April 10, 2015

Stranger Danger

Growing up I was well aware of 'stranger danger'.  You know: don't take candy from strangers, don't get into a car with strangers, don't talk to strangers.
Now a'days stranger danger takes on a whole new meaning with the word wide web.  When I get email from someone I don't recognize it almost always gets deleted immediately.  When someone asks to be my friend, or sends me a message on Facebook, I always check their profile and our mutual friends first.  If there are no mutual friends I'm especially careful about accepting friend requests, and 99% of the time I don't.
On Wednesday we drove an hour to the Kilimanjaro International Airport to hug a lady & her husband passing through from California.  I'd never met her before in my life, but her hug was the warmest, most sincere hug I'd never expected to experience.

Last month I had a friend request from two people I had no mutual friends with.  The profile of the first person was basic- pictures of herself plastered all over the page, lots of selfies, and no pictures of anyone else.  Denied.
The second request's profile was filled with pictures of kids & family.  I figured it was safe, so I accepted.
And that's how it all began.
A day or two later that second request messaged me.

Hi Amanda, I am the one who is coming to Tanzania next month. We will be landing in Kilimanjaro Airport April 8 at 9:30 am, leaving immediately for the Serengeti. If there is anything you would really love to have, maybe I could bring it to you and we could do a quick hand-off? Let me know!

Um.  Hm.  Surely this is legit.  Surely this isn't some Prince-of-Arabia-long-lost-inheritance-scam.  The name from the messenger all of a sudden rang a bell in my head - I'd seen it on a comment on one of my blogs!  I searched my blog for her name.... no where to be found.  Befuddled, I sat and thought a minute.  WAIT! It wasn't on my blog, it was on the Djibouti Jones blog that I guest posted on!!  Sure enough, when I went back to the post, there it was.  I had responded to her original comment, but I didn't have notifications set up so I didn't even see the follow up until now! 

Amanda, we are actually flying into the Kiliminjaro airport, which is Moshi I assume? We will be immediately picked up to begin a few days safari before we start our work, so probably wouldn’t have time to connect, too bad!!
I wrote a couple of weeks ago in this flaneuring series, mine is quite different from yours! But we lived in Singapore when our children were young, so I understand some of what you’ve gone through, though on a different continent.

Ok.  This makes things come together a lot more. Wow.  Is this for real?  Some stranger that just happened to find me in the blogosphere is passing through Moshi and wants to bring us something?!  How does that even happen?!!?  
Only God.

Over the next few days we chatted back and forth on FB Messenger.  I asked her how much space she had so I could decide which item I wanted to get off our wish list and she replied that I should just send her my wish list and she could let me know how much of it she could fit.  So I put together a list of about 15 things - mostly homeopathic meds & vitamins for Owen, spices and contact solution.  After the miscarriage in December we realized (with no furlough date in sight) that we'd be running out of things real soon with no way to replenish them.  We were supposed to have a team coming this summer but they backed out, so we had no idea where or how we were going to get these necessities. 
Only God.

After she looked through the wish list she replied:
Amanda, this looks totally doable! Basically we are not using our whole baggage allowance, so can check a bag of things just for you. We will leave the bag with you to use or pass on. So order whatever you think will fit into one regular size suitcase, 50 lb. You may want to order several bottles of the cold meds, etc. I am very happy to be able to do this for you, and feel that the Lord has brought this together!

I was completely and utterly speechless.  I may have cried. 
I told a couple of my close friends back in Charlotte and they rejoiced with us... reservedly though.  "Is she for real?  Do you think it's a scam?" they would say. My thoughts - no.  I don't think it's a scam.  Why would a lady that has a family, is coming to Tanzania for missions work and has previously been a full-time missionary want to keep a bunch of kids meds and kitchen stuff I'm shipping to her from Amazon?  I just felt a peace about it.  I felt like it was Gods way of providing in an area we had been praying for.  Just in a completely unexpected way!
Only God. 
In the meantime the lady and I continued chatting - she messaged me one day asking if I was interested in essential oils.  (ohmygoodness yes!) She said she'd throw in a few bottles of those as well, she had been given a small set but hadn't gotten around to using them. She also said she had some extra skirts (always good to have those here) that she'd put in the suitcase.
Only God.
Then she asked if there was anything special we wanted, a favorite candy or something. I told her we'd love some but it wasn't necessary, and that the chocolate would probably melt anyway.  I said we usually stick to things like M&M's because it's no fun eating a melted, smooshed Twix bar. :)

And then.  
A couple of our close friends in Charlotte ended up pitching in and purchasing almost our entire Amazon wish list.  The handful of things they didn't purchase was only because the items were going to slow down the shipping and we had a tight window to fit in.  So my friend asked if we could ask the lady bringing us the stuff if she was able to grab the items from the local store and throw 'em in.  
I asked if she could grab the items and I'd Paypal her the balance, and she replied quickly, agreeing, since she was out and about shopping a lot to get ready for the trip anyway.  I sent her a list of the items and asked for her to add any clearance Easter candy that looked good to our tab as well :)

A couple days later she sent me a picture of all the stuff that had arrived from Amazon, so I could check that it was all there - and it was!  I thanked her profusely and she replied with this:

BTW, the few items I got for you are part of our blessing gift to you.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.
Not only is she offering to bring us 50lbs worth of meds, kitchen supplies and contact solution for free; not only is she 'throwing in' a small kit of essential oils and a some skirts; not only is she getting items from the store from us - but she's not even letting us PAY.  
I've never felt so... thankful, grateful, speechless, humbled... you name it.
Only God.

So on Wednesday, we got to meet these sweet, generous people.  And give them hugs.  Big, squeez-ey hugs.
I ended up looking up her daughter and messaging her - asking what I could get to show appreciation.  I knew they had been to Tanzania once before, so I wanted to be sure and get something that would be useful to her.  Her daughter said a tablet case would be a good pick, so I grabbed one from town, Owen & I each made her a thank you card and tucked them inside.  Owen was very excited to give her the case and his card and gave her a big hug and 'thank you'.  He was super excited to get more cough medicine, vitamins and chest rub (and I'm not being sarcastic, he really was!) 

Even as I write this I'm getting all emotional.  The way that God takes care of us - even in the things that we think are small or inconsequential - it never ceases to amaze me.  The thought of how this all came together and fell into place can only point to God.  To our big. Awesome. Loving. Father.  A Father who cares about everything from saving souls to missionaries having a full set of measuring cups in their kitchen.