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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday in Ethiopia!!

Thursday – We woke up bright and early and ate a quick breakfast (one scrambled egg and toast – little did we know at that time that it would be our only meal of the day) and went back over to the Grace Baptist Care Point.  All 125 of the orphan children were there to greet us and they were just wiggling and cheering with excitement.  It's a bit overwhelming at first to be met with 125 excited children with very high expectations and we had a moment of "oh my – how are we going to do this?!?".  But our chief organizer Candy Tennant (those of you who know Candy know exactly what I am talking about) quickly asked the staff to split the children into 4 groups.


We created a "station" for each group of kids – one for drawing and coloring, one for music (Jeremy Amick brought a travel guitar and the kids love it!), one for the 20' parachute brought by Pete Kidd, and another group doing kids games like duck/duck/goose and London bridges.  Each group had a few Americans and at least one Ethiopian translator so we could talk and instruct the kids.  I was playing with the kids that came to the parachute station, and after the initial shyness wore off, the kids dove into it whole-heartedly and were screaming and laughing with joy.


If you're not familiar with parachute games, Pete brought a brightly colored, 20' parachute and the kids gather in a circle and grab hold of an edge.  We then run through various activities like bouncing a beach ball on it, or having the kids run beneath it, calling out "boys" or "girls" and having them run under it and give each other high-fives.  After about 45 minutes, the kids would wrap up at one station and we would send them to the next station.


But during that 45 minutes, the kids just absolutely absorbed every scrap of attention, praise, tenderness and love we could give.  Pretty soon, their little bodies scooched over as close as they could and they would start struggling with each other as to who would stand on either side of me.  Soon we were holding hands and while we were playing with the parachute, they would sneak little kisses on my arms and wrists.  When we would stop for instructions, they would slide onto my lap, just to feel a mommy's arms around them for a few minutes.  Some of the kids couldn't overcome the shyness on their own and would stand at a distance looking longingly with their big beautiful eyes.  As soon as I would notice that, I'd scoop them into my arms too and within seconds, they seemed to just melt into my arms.  Who knows the exact circumstance each of these kids is living in right now, but it was very apparent that they were desperately longing for some special attention and the feeling of being loved and valued.


We spent about 4 hours total with the kids this morning and we also had a little time to talk with the pastor of Grace Baptist Church who also operates the school for these kids.  There are about 1100 kids attending the school – but 125 of those kids are double orphans (meaning both parents have died) and they are living with a relative or neighbor.  As difficult as it is to understand, in most of these situations, the family is very poor already and an extra mouth to feed is a huge burden, and they are often treated that way.  Many of the kids I held in my arms today, were not much more than skin and bone.  I almost felt bad for the active games we were playing with them this morning, knowing they were starving.  I watched several of the kids pick grass and chew on it – I suppose to have something in their hungry tummy.


We had asked what their greatest needs were – did they need food, clothing, school supplies?  What were the greatest needs?  The pastor answered – we need all of those things but right now, we just need FOOD.  Without food, the other things really don't matter and the kids can't concentrate in school when their tummies are hurting. We brought about 4 suitcases filled with supplies (school supplies, underwear, clothing, etc.) and we left everything there for them.  We also gave the pastor $2000 ($500 of that came from those of you who donated money to me for this trip!!!  So know that the money YOU gave will be feeding these precious children in Komblacha for the next few months!!!) to buy food for the children until we can get a sponsorship program up and running.  Normally, we would not give cash directly to a carepoint, but in this case, the Hopechest program director personally knows the pastor and knows that the money will be spent for food and only food for these kids!


Leaving was difficult!  The pastor also mentioned to us that the last time they had visitors from the U.S. was over 8 years ago.  Our visit and the resulting sponsor program will be a lifeline for these kids!  As we climbed into the vans, the kids swarmed the vehicles for one last hug and one last kiss.  The little girls wanted to kiss both cheeks and when I lifted them off the ground as I hugged them, they squealed with laughter and happiness.  Little hands reached into the windows and grasped our hands as we said our "good-byes" and "ciaos".  One little boy raced out the gate and ran alongside our vehicles for quite a distance!


Then we were on the road again and running late.  Our drivers were concerned about getting through the treacherous areas in the mountains before it got dark.  We stopped for a quick bathroom break (again, out in the wilderness) after about 3 hours and that was to be our last stop on a 10 hour journey.  During that stop, me and the rest of the girls found a secluded area and within minutes we were joined there by a curious little girl herding cows.  She must have been about 7 and she was barefoot and wearing a torn shirt – and responsible for her family's main income source.  She had a beautiful smile and was very happy with the granola bar we gave her, giving a little bow of appreciation.


Again – an absolutely beautiful and awe-inspiring drive back through the Ethiopia country and mountains.  We saw thousands of the round, mud huts with the thatch roof – and even though they are made of mud and sticks and stones, they are immaculately kept.  I also noticed that even though the environment is dusty and dirty, the Ethiopian people love to wear bright, brilliant colors and many of the homes had a door or window that was painted a bright red, or brilliant blue or golden yellow.  I took  about 900 pictures within the first 3 days of being here, many of them along the way to Kombalcha.


So here are a few of the happenings during the drive (because the drivers were worried about driving those treacherous mountain roads in the dark, we took one bathroom break and we did not stop to eat.  I ended up eating a granola bar and some "Ethiopia trail mix" which consists of some roasted grains and peanuts.  We had home-made pizzas waiting for us when we arrived, but we really needed to stay on the road and keep travelling.  It took us 10 hours to get back to Addis.)


The other van was asked to take a young woman with them who needed to go to Addis.  What they didn't realize is that she had a baby with her and she was sick.  She ended throwing up 6 times (in a plastic bag) before she asked to be dropped off in the next village where she had an aunt.


In our van, we had several happenings that kept us alert and talking the entire time.  For those of you that have been to Ethiopia, you've witnessed the street scenes with the cars going every which way and the herds of goats and donkeys weaving in and out.  For the most part, the herds of goats occasionally stop traffic, but they are good about staying along the side … but not always.  We were driving alongside a large herd of goats and one suddenly darted in front of us.  We hit it and ran over it – and looking back we saw it struggle to its feet and then fall down for good.  Peter, our driver, was very upset about it and said that was the first time he had ever hit a goat.


We had the usual bumpy ride with several bumped heads and slamming on of brakes to miss huge pot holes in the unpaved roads.  It's strange, but the paved areas will just suddenly end with about an 8" drop-off to gravel or dirt.  And huge sections of the road are under construction.  Instead of setting out orange cones or big signs, they put boulders in the road to direct traffic. 


At one point, our driver slammed on the brakes to avoid a pot hole and the van died – completely.  We were in the middle of the road and it was pitch dark.  The driver jumped out to do something with the battery and we all scrambled for flashlights.  Headlights don't work very well here and they don't illuminate much, so when we could see a vehicle approaching at a fast speed, Pete suddenly yelled for everyone to "Get out and get away from the vehicle!"  With cell phones and ipods illuminated, we were able to flag the vehicle to slow down as our driver got the battery going and the lights on.


Shortly after that, we came upon a truck parked in the middle of the road,with the driver standing in front peeing (by the headlights").  Hmmmm – odd place to park your truck and take care of business, with traffic lining up on both sides.  We headed on our way again, and then suddenly saw two eyes shining in the glare of our headlights to the side of the road.  Erusalem, one of our Ethiopian translators, pointed and yelled "Hyena!"  We ended up seeing 4 of them skulking along the side of the road and they were BIG!  Then we understood why the driver of the truck had done his business right in the middle of the road instead of stepping off the side of the road – where the hyenas are.


Everyone is doing well and we are looking forward to the care points we will be visiting here in Addis tomorrow.



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Anonymous said...

Thank you for the posts you guys...amazing read!!!
Praying, praying, praying for grace baptist & sponsors.

Karla said...

My blood pressure just went up! Can't wait to see your pictures! Love - Karla