After over 30 hours of travel, the entire team arrived home to their family and friends last night (Monday). The post below was originally posted from Ethiopia but for some reason did not come through on blogger. Here is that original post ... with much more to follow!!!
THURSDAY: The entire team is sitting together in the lobby area of our guest home, writing, checking emails and updating blogs. It's been an unbelievably busy week between visiting care-points, planning for each days' activities, sorting through care-packages, and spending quality time with as many children as possible.
The stories we hear as we interact with the kids are heart-breaking and yet they are all survivors. These children, despite their many losses, are the lucky ones ... they can count on a meal every day and are getting an education. They know love - from the staff at the care-point, from their American sponsor families and they are experiencing the love of God.
At Trees of Glory yesterday (Wednesday), one of the staff members pulled me aside and lead me to the crest of a hill. Sitting in the shade there, was an old, old man and it took great effort for him to stand and greet me. He leaned against a walking stick, with dust in his beard and his heavy clothes. He spoke in Oromfia and presented two tiny children - his grandchildren - both were filthy dirty and covered in dust. The bones on their faces protruded as they stared intently at the ground (too shy to make eye contact with me that day). The grandfather explained that he is too old and nearly blind, and cannot care for them. Their father had died and their mother abandoned them. He had heard there was food at the care-point and was asking if they could eat here.
I cannot express the heavy weight of sadness that I felt at that moment. I couldn't understand what he was saying but I could see the desperation in his eyes and hear the pleading in his voice. As Girma turned to me and explained his request, I nodded to him. "Yes, Yes! Of course!," I said as I nodded and gestured with my hands that they were welcome. He grabbed my hands and kissed them repeatedly. We made sure that he had food and water too that day as he rested in the shade waiting for his grandchildren.
And guess who was at the care-point this morning, cleaned up and smiling shyly at me ... the little boy and girl that had come with their grandfather the day before. I asked the staff if these children would be enrolling at the care-point, and yes they are enrolling and will be needing sponsor families.
Today - we prepared a huge feast for the children and our team got to watch it being prepared. Injera and wot (the heads of the goats we had purchased the day before were still laying in the corner of the kitchen) along with cabbage, carrots, onions and potatoes ... and a big treat .... Coco Cola and Fanta!! And for dessert ... slices of sweet, juicy oranges.
We spent the entire day at the care-point and the children really started to engage with us, slowly losing their shyness. We spent time with each and every child going through the care-packages, reading letters, looking at photos and telling them about their sponsor family. Their faces just lit up when the photos would emerge from the bag. Each child got a bright green "Trees of Glory" T-Shirt (thank you to the Mullins family!!), a tye-dyed t-shirt made by Lindsey Kerby's team and a brightly colored tote bag along with their care-package.
As the day came to an end and it was time for the children to go home, we could look across the surrounding hills and countryside and see pinpoints of rainbow colors as the children walked home to their villages with their brightly colored shirts and tote bags.