Thursday, August 15, 2013

“We must cherish our old men. We must revere their wisdom, appreciate their insight, love the humanity of their words.” ― Alice Walker

My dear friend, Pete Oneal, in Arusha who is in his 70's now and I both agree with the above quote.  We know and share things that it has taken two lifetimes to learn, respect, and turn into positive action for the people we serve.  Pete has brought water to two villages, educated hundreds for free, and with his wife, Charlotte, has encouraged and inspired art, dance, singing, and expression of what it means to be black and African.  They have been doing this in Arusha for over forty years, but Pete will tell you his life truly began when he was 67 years old.  That was the year he decided to build a sixteen-bed orphanage for small children in his compound.  While we have been hosting groups from the U.S. who have traveled to Bunda, all of them have stayed first with Pete before journeying on, but no group has come since the orphanage was started--and that's a real shame.  To see those children laughing, learning, being loved and loving, eating regularly, and getting good medical treatment is to experience the joy of living.  My trip there last week reminded me how much they have grown since the first kids moved in.  The sixteen have swollen to twenty but what can you do?  Pete doesn't have the security of regular checks from the U.S. like we do here but relies completely on groups coming for all kinds of reasons from internships, to safaris, to AIDS education, and the like.  This means he has to hustle every month to find the funds to feed those kids who love him so much.  If you've been reading my blog lately, you know I was recently betrayed by one who was supposed to be feeding orphans but was taking the money for himself.  We still feed about fifty a day, but it was 250 a day and I was almost broken by the realization of the fraud.  Even though I could ill afford it (as later events would prove beyond a doubt), I managed to take $500 to Pete to buy food for his orphans (he doesn't like the word "orphan" and doesn't use it).  What I didn't know was that he had been wanting to buy food in bulk to help lower the monthly food cost but didn't have the $500 needed to buy the containers to keep the food fresh till it was needed.  He almost cried when I gave him the money and I told him the only caveat was that it had to spent on food for the kids.  I can happily say that today, the new containers have been delivered and filled.  I guess the moral of this story is that Pete still had much to teach me and I still had much to learn.  It's also a lesson in giving without considering the cost.  All that we later needed for the engine rebuild and Synod travel was provided by God through His children.  All I know is that I need time with Pete from time to time, and he needs me.  He inscribed the latest book "A Case For A Pardon" about him to me  with the words, "I am honored to share this new place and this new life with you."  Just a couple of old men that Alice Walker believes should be cherished.  Pete and I agree.  We still have much to give and teach.

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