Stephanie Anderson recently returned from Ethiopia with a team from Children's Hopechest and I asked her to write about a few of the experiences that had the greatest impact on her during her trip. After returning home from a trip like this, it takes a few weeks to process what you just experienced and to reconcile the daily realities there ... with the daily realities here. Stephanie did a beautiful job helping us to see Ethiopia and the kids at Trees of Glory and Kind Hearts through her eyes. Here are Stephanie's words ...
"My trip to Ethiopia is hard to compile into one blog post. Africa is full of hope, promise, energy, smiles, sadness, poverty, sickness and hardships. I do not think that I can adequately explain all that Africa is. Our team with Children's Hopechest consisted of 16 different individuals from all over the United States and Canada . We visited five different schools and orphanages including Trees of Glory and Kind Hearts.
Trees of Glory is beautiful. It feels like it is tucked into a special nook that God placed in the rolling hills of Ethiopia . A beautiful, small yellow flower, called Addi Ababa (the capital city is named after this flower), is scattered across the hills at this care-point.
There is a river at one end of the property. Although Trees of Glory is close to a water source, the water in the stream is not clean. The staff and teachers have to walk one kilometer carrying water jugs to bring back water to the school. On their journeys they also take a donkey to help carry as much water as possible. While the facilities are sparse and rustic compared to American standards, everything was well kept with the utmost care. These hard working women take pride in their home and school, and you can tell.
The director at Trees of Glory is a woman named Simret. She radiates warmth and compassion. If you ask any of the children at Trees of Glory about Simret, they will tell you that she loves each one of them as her own. Her love of Christ shines in her face and shows in her servant's heart.
She shares a bed and a single room home with a young boy she has named Moses. Throughout their living quarters there are Bible verses placed all over the walls.
Our team didn't get to spend much time at Trees of Glory. That day was a National Ethiopian holiday and most of the children were with family members or care-givers. This was disappointing for me personally because the child I sponsor through Children's Hopechest was one of the children who was not there that day. Although I selfishly missed getting to meet her, I was happy that she was able to spend a special day with the family that she has.
We also visited Kind Hearts which is close to the capital city of Addis Ababa . When we first arrived the children were enjoying a special meal of sheep wat and injera (this is a stew placed on top of a flat bread then eaten with the hands) for the Ethiopian holiday. All you could hear were the many mouths chewing their hearty meal! We stayed briefly and then returned the next morning.
The children at Kind Hearts range in age from little ones who were around 4 or 5 to older children of around 12. We brought things to play with like bubbles and balls and then later gathered all of the children to learn the story of "Daniel and the Lions Den". Some of the team played with the kids while others worked on painting some of the buildings.
A boy named Yilbeltal will forever be etched into my memory. I first noticed Yilbeltal when we were in one of the classrooms sorting clothing for the kids. He was sitting in the classroom with a towel draped over his head. You could see that one side of his face was extremely swollen. The swelling had nearly closed one eye and seemed to be moving further up his head. While we were sorting the clothes we realized that we had a pair of tennis shoes that fit him! We traded him the new tennis shoes for the raggedy and broken sandals he was wearing. Even through the excitement he had over his new pair of shoes, we could tell that he was still in alot of pain.
Later, when all of the children were gathered together coloring, Yilbeltal sat in the back with his head in his hands. My heart broke for him. I knew he was in pain and there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted to give him some pain medication be we were not sure if he would have a reaction. We didn't want to cause more problems than he already had.
We learned that his father worked at the school and wanted to take his son to the doctor but did not have enough money. That made my heart ache more than anything; the thought of Yilbeltal's father seeing his son in pain and not being able to do anything about it. I can not imagine what that would feel like as a parent.
While we were coloring, I laid my hands on him and prayed that God would provide him relief from his pain and comfort to know that He is in control. We provided money so that Yilbeltal could be taken to a dentist and a few days later we got pictures of his amazing recovery!
I can not wait to hear all that God continues to do at Tree's of Glory, Kind Hearts and all the other wonderful places in Africa!" - Stephanie Anderson
I will be leading a team of 18 people from across the United States to Ethiopia in Mid-November and we will be spending 3 full days at each care-point with the kids. All of the children at the 2 care-points are sponsored, but more children are being enrolled at Kind Hearts. If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please contact me at email@example.com.