Naha, The Masai Mom

orris & Michael Fortson
September 20, 2014(If you can’t see all the great photos, click on “see images” usually at the top of the email)

Naha, The Masai Mom

Naha, the Masai mom, who has been living at Neema House, returned home this week without her babies. She has been sleeping on the floor in the big baby room at Neema with her tiny twins tucked into a bassinet by her side for almost a month now.  

  Naha with one of the twins

Kelly had found this mom and her week old babies when she went out to a Masai village a few hours from Arusha to visit the families of two of our other Neema babies, Bahati and Memusi.

                    Memusi and her family Thanks Kelly Erdman for a great picture

Naha’s family had been living in a meager, mud hut on the outskirts of the village and appeared to be outcasts, possibly because of a family deformity. The twins’ thumbs are stuck to their palms and their legs appear frozen and unable to straighten which according to Kelly, who is an occupational therapist, will have to be fixed or they will never be able to walk.

               Look closely to see the baby’s stuck thumbs and his long Masai feet!

Life in a Masai village is hard if you’re whole but almost impossible if you can’t walk or use your hands. The family had very little food when Kelly found them and Naha’s milk had dried up so the babies were almost starved when they were brought into town to the hospital.

                       Camille and Tabitha Erdman in front of mud hut like Naha’s home

After they left the hospital and came to Neema, our nannies stuffed Naha with food each day and showed her how to feed the babies with sterilized bottles while hopefully she could build up enough milk to feed the babies herself. We bathed the babies and gave her oil to make them smell baby sweet. 

One day Naha said, “If I smelled this good maybe my husband would come home.” He had left to find work in Dares Salem and has not returned. One of the nannies quipped, “That would have to be a really strong smell to reach all the way to Dar!”

Naha doesn’t speak English or Swahili and even though we could not talk together, we patted her shoulders and sat on the floor with her and cuddled and fed her babies and slowly she began to smile.   One day I caught her dancing for the babies in the back room. Haika and Anna, the two nannies on duty in the big babies’ room, had been clapping, singing and dancing to entertain the crawlers while they waited for their nightly bottles when Naha peeked around the corner to watch the show. The Masai are famous for their dances and cautiously the two nannies began to draw Naha in until she joined them and began to show them the “shoulder-bounce” dance of the proud Masai women. Fortunately, for once I had a camera handy.

Nannies getting Naha to dance for the babies

When the dance was over, Naha ducked her eyes, shyly covered the beginnings of a smile behind her hands and walked quietly across the hall to return to her sleeping babies.

Over the next few weeks we feel in love with this simple woman who spoke not a single word we could understand. Naha has never been to school but fortunately we have a few nannies who can speak KiMasai. One afternoon Naha had brought her babies into the small baby room where we were sitting on the floor talking and feeding our ever hungry Neema babies.

As we talked to her through one of our Masai speaking nannies, we asked Naha if she knew Jesus. She had heard of him, but was not a follower. We talked with her for a short while about Jesus and forgiveness and the power he gives to live life, and then arranged to talk more when Michael returned. His Swahili is much better and he knows more Bible than I do.

So a few days later, after more discussions through Rose, our housecleaner/translator, (whom I am convinced was preaching her own sermon) we went out to a safari lodge swimming pool and baptized this sweet, timid woman into the body of Jesus Christ. I am quite sure she had never seen so much clean water in her life and I was amazed at her bravery as, unafraid, she climbed down into that deep pool of sparkling blue water and gave her life to Jesus. She had told us, “After I am baptized I will go after Jesus.”

Before Matt and Kelly took her home this week, we were able to find a Masai translation of the Bible for her which she said her older children would be able to read to her.

KiMasai Bible

As I slipped my cross ring off my finger and onto hers, I said a quick prayer that this gentle woman would find strength to live in the harsh environment of rural Africa and in her village without a single church and where life can be tough for women and children. I said a quick prayer too that she wouldn’t have to sell the ring to buy food for her family! 

                                   Matt and Kelly Erdman receiving gifts at Naha’s village.

What a fitting end to our latest trip to Africa. We are home now in Temple, Texas and are available to speak anywhere, anytime about this incredible work of saving abandoned and orphaned babies in Tanzania East Africa. Just give us a call! 254 541 4869.

For another great video by Emily Arnold from Casper, Wyoming, a current volunteer at Neema click on this link.  

Michael and Dorris Fortson

Dorris Fortson
Dorris & Michael Fortson