By: Claire Fedele, International Director
This month, Shade celebrated a birthday. It was eight years ago that I boarded a one-way flight to Tanzania with a “yes” in my heart, two suitcases, and a big vision.
Eight years later, sitting on a plane for a visit back to Tanzania, the experience was quite different. This time around, I was heading to a 10.5-acre piece of land called the Shade Campus, to a staff of 16, to a student body of 82 kids across four grade levels, and to a community being loved in the name of Jesus. I was bringing reading curriculum and leading teachers in a two-week training for implementation in the classroom.
Between the sessions, I would sip on tea made from lemongrass picked from the Community Garden and look out on the Shade Campus. Tree-lined paths lead to beautiful classrooms. Cooks stirred huge pots of rice and groups of students walked in straight lines to lunch. A lush garden was being tended to and a yellow school bus stood at the ready. It’s incredible what God has done.
And at the same time, we are just getting started. Shade’s long-term strategic plans lay out Campus development, new staff, more kids, and increased services to our community. This January, we are planning to grow our student population to 150 and add second grade. We are expanding the garden and will help to launch small businesses for our young adults.
And, God-willing, we will break ground on a beautiful new cafeteria. Standing and looking out at a large patch of dirt and dried grass, knowing that the next time I’d visit it would be totally transformed into a brand new cafeteria, filled my heart with so much joy.
The journey to where we are now hasn’t always been easy or gone to plan, but it has been beautifully orchestrated by God.
One of my favorite days of the week in Tanzania is Tuesday when we gather as a team for prayer and worship. The singing, dancing to the beat of a drum, and heartfelt cries to God bring me back to the reason for our very existence: to bring honor and glory to God as we love those He has given us to love. During the last prayer session before I headed back to the US, I reflected on how amazed I was that we were all together: a table full of people all committed to loving and caring for vulnerable children and a community in need.
I wish you could have been on the Campus with me and felt the joy that you bring to so many through your partnership. It is because of you that students are educated and fed, young women are empowered, a community is hearing about Jesus, and transformation is happening. This wouldn’t be possible without you.
As my time in Tanzania wrapped up, Director John Migila and I boarded a plane together for America. We had the privilege of traveling around the US and sharing about all that God is doing on the Shade Campus. A line from one of John’s songs, “Na sifa zako Mungu wangu, zijae ndani ya moyo wangu” (Let the praise of my God be filled in my heart) rang ever true as I recounted the progress, told stories of transformation and empowerment, and was reminded again of how far we have come in these eight years.