One of my poorest and most neglected students. From my very first day at the school, Smangele captured my attention. I can’t really put a finger on why exactly, but I think it was God leading me to a plan He had in store. She was timid, extremely timid. She would never speak out in class and when she talked right in front of your face, you could barely hear her. Her English is very poor, due to a lack of support from home for her schooling. Before, when she would ask her mom to sign a report card or help her with anything, her mom would yell at her for bugging her and tell her to leave her alone, in not such nice words. She was quickly falling behind from the rest of the class and no one seemed to have time to care.
One day, I noticed her shoes. They were completely fallen apart….the backs worn through and the buckles flapping lose. She might as well have not had anything on. I noticed them because I saw another student kicking mud all over the back of her legs, she was clearly picked on. I pulled her aside to check the size, but it was worn off so I whipped out a ruler and measured…21 centimeters. After school let out, I was so anxious to get to the store to buy her a new pair of shoes. God had burdened my heart for this little girl tremendously. 22 dollars later, I walked out of there with the perfect pair. I couldn’t wait for the next morning to come. Little did I know God had much more in store than a comfy pair of new shoes.
When I found her the next morning, I put my hand on her shoulder to guide her into the room before the rest of the students could come in. She flinched and through up her hands in defense as soon as I touched her; my heart hurt to think of what had caused her to react that way. She relaxed when she saw it was me and followed me into the classroom. I pulled off her old pair of shoes and pulled the new ones out of the box. You should have seen the look on her face. Such anticipation, such disbelief. I gently slipped them on and buckled them, wanting her to feel like a little princess. She had the biggest smile on her face, and I would have been content with just that moment. But God had a bigger plan...
A fellow 2nd grade teacher wrote out a note in Zulu (the mom doesn’t know English) explaining where Smangele’s new shoes came from, so she wouldn’t get in trouble. That same week, I began tutoring Smangele and another very poor little boy who struggles with English after school. You should have seen how excited they were to “get to be tutored!” Seriously, the individual attention they crave is overwhelming. The next day, Smangele had a note for me from her mom, written in Zulu. I had the same teacher translate it for me, and it was obvious her mom was extremely thankful for this small gift. She thanked me over and over. Each day that passed, Smangele began to emerge more and more from her shell. I began the tutoring on Monday and gave her the shoes on Tuesday. On Thursday, when she got to school, she ran up to me to show me her notebook. With great pride, she showed me the page where her mom had helped her study for her spelling words the night before. She kept saying, “Look Miss! My mom wrote the word ‘men’ for me! Look! She wrote it for me cause I didn’t know it!” You know why she was so excited by such a simple thing? Her mom had never helped her before. Before, Smangele was just a nuisance, now, her mom saw value in her.
On Friday, Smangele volunteered to pray in front of the class. She STOOD in front of the class and prayed as best she could in her broken English. When she looked up from her squinted eyes, she gave me the biggest smile. Smangele was confident. All of this happened as a result of $22 and 30 minutes of tutoring each day after school. Smangele was a joyful, confident little girl and Smangele’s mom was a helpful, caring mother. I was absolutely blown away at what God could do with such a small gift, all He needs is a willing heart. These children LONG for attention and someone to show that they care. Every single day, students are begging me to tutor them after school. What am I supposed to say to a child that looks at me every day and says, “Miss, can you take me today? Can I go with you today? Please, let today be my turn.” It’s so unbelievably overwhelming. As I’m trying to help one student with their class work, there is ALWAYS at least 6 hands tapping on me to help them. My mind runs a million miles per hour all throughout the day as I am learning to help at least 5 students with 5 different questions, all at the same time. All students who need their questions answered slowly, in broken down English. And even then, at the end of the day, I know there were several that I missed.
I wanted to share this with you to give you an idea of just how much of an impact your donations are going to make. If one pair of shoes lead to changing a little girls’ entire life, can you imagine what 4 huge suitcases stuffed full of supplies will do?!?! And even for my own daily exhaustions’ sake, I cannot wait to have 4 extra hands, 4 extra ears, and 2 extra mouths there beside me to help these children and give them the individual attention they crave. I just know God is waiting to change hearts and lives as a result of your donations. So thank you, thank you, thank you. You have beautifully demonstrated exactly how the body of Christ is supposed to function. God is about to work mightily.
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" - Matthew 25:40