Daphne still couldn’t believe she was on a missionary trip to Africa. She felt no calling to be a missionary, but her pastor had coerced her into coming along. Now, here she stood at the baggage pickup silently fuming as it became apparent that her luggage had not made it on to the flight.
As the group got into the rusty old van that would take them to a remote village, Daphne thought miserably about what a long three weeks this was going to be.
On their first morning in the village, the missionaries visited the homes to access the most pressing needs, and Daphne had her first encountered with Mama Mae.
The minister had told Daphne that the ancient woman was the village matriarch who had learned English from a missionary family who had lived there until the government ran them out.
Mama Mae looked disapprovingly at Daphne and mumbled, “Just a child,” shaking her head as she limped out. Daphne concluded then and there, that matriarch or not, she was just a mean old lady.
Walking to the supply truck a few days later, Daphne noticed Mama Mae sitting under a tree holding her foot. Remembering her limp, and feeling guilty about her less than kind thoughts towards the woman, Daphne walked cautiously toward her. “What’s wrong with your foot?” she asked as she squatted down.
Mama Mae looked surprised, but without saying a word, she showed Daphne the festered, ugly, sore on the bottom of her foot. Daphne felt sick as she took her arm and helped her to her feet. As Daphne picked up the tattered shoe lying beside the tree, she noticed the huge hole in the bottom of the shoe from far too many years of wear. The hole had allowed the heat, rocks, and dirt to wear the sore into the poor old woman’s foot.
Daphne left her at the clinic tent with her shoe in her lap and Dr. Frank at her side as she went back out to get the supplies. When she returned, Dr. Frank asked her, “How did you ever get Mama Mae to come to the clinic? We have tried for years to just give her a check up and she always refuses.”
Surprised, Daphne answered, “I just helped her in,”
“God certainly works in mysterious ways,” Dr Frank mused aloud. “Well, anyway, it’s a good thing, because in a few more weeks the infection would have been so bad her foot would need to be amputated; and since there will be no more doctors back here for months, she probably would have just died from the infection.”
Daphne could not shake the doctor’s words from her mind even as the missionaries were saying their goodbyes two weeks later. She felt helpless in the face of the huge needs here. She was deep in thought when the minister walked up carrying, of all things, her luggage! “Your luggage finally arrived this morning,” he said, handing it to her with and impish smile. As much as Daphne loved her minister’s wry humor; at this moment she truly wanted to smack him. What did she need luggage for now?
Looking around at the group of people who had gathered to see them off, a thought took form. What indeed did she need the luggage for? Digging in her suitcase, Daphne began to hand her dresses to the ecstatic village women, and her toiletries to the children who giggle with delight.
Then, there at the bottom of the suitcase, were the expensive shoes she had bought for the trip. The salesman had assured her that they were tough enough leather to withstand the heat, rocks and varmints in African. Daphne felt as if she had just received a gift!
She picked up the shoes and walked timidly up to Mama Mae who stood at the back of the group. Daphne cautiously reached out to hand her the shoes. The old woman looked into Daphne’s eyes, and miracle of miracles, she smiled and took the shoes. She wrapped her arms around Daphne and whispered “just a child, but a good child”. That hug and smile would remain with Daphne for the rest of her life.
Even now, as Daphne sat in her old cane chair; a tired, but very happy old woman in a tiny village in Africa, watching the children play while she unpacked a box of donated shoes and rubbed her aching feet, she thought of Mama Mae and smiled.
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