Let me serve you.... - by Heidi McCollester, 2017 Neema Team Trip Member

Virginia’s whole body tensed up as I placed my hands on her shoulders. As I began to give her a simple friendly shoulder rub, it was clear that this beautiful girl, so deserving of love had rarely ever been served, told to relax or made to feel as special as she was. My eyes widened as it dawned on me that the faces staring up at me were constantly put in the position to serve and not be served.

As we bumped down the red clay roads, uncertainty surrounded me. Cricket, Sarah and I were leading our group to the pastors conference to serve lunch. Although technically we were the group leaders, we were far from in charge when we arrived at the conference. I stepped out of the van and I swear I closed my eyes for just a moment to find that each girl fell right into rhythm. Every direction I looked, I saw dishes being washed, fires being made, bowls being filled and vegetables being cut. Each girl executing their job perfectly. Us three “m’zungas” stood in awe at these servant hearts performing a dance that looked as if they had performed it a 1,000 times.

We tried to pitch in where we could but it was clear that each girl could out perform us at any task. Even down to dish washing!! A smile stretched and a giggle emerged as Rhodas looked at the mess I had made of a cabbage that I was supposed to be shredding. That moment was one of my favorites because it meant that Rhoda was becoming more comfortable with me! That she wasn't afraid to make fun of me and laugh with me! I swear it was like a light bulb went off and I realized these are girls just like me, they want to laugh and have fun JUST LIKE ME! We spent the rest of the day laughing off every grain of rice and bean we ate.

I like to think that I spend a vast majority of my life laughing… but with no hesitation I can say that serving at the pastors conference that day was the most fun I have EVER had. We had so much fun that we got told to be quiet because they could hear our laughter and shouts inside the pastors conference!! The girls even crashed the conference and broke out into a spontaneous dance in front of all the pastors! It was insanely beautiful. I stood in awe once again as I watched something that would rarely ever happen in a church in the United States. The girls were never told to stop or leave but thanked for their joyful display of worship.

During a lull in duties, Cricket told the girls to relax and asked if any of them had ever had their shoulders rubbed. The girls blankly stared at her having no idea what she was talking about. She demonstrated on me and the girls ALL shook their head no.

Something so simple that most Americans can say they have experienced, was a foreign concept to these girls. What shook me the most wasn't the fact that the girls had never experienced a shoulder rub, but I realized that rarely and maybe for some never had they been served. Many of them did not feel like they were worthy of being served, but that they were the ones that should always be serving others. These selfless servant hearts so deserve to be served and loved.

Virginia’s shoulders slowly relaxed as she trusted me and realized that it was okay for her to be served. One of the reasons that I am so thankful for Neema is that they are helping to shift that mindset in the girls. That they are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that God made no mistake when he handcrafted them. That no sin, shame or fear causes God to love those girls less. I am so incredibly honored by the time that I had to laugh, play and serve those girls. They are truly the most beautiful, life changing people that I have ever met. “…serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

Heidi McCollester
2017 Neema Team Trip Member