We stopped a few minutes down the road from Kind Hearts, and our Ethiopian guides left us to do some negotiating for two goats. (We needed to purchase two goats that evening so they could begin cooking the stew (wot) that would be served the next day. And then we would purchase two more goats the next morning for fresh ribs and flanks cooked over an open fire.)
Our guides returned with two goats in tow and we watched as they tied their feet together, and lifted them to the roof of the van. We returned to the care-point and presented the goats to the cook, so she could begin making the delicious stew that needed to simmer overnight.
When we arrived the next morning, the kids were eagerly awaiting our arrival and they rushed the vans as we unloaded. They could see the huge kettle of stew (with carrots, onions, cabbage, potatoes, spices and goat meat) boiling furiously over the open fire and I'm sure the smell had their mouths watering with anticipation.
We had purchased two more "fat" goats on our way to the care-point (along with fresh sweet bread, bananans and oranges), and they were quickly unloaded and we were invited to watch as the preparations for the feast got underway.
The slaughter itself happened very quickly and humanely. With a quick knife cut across the throat, a rush of blood gushed from the open neck, and the goat's eyes rolled in its head.
They tapped it's legs a few times with the knife to make sure it was dead, and then began to peel the hide from the body starting at the hind legs. Once the hide was removed, the goat was quickly and expertly butchered and every scrap of meat was harvested for the stew or to be cooked over the open fire.
My daughter, Emme, watching the slaughter and butchering while the children hold her hands.
A little at a time, each of us stepped away from the meal preparation, as little hands tugged on our hands and pulled us into play. We spent the entire morning meeting with each child individually as we gave them their care-packages from their sponsor families. The morning flew by so quickly, and then we were interrupted by one of the directors to let us know that it was time to eat and the children's care-givers had arrived.
Fikre asked me if I would like to say a few words as all of the adults assembled into one of the classrooms, and perched on the tiny child-size chairs. About 70-80 men and women filled the room, and as I glanced around the crowd, I immediately recognized the two women I had met the day before when I visited their homes with their children (Beniam and Fitsum). I discreetly waved to them, and they smiled widely and waved back.
I saw elderly men and women (grandparents that had become care-givers to their grand-children when the child's parents had died) and I saw older brothers and sisters that had become the head of the household, and I saw lots of single mothers and single fathers, each of them trying to do the best they could for the children in their care. One thing I didn't see was hopelessness. Instead, when these men and women lifted their hands to heaven in prayer, I saw thankfulness and gratitude and hope that their heavenly Father would continue to provide.
I thanked them for coming and told them that we were honored to share a meal with them.
I explained how all 18 of us had travelled a very great distance from the United States to spend time with their children.
That we know their kids by name and we love them, and pray for them and their families, and that these kids have become part of our families.
I nodded at Beniam's mother and Fitsum's mother and told the group how I had spent time in their homes the day before and how welcome they made me feel.
I told them that we would continue to support these kids and pray for them and that we would return next year to see them again. And I promised that we would not forget them.
We all bowed our heads together, and we prayed together.
I wish I had photographs of these events, but I somehow felt it would be inappropriate to intrude on these private and special moments that we shared with the men and women who care for these kids in very difficult circumstances.