rice and beans when we go to visit.

Our Buena Vista, Colorado volunteers, Judy Pankow, Ron and Carol Flowers and Kim Meyers got in on the fun. Below Judy is helping our kids pack the bags with juice boxes and candy for the 39 students at the school.  

They took our bean bag toss game, parachute game with big smiley yellow balls and egg games all of which turned out to be a lot of fun for the kids.

Maeve Lee from South Carolina and Kim Meyers helped with the parachute game above. Emily taught the bible lesson and Ashley Berlin led the songs pictured below.

It was a good lesson on sharing for our big kids to hand out the gift bags to the students.  There were extra neighbor kids so our children did not get a bag but not a one fussed about that.

Below Elesha, Patricia and Joshua are pictured handing out the bags.

Shabani was one of our abandoned babies who went home to his grandmother a few years ago and we are helping with his schooling. His grandmother lives in a very poor village far away where the elephants from the game parks still come through and raid her corn.  The village school where Shabani had been going was closed by the government so all 39 of the village children had been brought in to a school in Arusha. Shabani and his friends were sleeping on the floor in a local church in order to go to the school.  (Pictured below Kim and Maria with Shabani.)

Shabani’s grandmother had told us that since Shabani had been raised Christian at Neema Village for the first four years of his life she would let him continue to be raised Christian. She changed his name from Shabani to Jackson, a Christian name. We are grateful for her decision, but it will be hard for us to not remember this sweet baby as Shabani.

If you remember baby Shabani was the impetus for us starting the MAP program. Six years ago when Michael received a call from the police that an abandoned baby had been found, he went out to find the young mother had been identified by the neighbors and she was being dragged off to jail wailing and crying.  Our hearts knew this young mother did not belong in jail and we needed to do something to help these moms who abandon their babies.

I think God often uses these kinds of stirring moments to get a job done that He wants done.

May we always listen to these God moments!

Dorris

Mom, Three Boys and a Cow

Mom, Three Boys and a Cow

September 28, 2019

 Two of our little guys, Peace Joy and Jackson who have been living at Neema Village, returned home this month.  Peace Joy was two years old in August and returned home to live with his grandmother.  

Peace’s mother died shortly after his birth and the grandmother made the long trip to town to see the little baby left alone in the hospital. She named him Peace Joy but was unable to care for the baby so Social Welfare contacted Neema Village.  After two years at Neema Village, Peace has wiggled his little smiley face into our hearts. We will miss PJ, but we know being in a home with a family is the best solution for him. Our motto from the beginning has been, “No baby belongs in an orphanage.”

A few weeks ago, Anna, our MAP director, had told us about a mom with three boys who had been abandoned by her husband and was ready to give up on life. Seven years ago, her husband had left home one day and never returned. They did not know if he was alive or dead.

She had been begging for work from neighbors, washing their clothes and working in the fields. She told us there were many nights that her three boys went to school and then to bed without having had any food for the day. They were all skinny when we met them. Eventually the family became homeless and one evening they came begging at the door of a kind lady who gave them a small room to sleep in. The boys had a foam mattress on the floor, but mom was sleeping on rags.  One of our volunteers went out the next day and bought her a mattress.  

Anna and Elidaima, the mom whose name means God Forever, decided a milk cow would be a good business for her and the boys. Yesterday we drove to Usa River to find a cow. Jack Pape, who knows cows, checked her out and pronounced her fit. Did you know cows do not have upper teeth, just the bottom! I didn’t know that.

We loaded the cow into a little white pickup and drove slowly back to town. The cow is six and a half months pregnant and giving 12 liters a day in milk from her last calf.  

We told Elidaima to give the boys 2 liters of milk to drink every day and sell 10 liters. At 1,400 shillings per liter it just might be a good business for her.

 Elidaima was so excited. It is always amazing to see what a little hope can do.

Last week, Linda, Karly and Anna drove out to interview another woman with four children who was trying to abandon her six weeks old baby.

Her husband had contracted AIDs but didn’t tell her, so she is now sick and worried that her newborn is sick as well. Her husband then left the family. She has been so depressed that she did not want to take the medicine which would probably mean a death sentence for her. 

Anna brought the mother and baby to Neema and our nannies have been taking good care of them. She is back on the medicine and now has a smile. We are hoping we can help her find a way to make a living for her 4 children. If we can stop just one mother from abandoning her baby, we will have been successful.

We can give out cows and sewing machines all day but the best thing we can give these women is hope for “Hope does not disappoint us.” 

Romans 15:13. “May the God of Hope fill you with all Joy and Peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with Hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

We hope you are overflowing today with Peace and Joy.

Dorris and Michael

It’s Not Far

It’s Not Far

September 12, 2019

We have learned in Africa that “it’s not far” is a relative term. If you are driving over dust pits that could swallow your car and dodging boulders and sharp rocks that could puncture a tire and crossing a bridge that was not made for cars then yes, it was far.
We took Jackson home yesterday.  What was supposed to be a short trip to Ngaramtoni just on the other side of Arusha turned out to be a long, harrowing trip into dry, desolate, thorn country.
We left Arusha and traveled all the way to Joshua’s village and up into the mountains on the far side of Mt. Meru. I thought we would break an axle or pop a tire on the sharp rocks. We kept asking the dad and granddad who were guiding us, “Are you sure cars travel this road?” When we came to a make shift bridge Kim’s comment was,” We’re done, nope not doing that.”  
With Granddad assuring her it could be done she decided to try it. She wanted everyone out of the cars while Emily directed the two cars across.
After what seemed like hours we arrived at Jackson’s new house where his new mom was waiting.
Kim is entering the house in the picture below.
Jackson’s dad had remarried after the death of his wife and was ready to take Jackson home. He had been talking with Angel our Social Worker and the Social Welfare Department and they finally decided it was time.
Jackson was shy about meeting his new mom.
He had been a big boy at Neema Village, telling everyone, I’m going home with my Dad. But about half way into the trip, while sitting on my lap he said, “Bibi Dorris, you’re staying with me, Ok?”  Stab my heart!
Just to tell you again how bad the road was when we finally arrived and stopped the car, the grandfather who had been riding with us said, “Let’s pray and thank God for our safe arrival.” This is the same grandfather who has three wives and 32 children and obviously like lollypops!
They had roasted a goat in appreciation of our keeping Jackson at Neema Village. We had to eat fast in order to make it back down the treacherous road before dark. Kim made quick work of that goat leg!
We had taken some new volunteers with us, Beth and Karly, (pictured above) with Emily and also Ashley and Hannah pictured below.
We were able to talk with his dad about schooling for Jackson. We told him Jackson is very smart and could be a doctor someday, but you must keep him in school.  Many Maasai boys spend their lives gaurding the family goats and never go to school. That is Napendaella, one of our teachers, talking with the Dad and Grandad about school.
Jackson cried when we left and so did we.
Jackson’s new home is a mud house as are most Maasai homes. We know the Maasai are on the whole happy people and a child who feels loved can certainly be happy in a mud hut. Social Welfare tells us you cannot keep a child from his family just because they are poor.
As Michael says we just have to trust God and do the next right thing!
But sometimes it is hard.
I love it that our babies go home with a song in their hearts. Click on the link below and see the cute video of Jackson singing, “Jesus Loves me This I Know.”
https://www.facebook.com/neemavillagearusha/videos/1377981982250587/

All Things New

All Things New!

August 29, 2019

When new babies come to Neema Village it is a happy time. Everyone crowds around to meet the new little one. Meet this precious, happy baby, Glory. She wasn’t too happy the first couple days!! Since January we have had 20 new babies come to Neema. Today there are 62 babies and our big kids living at Neema.
New baby time is also a sad time as we think about what the new little ones went through before they got to us. We only take babies 2 and under. Some of our abandoned babies have been left on the roadside, some in latrines, one in a hotel room, one in a taxi, a little newborn still with umbilical cord left in a gravel pit, another laid down by the river, one in the grass and one found by children on their way to school as he sat crying in the road.  I cry with you little Emanuel, pictured below.
It’s always sad as I think about what happened to them as they waited for someone to find them. Our newest little one (pictured above) was two weeks old when Social Welfare called and asked if we could pick up an abandoned baby at the hospital. The mother had died at the birth and for two weeks no one ever came for the baby. 
We named her Christina for some good friends in Wisconsin who lost their daughter this year. Out of the ashes God brings new possibilities. These little abandoned ones have a new life ahead of them through adoption. We have babies adopted by a surgeon in Dares Salem, a nurse in Arusha, a missionary family, an Italian solar salesman working in Arusha, a teacher and so many others which means exciting new beginnings for them. Adoptions are happy times too.
Glory, the happy baby pictured at the top, came to Neema Village because Social Welfare had been trying to catch a mentally handicap woman who had a 3-month-old baby who was living in extremely substandard conditions even for Africa.  See her home below. So sad. God help us.
It is sad but important that you see sometimes where some of our babies come from.
Little tiny preemie twins who weighed about 2 Kilos have also come to Neema Village recently. Their mom died in childbirth and they have no one who can keep them right now. They are getting big and smiley now and should be able to go home to their grandmother soon.
Aren’t they just adorably, doubly cute!!
Babies who lose their mothers in Africa have a slim chance of surviving especially in the Maasai villages where there is no clean water, sanitation, electricity or medical care.  Since we are a rescue center and not an orphanage, we are “standing in the gap” for these babies until their family can step in.  So far, a family member has stepped in for 56 of these little ones! 
I love it! Many of them come back regularly for visits. Sometimes they bring goats!
Our new van from Japan also arrived this month and non too soon since our old one was falling apart from the rough roads here. The new one is pretty cool and even has air conditioning. So far we have had no one help us buy the van so if you can help that would be great. The old van is in the picture below, but I guess you knew that! 
The new school building is going up and the steel beams for the rafters will go up this week
That is pretty exciting for Teachers Ashley Berlin, from Casper, Wyoming and Napendella, who will finally have an office. The money set aside for the school/church was given separately and does not come out of your baby care donations.
And the new green house is growing up all kinds of colorful things like tomatoes, corn, blackeye peas and yellow squash.  
Our new NGO (nonprofit) officially making us Neema Village instead of Neema House is still exciting news. Hopefully no more cross wires on money going to the wrong Neema House. If you ever sent money to Tennessee that was meant for us, you sent it to the wrong Neema House. Our Nonprofit office is located in Waco, Texas, P.O Box 21553 and zip 76702. 
Neema means Grace and God’s Grace makes All Things New! Every day we get to start out fresh and He wipes out all the bad and the ugly and He makes all things new! There is nothing like Grace!
May your life be filled with a new fresh Grace today!
Dorris at www.neemavillage.org

Hope This Is Enough

Hope This Is Enough

August 23, 2019

For the last few days Anna, our MAP (Mothers Against Poverty) director at Neema Village has been trying to find a young mother who was digging through trash at the dump to collect plastic bottles to sell. We found the place where the bags are brought and our daughter Kim was shocked at how big the bags were.

Anna finally found the young mother and today Mary Fernandes, Tammy and Denise Burns, Kim White and I went to her home to see how we could help.  Margaret is her name and she is holding her little boy in the photo below.

To have food for the family she has to dig through the dump and people’s trash cans to collect an enormous bag of dirty, plastic bottles every day and bring them to a processing plant, which sounds and looks like Dante’s Inferno! For the bag she receives 250 shillings or about .10 cents a bag!

We were shocked at the continual, horrifically grating, shrill of the grinding machine and appalled that women sit there all-day dumping dirt and other unmentionables out of the plastic bottles before sending them through to the “screeching demon ” bottle crusher.  It was simply horrifying and these women do this from sunup to sundown six days a week.  We never saw Margaret smile.
She and her baby live with grandma in a room with one bed. They were unsure of why we were there since they h ad not asked for us to come.  The other women at the dump had asked if there was a way to help this young mother and so we came. 
Margaret is somewhat mentally handicapped although she made it through 7th grade and I thought she looked more shell shocked than handicap. She never smiled while we sat and talked in their small one room home.  Grandma did all the talking while Margaret and the baby both licked a lollypop Tammy Burns had brought. I must tell you I have not been able to get the image of her eyes out of my head.
Margaret and her husband had lived in Tanga on the coast and after the baby was born, he beat her and kicked her out of the house, so she came home with her child to grandma in Arusha.  
Her little boy was sweet with eyes too big for his face, thin arms, big head and small body, a sure sign of malnutrition. He loved the lollypop, probably his first. His mother’s eyes were lifeless even with a lollypop. 
I guess hope had been ground out by the day to day grinding of the plastic bottles.  I cannot imagine how many endless, unbearable, days upon days it takes to beat the hope out of a young woman like this.  After getting all the information and saying a prayer with them we left in tears.
By God’s abundant grace we will set them up in a vegetable stand and add them to the Neema Village outreach program which will give them a little money for a few months until the vegetable business can take over. We talked about the vegetables she would sell and items like matches, soap and cooking.  Hopefully it will be enough.
We visited two moms today but the second one will have to wait for another blog. My heart cannot write another one just now.
Bless you dear ones and may you always have enough.
Dorris

Neema House in Arusha is No More

Neema House in Arusha is No More!

August 22, 2019

Did I get your attention with that? Sorry, but I hope so. We are excited and want everyone to know that we are no longer Neema House. Why, you might ask? Because there are other Neema Houses in East Africa with the same name and we have had people send money to one thinking they were sending to us!!  In the USA and in Tanzania we are now officially Neema Village Tanzania. With twelve buildings on the property we are truly a village.

Michael, Mama Musa and our attorneys have been working for months on the mountains of documents needed and the ever-changing government rules in order to make this name change official. But it is done, and we have the certificate that shows we are officially Neema Village Tanzania!

Little Noah, an abandoned baby, pictured below, was pretty happy when Bekah told him!

Over the last seven years Neema House Arusha has helped over 232 babies and 41 MAP moms (Mothers Again Poverty) giving them Hope and a future. We thank God that he has allowed us to be a part of this but we want you to know that Michael and I take no credit for this. Our names are not on any building. We know we are like “Jars of Clay” easily broken, here for a time and then gone.

11 Corinthians 4:7 “We have this treasure in jars of clay that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”

May God Bless each of you who have helped to make Neema Village Tanzania possible.

God is Indeed Good!

(Click on the really cute video below!)

uCXszRXcSCeijT4URd45dA

Giving Your Life to Make a Living

Giving Your Life to Make a Living

April 23, 2019

I was just walking into the office here at Neema Village this morning when I was told that the Village Counsel was begging for me to come with our tractor. There had been a cave in that had covered up some of the diggers of volcanic ash.

Now, let me tell you, we live in the shadow of Mt. Meru, the fifth tallest mountain in Africa, at almost 15,000 feet. Mt. Meru is a dormant volcano, but in eons past it was quite active, spewing volcanic ash over the whole country side. You can dig just five feet deep on our property before encountering the volcanic ash, which is called moram. It is valued for roadways and building projects. So, all around us, hundreds of men dig with shovels every day to make a living from the moram. The trucks hauling the moram make coming and going from Neema Village quite a challenge.

When I heard the news, I immediately called our shop manager, Baraka, and told him to fill the tractor with diesel, and that I would be coming to get it right away. I ran back upstairs to our apartment to change out of my sandals, which I normally wear, and put on some sturdy shoes, then I ran to the tractor barn and started “Roy” our little red tractor. I say little, but the tractor is actually a big 85 hp four wheel drive tractor with a front end loader. As quickly as possible, I drove to the site of the accident, accompanied by several of our workers. Approaching the site of the accident we saw hundreds of people walking to the same place, and as we got closer, there were also many motorcycles and vehicles. When we topped the hill and got our first view of the cave in, I was awestruck. It was huge, perhaps one hundred or one hundred-fifty feet wide. The people said that they thought there were two trucks buried, along with their digging crews. There were thousands of people there already, many using shovels to try and get to the buried men. Truthfully, in my 76 years of living, I have never seen anything like this. I was totally dumbstruck.

Our tractor was the first machine to get there, and we immediately started working to move big rocks and piles of moram. It was tough going on sloping ground, and one time, with a full bucket of moram, I felt the tractor start to tilt. It was a scary moment until I could lower the bucket and ease out. One of our workers, who is an experienced tractor driver, offered to take over, and I reluctantly allowed him to take my place. That, however, was a good decision. I thought that it would take days to remove all the rocks and moram. But soon, the cavalry arrived, as bigger front end loaders came streaming in, followed by giant backhoes. “Roy” the little red tractor was dwarfed by the bigger machines. Soon there were too many earth moving machines and it was so crowded that we backed away so that the bigger machines could do the work.

In the huge crowd that was there, were all the important officials of Arusha, including the Mayor, the Regional Commissioner, Members of Parliament, and the top Police official. They all shook my hand and thanked me for trying to help. I told them that I was from Neema Village, and we always want to help, and explained that we were also helping the babies of Tanzania.

By late afternoon, they had recovered one truck and three bodies, and they declared that was all. I hope they are right and that only three people lost their lives. As the rest of the cave-in is cleared away in coming days, we will find out. While we are thankful that it is only three, what sadness three families are going through today. We pray that God will give them comfort and peace.

In a country like Tanzania, where there is such poverty, men will do anything to make a living. Using a shovel to fill trucks with moram and earn less than $3 per day is all that some can do. As for the three who died today, they gave their lives to make a living. We pray that it will not happen again.

God bless,

Michael Fortson

A Baby On Her Lap

A Baby On He Lap

April 9, 2019

Our daughter, Kim White, has been at Neema Village for three months handling the volunteer coordinating and the bookkeeping.  We are so proud of the work she has done in the office, getting more procedures set up in Quickbooks for Priscilla, designing Excel spreadsheets to keep better records in the office, setting up shared folders so we can all see volunteer schedules, handling payday, balancing the books and she has not lost a single volunteer!

She has done an especially awesome job with volunteers; meeting new volunteers at the airport, arguing with the airport customs inspector for them, giving introduction tours to the work at Neema Village, (below greeting Caroline and Luna from Belgium) and

Taking volunteers to exchange money and to the market, getting nightly supper on the table, making sure everything works in the house, giving out keys, scheduling bed space, helping them plan safaris, giving them available opportunities to see the different areas of our work, checking on the sick ones, counseling the troubled ones and daily (sometimes hourly) answering the myriad of questions in emails before volunteers come to Africa like “Will I be safe?” or, “I want to come next week, is that ok?’ (we are now booking many of the busy months one year in advance!) or, “Can you pay my way so I can come hold the Babies?” or “Can I have my own private room? (FYI, we operate like summer camp!!) and “I can only eat …” Really??!  And she has handled it all without pay and with Grace and a whole lot of tact.  

All we could say as we watched her work was, “Wow!”

Her husband, Bruce the Saint, let her come for three months while he stayed home in Wisconsin to work.  Kim has paid her own way to come and live at Neema and is a volunteer herself just like the volunteers she serves.  She is also on the board of Directors of Neema Village. Kim and Bruce have two children both out of college now.  Below is Kim, Bekah, me and granddaughter Maria at one of the many breakfasts at the volunteer house.

Kim was three months old in 1965 when we first came to Africa. Growing up to the age of six in southern Tanzania as a missionary kid, she spoke perfect Swahili, helped skin animals for meat, played in a river with crocodiles (once),  had her diapers washed in a muddy river, named her cat “KLMNOP,” had a monkey bite her on the leg, had a leopard eat her dog, and camped in tents with lions walking around. It is always a wonder for us that our children survived!! Kim says we must have walked around in a God Bubble!

It looks like she is still doing wild and crazy stuff!

Africa is in her blood and Neema Village is in her heart. She dearly loves the babies and worked many days in the office with a baby on her lap. But the big kids are her favorites. 

Three months away from her husband and children has been a sacrifice for her and her family but she has done it with great love and commitment to God and her enduring love of the Neema babies. She left for America today. We will miss her beyond words! 

Jesus tells us, “Everyone who has left brothers, sisters or father, or mother, or children for my sake will receive a hundred times as much.”

Be Blessed a Hundred Times Dear Heart!

Proud Mom and Dad