"do not forget to entertain strangers" Hebrews 13:2

A person can only be so prepared.

Part of the preparation to accomplish a distribution this size in so few days requires cooperation from many authorities in different branches of government. But before your mind starts picturing school officials in "district offices" or politicians in leather wing back chairs with assistants scurrying around fax and copy machines, computers and cell phones (there are very few of all of the above) remember - this is Africa.

The students at the schools scattered across the region arrive to the location after walking several miles. The day of the distribution, for some the trek adds several more miles to their morning journey to school. It is no wonder the amount of absentees, or the teachers attempts to try and have children who have received their box, to stand in for one of their missing counterparts.

The HO district we were covering with this years Samaritan's Purse distribution has 28,000 registered school children. Originally, the SP organization assured the receiving ministry facilitators they would receive all 28,000 boxes. But... arrangements were in place, promises made and expectations high. Two weeks before the distribution things changed - only half the boxes would be allotted to the region. Hope was dashed and irritation and anger took its place.

Whenever we arrived at a specified location, the teachers had gathered under shade trees, maintaining the order of their anxious students with three-foot long switches. Lists that had been compiled and turned in two weeks ago were being substituted with new lists, more names and negotiations. Apart from the struggle to get all their students a gift box - they begin to seek their own "distribution." Over and over we heard "but where is something for me? Why don't you bring something for the teachers?" Where the need is so great, when a person sees "supply" it is hard not to "demand" and ask, "why not me?"

To increase the efficiency of our time, day and speed of distributing the boxes, once the truck was offloaded with the supplied numbers of cartons (based on the first list), our organizer (Pastor O) took his team along with the van on to the next stop. This was effective and fast but was not without its own set of newly created problems.

At one site we came to the end of the line - all the boy's boxes were handed out with no problems, but our dwindling line of girls had come down to one. P looked in the carton and it was EMPTY! Out of the 500 children we were intending to serve, we had 499 boxes. The young Junior High girl stood there, "The Greatest Gift" book in hand and looked at us blankly.

The leadership made the decision she would get in our van and go to the next distribution site to collect the one box. She got in a van filled with strangers, a mix of nationals and foreigners, and through her nerves tried to remain posed and calm. She had no idea where we were taking her, when or how she would get back to her school - or really if the box she was promised would be worth the trouble.

We all tried to engage her in conversation, "What is your name? How old are you? What grade are you in?" She answered in a voice barely above a whisper. The nationals were yelling at her to speak louder, "Talk to these people, they want to know you!" The conversation finally died down and we left her alone to her anxiety. I wondered what was going through her thoughts. This was probably not her first car ride - but I can guarantee it was the first one with air-conditioning!

We finally arrived at the next distribution site, and she stood patiently holding the box she had traveled so far to receive. When we headed back toward her village and the place where she could make her own way home, gift finally in hand, I offered her a bottle of water for the journey. She was reluctant, but again at the insistence of the other nationals she shyly took it, thanked us and turned to walk away.

She left us with a story to tell. Perhaps it would go something like this: One day foreigners came to her village, they did interesting things and brought many gifts. She was the last in line for her class and though she was disappointed at first - they took her with them so she could get one of these "boxes." When she left their bewildering presence, they also gave her some water for her long walk home."

As we watched her walk down the road, we prayed she also accepted the Living Water we shared that day.

"For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in My name..." Mark 9:41

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