“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This Maya Angelou quote is something I heard early in my career working with long-term care and memory care residents that continues to touch my heart. Many of my residents do not remember the activities or special programs that I provide to help enhance their quality of life, but they do remember how they made them feel: happy, joyful, reflective, peaceful, calm, etc.
It was with that understanding in mind that I spent 2 1/2 weeks in September in Zambia, a country landlocked at the crossroads of central, southern, and east Africa. The trip was possible thanks in part to Diakon’s Love of Our Neighbor Fund. With its support, I benefited from five extra vacation days and a 10-day stipend.
Diakon maintains the Love of The Neighbor fund, which provides additional paid “vacation” for staff members, who apply to the fund to help cover their service-related activities. The fund is one more way Diakon has impact beyond its direct care and service.
I was in the Baltic region in June on a humanitarian-focused mission project, during the summer solstice in both Lithuania and Latvia. Our mission group’s work is with orphanages, appropriate given Diakon’s history dating to two children’s homes in the 1800s.
(Part 1 of this story is posted here)
As I boarded the flight to Tanzania and an orphanage there, I knew all of us—three representatives of Diakon Youth Services—were eager and excited to experience a part of the world new to us, while also—in some small way—helping children in need, just as we do daily in our work within Diakon.
The experience was one we will never forget—one we continue to process.
As I write this, wrapped in a Massai blanket successfully bartered for at the market yesterday in Mto wa Mbu, I am drinking strong Tanzanian coffee and listening to the early-morning chirping of birds outside the window mixed with the soft sounds of a light rain.
As the sun continues to rise, the darkness of night giving way to a pallet of natural colors that seem to be unique to this particular part of the world, I can’t help but be awestruck and humbled by the many ways I have experienced God’s global church the last 30 days.
As often occurs when we truly sit back and ponder the meaning of God’s love, grace, and mercy in our lives, words are hard to come by and experiences difficult to capture and convey in a way that truly reveres our Father. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to share.
Earlier this year, participants and staff of the Flight Program had the opportunity to participate in a Haiti mission trip. They took care of the needs of orphanage children and spent time playing, coloring, writing letters to sponsors, opening gifts, making bracelets and assisting the nursing staff with the kids’ annual physicals. They stayed very busy in the hot, muggy weather! Along with working with the children, Flight participants had the opportunity to work alongside other missions team members in a variety of ways. They assisted the nurses, worked with the builders and even went door-to-door in a tent city to hand out supplies and pray with families. The Flight participants were moved outside of their comfort zones and, through that process, learned a lot about themselves. They learned how strong, resilient and capable they are. They left a lasting effect on Haiti and with the kids of the orphanages, and Haiti left a lasting impact on all of them. One of the participants shared about his experience:
Between Dec. 28 and Jan. 4, several of us from the Diakon Flight Program, including students, took part in another trip to Haiti to assist with orphanages there. Here are some of my reflections upon returning from our trip.