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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Last year she watched with a bit of horror ...

Each year, when we travel to Ethiopia to work with the kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory CarePoints, we provide a big feast for the kids and staff, and we help with the preparation, serving and clean-up.  Although sponsorship provides nutritious food for the kids everyday, this feast goes above and beyond with lamb for savory stew with large chunks of meat - as well as vegetables, fruit and a very rare treat - Coca Cola.

We work with the cook to plan the menu and to get the best prices for all of the ingredients. 

She requested 4 lambs, but we provided 8 so that the CarePoint had a few extra lambs to use over the next few weeks.  Until then, the extra lambs will graze around the CarePoint until it is time to become stew.

Lambs are purchased in different areas throughout the city, where herdsmen congregate with their fatted flocks.  A lamb typically costs about $40 US dollars if it is healthy and plump, and once it is purchased, it's ankles are tied together and it is loaded onto a roof rack or in a trunk for transport.  Almost every part is used for food, and even the hide is used for bedding (for sleeping on a dirt floor and providing a layer of protection from cold and hardness).

When the time comes, the lamb is slaughtered and bled quickly with a quick cut to the neck.  It is then skinned and hung from a rack to cut it into chunks of meat.  The guys on our volunteer team were happy to help with this preparation and even showed some of the kids from our volunteer team how to skin and butcher an animal. 

Even the vultures could tell there was a big feast at Kind Hearts and flew down for a closer look, hoping to score a chunk of meat.

Last year, Emme watched this entire process with a bit of horror ... this year she helped skin and butcher a lamb.  We tend to take the preparation of food for granted here in America because we are so distant from the actual slaughtering and butchering process (we get our meat in neatly wrapped white packages at the grocery store) and if we are in a hurry, we can have it served up immediately at any fast food restaurant.  Being involved in the entire process of food preparation (an all day event) in Ethiopia is very enlightening for all of our teenage volunteers!

Emme, watching in slight horror at the slaughtering and butchering of a lamb last year.

This year Emme, and the rest of the teens, helped skin one of the lambs.

Once the lamb is prepared, select pieces of meat are roasted over a fire while the rest is used to create a savory, meaty stew for injera.  We created a long assembly line from the kitchen to where the kids were sitting in the shade, so we could serve the kids quickly and not keep them waiting. 

Everyone's mouths were watering from the delicious smell of the stew.  Many of the kids asked for seconds and even thirds - and the little boys giggled as they showed each other how to shake their soda to get it to explode. :)

Once the meal was complete, the kids had a little time to play on the playground equipment, before they were ushered back into their classrooms for the afternoon.

Ryan helped wash the dishes after the meal so that the kids could get back
to their classrooms for an afternoon full of fun learning!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wonder Anew at the Amazing Gift Given

Much of what is written in the Old Testament by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah and Zechariah, and the psalmists (much of which is attributed to King David himself), was written 500-700 years before Jesus was born.

And only upon the birth

and life

and death of Jesus

does it suddenly and miraculously ... and prophetically ... make sense.

These prophetic (and at first, puzzling) words that speak of a virgin giving birth to a child called Immanuel, which literally means "God with us", and that this child would come from the lowly town of Bethlehem, through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through King David. He would be pierced for our transgressions and this would heal our wounds (how can this be???!) and bring about a blessing for ALL nations.

Micah 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathath, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who is ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us).

Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Jeremiah 23:5 “They days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David (or from David’s line) a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Isaiah 53: 5-6 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves a firstborn son.

Psalms 16:10 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

And so it begins … in the town of Bethlehem …

Luke 2:8 ...

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ (Messiah, the Annointed One) the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel , praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

From my family to you and yours - I pray you have a blessed Christmas where you ponder the miraculous birth of Jesus and wonder anew at the amazing gift given to us.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lalibela is a definite "must see" in Ethiopia!

During our trip to Ethiopia in November, we took a day-trip and flew to Lalibela in Northern Ethiopia.  This was my fourth trip to Ethiopia, and the first time I had been able to carve out a time to visit this exceptional archeaological site - and I am so thankful that we did!

As the legend is told, King Lalibela traveled to Jerusalem where he got his inspiration to create a "New Jerusalem" in Ethiopia after Muslims captured the "old" Jerusalem in 1187.  His legacy is this archeological wonder of 13 rock-hewn churches dating from the 12th and 13th century.  Each church is carved from the very rock on which it stands - some are completely monolithic meaning the rock was carved completely away from all sides of the church and it is only attached at its base, and others are still attached on one side to the rock from which they were carved.

The huge size and scale of these churches, and the reality that they were completely carved by hand from the surrounding volcanic rock, is nothing short of amazing!  The detail of the exterior is incredible - and then each church was completely carved out on the interior too with incredible detail!!

The churches were hewn out of solid rock in such a short time frame, legend says that angels assisted with the endeavor.  With many historic sites, you see photos and read about the history, and then when you actually arrive you view it from a distance.  But that was NOT how we experienced Lalibela!!

We hiked for most of the day, in and out of the rock hewn churches with our guide, Mario, who spent his childhood playing in and around the churches, and is an expert on the history of Lalibela. 

From intense sunshine that revealed intricate chisel marks on the exterior, we then took off our shoes before entering each church, and waited for our eyes to adjust to the darkness of the cool, cave-like interiors.  We craned our necks to view the entire height of these structures, and then hiked to the top and gazed straight down over the edge!

All day, we hiked through the churches, sometimes scaling the walls to get to the next structure, with monks singing and praying all around us.   At times we walked in complete darkness through underground tunnels with no light to guide us, running one hand on the side wall and the other on the ceiling as we trustingly put one foot in front of the other. 

What I loved about our trip to Lalibela was that we fully experienced it - with back packs chafing our skin, sweaty shirts sticking to our backs, the toes of our shoes gripping the rock wall where small hand-holds and foot-holds were carved into the walls centuries ago!

Early that morning, we flew to Lalibela from Addis since to drive it would have taken over 24 hours.  From the plane (a 40 seat aircraft that runs the "historical circuit" of Ethiopia with stops in Gondor, Lalibela and Axum) we could look down on the incredibly rugged terrain of the Ethiopian highlands (rain here feeds the Nile river!) and see the massive size of Lake Tana. 

We were picked up at the airport, and our van immediately scaled the winding roads up to higher elevation where we checked in to our "MountainView" hotel with incredible views. (Thank you to Jessica Irvin for her outstanding recommendations on our guide and our hotel!!)

And from there ... we were off to tour the churches in an all-day excursion that left us all exhausted but agreeing that this was an incredibly worthwhile historical site which has our vote for being named the 8th wonder of the world!

After a long hot day of hiking and climbing, it was great to find a shady seat
in a small cafe for a fresh mango, banana and avocado smoothie.