In January 1987, I arrived in Togo as a new missionary. Dal Washer, a veteran missionary invited me to work in a church he was starting in the village of Kpakopé. It was there that I met Lamatou, one of the ladies attending the church. She had already received the Lord, but was baptized when I was there. She would help translate for me as I taught the children and ladies group. One day she shared with me that she had some real needs. She had 2 girls with 2 different fathers and wasn’t married to either of them. This is a common practice in Africa. Now that she knew the Lord, she wanted to live correctly, but she had many needs to care for. Could I help her? At this same time the hospital was in a need of a housekeeping worker, so I suggested Lamatou. There was some resistance by some of the missionaries since she wasn’t married and had the children. In the end, she was hired in 1988 and she continued to be a faithful worker at the hospital.
As my first Togolese friend she taught me many things. One day, I said to her “you are so nice to everyone, how come?” She then told me how she had been abused and punished by a stepmother. She would be forced to kneel in the hot sun and hold her arms up for a long time. As a child she decided she would never do that and would always be nice to others.
I spent some special moments in her place when she moved near the hospital. I remember how she went out of her way with her limited salary to feed me, but I didn’t know they hot pepper even for breakfast. In the night, when I had to go to the bathroom, their “toilet” was under construction. It was a huge hole with 2 long planks across the hole in the ground. As I was on the planks, I got to laughing and the planks started moving up and down with me and then I imagined myself falling into that big yucky hole. We laughed about that one often.
She also taught me to go the “extra mile” with a friend. In Togo, you accompany your visitor to the road, to their vehicle or even if on foot all the way back to their house. After one of my visits at her place, she took my hand (perfectly normal here for close friendships) and walked me all the way back to my house, maybe at least a mile or more. She told me that this is what friends do, so I suggested then maybe I should walk her all the way back to her house and we could do it all day long.
She eventually worked in the clinic at HBB doing many things, including translating. She knew at least 3 languages. Lamatou is Kabiye, so my learning Kabiye drew us even closer.
Lamatou met her husband at our hospital and I was there for her engagement time and their wedding, but some years later, when Lamatou could only give him one child, he left her for another women. I still regret to this day, that I suggested she should marry him. She was just so thankful for a job that helped support her son and pay for medicine for her diabetes.
Lamatou passed away a few years ago, but she’s my eternal friend. We always reconnected immediately even after it had been years apart. I thank the Lord for friends from another culture, their love for me and our eternal friendship since we are in Christ.
-Story shared by Jane Schmitz