A pack of hyenas attacked the man at the watering hole. They savagely ripped off his ears, broke his arm in three places and broke his leg. They mangled his face, shattering his jaw and shredding his mouth. He fought them off and survived.

He then walked three days thru the African bush to the hospital in Singida. He couldn’t eat or drink because his face was so badly mangled. He staggered into the hospital oozing with infection. The doctors saved his life.

Those on this Medical Missions Trip to Tanzania will quickly admit how deeply they admire the toughness of the people.  In a place where transportation is often by foot, ox-cart, bus, or bicycle, an ambulance ride to an emergency room is as foreign to some Africans as an icestorm. Sick people visiting these doctors will sometimes walk for days and wait for days.  I get impatient when I have to wait at my doctor’s office over fifteen minutes.

Dr. Stephen Elliot of Des Moines says, “You read about the concept of the survival of the fittest here, but here you see it in action. They learn at a young age you have to be incredibly tough to live.”

People who live in extreme poverty-as many of these do- have many virtues I admire, one of which is their toughness.  I’m not sure how I’d act if I lived in a mud hut without electricity and the only water I had was swimming with parasites. I wonder how I’d change if each day my sole focus was to find food for my family.

I walked through the 2nd biggest slum in the world in Kibera, Kenya, where millions cram under rusty tin.  The population is so dense they take turns sleeping. If you threw that many Americans into those living conditions, the wailing and gnashing of teeth would be heard from San Francisco all the way to New York.

2nd largest slum in the word- Kibera, Kenya

2nd largest slum in the word- Kibera, Kenya

While all men and women may be created equal, we are certainly not given equal opportunities. I enjoy the benefits of a choice I had no part in making: the country of my birth.

I’ve learned in my travels to take more home with me than what I brought. However, I don’t take home souvenirs, trinkets or hotel towels; instead, I take home stories that inspire me and new friends made. I might not be able to pack them in my bag, but I have a spot in my heart where they tuck away ready for my pleasure at moment’s notice.

Today, for example, I walked down a busy street in Singida holding hands with a man my age.  If you do that in America,  you’re immediately labeled. If you do that in Africa, it means you are accepted as a friend. I’m accepted as a friend. This is why I love Africa. His name is Mbigi (pronounced m-biggie). He says he will pray every day that I come back to Tanzania again.

Mibigi- a friend I found in Africa- I knew there was at least one here!

Mibigi- a friend I found in Africa- I knew there was at least one here!

Somehow, my bag is much lighter -yet much more full- when I return home. It’s the only stuff that’s really worth anything.

(the photo that is at the top is of the Masai tribes)