Thursday, January 8, 2015

“I love you more than I love goats, and you know how I feel about goats.” — James Patterso

Goats are one of the mainstays of family survival here in Tanzania.  Goats provide about 70% of the family income for those who have them, not to mention the milk and the meat.  Cattle are for the rich and your prestige in the community is set by the number of cattle you possess, but having a male and a pregnant female goat can keep a family of five or six from poverty and hunger with ease.  Two goats (male and female) can produce enough offspring in two years to pay for children’s school fees, uniforms, and food for the whole family.  We stumbled across this a number of years ago when we decided that instead of giving Christmas gifts to each other, we would give a breeding pair of goats to a needy family, one with no father, a mother with no skills, and small children.  We didn’t want to announce to the world that we were the ones providing the goats, so we sent Shaban to the goat market and then let him find the needy family and deliver the goats.  He told the family that the goats were the gift of a Christian family who wanted to help.  This has grown every year so that now we give as many as ten to twelve goats a year to five or six recent widows with small children to raise.  Thanks to the gifts from my cousin Charles, his wife Adrienne, and their grandchildren, Christmas of 2013 saw us giving away over thirty pair of goats that took us almost four months to finally distribute as goat markets are only held once a month.  We can buy a pair of goats for about $100, and John has internet friends who give us that much by PayPal once or twice a year just to buy goats.  There is little else you can give a grieving widow that will not take away her feelings of hopelessness and loss than a pair of breeding goats.  There are programs all over Tanzania working to do this on a much larger scale and more, but we are just one small family and give as we are blessed.  Just a couple of months ago, one of our ministers died in a house fire after saving his family.  He went back to save the Swahili Bibles he had in the house, but the roof collapsed on him, killing him, but the Bibles under his body were still intact.  We were devastated of course, but at the very next goat market, we bought the first of two and gave it to the widow.  The picture at the right is of Charles, one of our workers, giving the goat to the widow who is still in shock both from grief and from the gift that will save her family.  There are some occasions where we don’t hide the source of the gift, but seldom involve ourselves personally.  Shaban buys the goats and keeps them here until we can give them away which keeps the dogs excited and produces a lot of nighttime noise, so we are always glad when the goats are gone.  I never really cared all that much for goats, but boy do I respect what they can do for a grieving family.  Hope comes in many forms.  Here it is often a goat.
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