Monday, January 27, 2014

Our Last Day

Before we knew it, it was time to come home.  I in no way expected to feel the way I felt about leaving and was surprised to feel great sadness that we had to leave.  I have never experienced the amount of joy and love I had in just one short week of my life.  It was by far the hardest and most challenging week of my life, but there was peace and joy knowing I was right where God wanted me to be. 

So with those feelings in tow, we headed off for our last day of ministry.  Our first stop was back up Entoto Mountain to check out a Saturday morning feeding program that Ordinary Hero sponsors.  About a year ago, Ordinary Hero was on Entoto Mountain and encountered all of these very hungry children.  Now, as a start these children are able to come in every Saturday and get a meal.  All of these children are also eligible for sponsorship.  It is a very humbling place to see these kids who eat very little but refuse to even open their bags of food because they want to take it home and feed their families.  THIS IS NOT SOMETHING KIDS SHOULD HAVE TO DEAL WITH!  

This sweet little girl captured my attention the second we walked in the room.  She looked up at us with her little eyes and smiled at us.  Such a sweetheart! 

This was one of two rooms filled to the brim with children very hungry and ready to eat! 

First this boy stood up and shared his story with us.  He had to quit school to take care of his family but he is hoping he can find a sponsor soon and resume his education.

Finally it was time to pass out the grub.  You can see in the picture that some of the kids wouldn't unwrap their food so they could take it home.  Some only took a couple bites before packing it back up so they could share the rest with their family.

                                            These boys approved of their early lunch!

After feeding the kids, we headed back down the mountain.  We were on a tight schedule so we didn't get to help as many woman as we would have liked but as we drove down the mountain we saw several woman with loads of Eucalyptus leaves on their backs.  These woman carry these heavy burdens once or twice a day down this very big mountain to collect around $1 a load for their families.  I can only imagine how difficult and painful this has to be for them.  A lot of them don't have any shoes.  Several of the woman are elderly, some are very young and pregnant.  It's just crazy!

This is the team working to lift the burden and put their loads on top of the van to help them bring it down.  If you remember earlier in the week we visited a pottery facility at the top of the mountain.  That ministry is working to train these woman in other skills so they won't have to do this to make a living.

There really is a tiny woman under that huge load of branches.

Then it was off to watch some soccer.  The boys from Hope for the Hopeless were able to start a soccer team sponsored by (you guessed it) Ordinary Hero!  This was the first time an OH team was able to cheer them on and it was great!  We had heard all week from Pastor Fekadu that these kids were really good but seeing them in action really proved it.  They won their match 2-9!  


Peter really connected with the girls from H4H which was great because the boys tend to get all of the attention since they are much more out going. The girls are much more shy and standoffish. 

It's a bit hard to see, but we found it interesting how even the "real" soccer fields aren't flat.  You can see the lip that the corner of the field is on.  There are also rocks and hazards everywhere.  It's a lot more challenging but the kids are just incredible at it!

This little girl is named Rahel.  She really bonded with me over the course of the week and always tried to find me when ever she saw we were around. It was very, very difficult to say goodbye and leave her.

We also bonded with a little girl named  Marari.  She stole Peter's heart.

The boys warming up before their game.  Then the camera battery died - boo!

Then the moment really came where I had to start saying my goodbyes.  It's hard to explain but we really connected and bonded with these kids in a very short time.  Every time we saw the kids we had to spend about 5 minutes giving out hugs to ALL of them, and then I found myself having to give them all one final hug and I didn't want to let them go.  I got all motherly for them and wanted them to know that they were loved.  I will never forget them.  

Our time in Ethiopia is something I will never forget.  Even now, I know this is just the beginning.  I know that our feelings of processing our time there and coming home are normal.  However, our reaction doesn't have to be.  Most people are able to transition smoothly back into American culture. We have no desire to let that happen.  I'm not angry that we are blessed with so much when others have nothing.  I'm not angry that kids here take everything they have for granted when kids in Africa know pure joy with nothing.  I got a small taste of what life living within God's will feels like.  We got a small taste of the purest and simplest form of joy.  Our hearts were broken over and over again for what breaks God's heart.  This isn't the end for us. We will not conform back to American standards of living.  Instead, we sit here with arms open to whatever God asks us to do moving forward.  This last year as we prepared for this trip, God told us over and over again that this is just the beginning and we've taken those words to heart.  This is just the beginning of something wonderful!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Korah and Hope for the Hopeless Take 2

This was our last full day of ministry here in Ethiopia.  There was a huge to do list but our mighty little team was ready to conquer the day.  

First stop on the list, was back to Korah.  Ordinary Hero has an online store where you can buy various items to be distributed in Ethiopia.  Blankets, Amharic Bible's, livestock.  Today, we were to give out donkeys in Korah.  Surprisingly the donkeys were much better behaved than I expected. 

Some of the donkeys went to people who need help with their work. However, most were given to lepers and one blind woman who cannot work but are going to be able to rent out the donkeys for the day which will give them income.  Great idea! 

After retrieving our donkeys, we had to distribute them.  So marching through all sorts of neighborhoods in Korah we went.  Kat, who is a 19 year old girl with us asked if she could ride one of them. This became hilarious because it gave everyone in Korah a huge laugh as we walked by. I think they will forever remember the crazy Ferengi woman who rode a donkey through their streets. 

Everywhere we go, we seem to find a mob of children.  I always want to know where their mother's are but these kids just wander far away from home like nobody's business and it's all good. Peter has implied that maybe we need to take that approach because seriously, the children here are ridiculously well behaved and mature. 

And beautiful and joyful in the midst of the most extreme poverty.

We journeyed back through the trash dump in all sorts of nooks and crannies to notify a few families that they had been chosen for sponsorship.  I had 3 friends and family who had heard our stories and were already willing to help with sponsorship.

One of the most humbling experiences of my life was getting to tell these woman they had found a sponsor. Korah is by far the most disgusting place I have ever been, however I long to be there. I want to make a difference for the people who's lives feel hopeless right now.  In the short time we were there, it forever impacted my life and changed me. Let me share a few stories with you.

This woman below with Kat.  Has severe leprosy.  She can't work because of it and there is a huge stigma attached to her because of her disease.  Life is hard for this woman.  We told her she had a sponsor and the tears flowed.  Her burden was lifted.

We also visited a blind woman and were able to notify her that she also had a sponsor.  She was a kisser!  But the woman who impacted me most was a single mother.  She has two small children and she cried as she told the story of how her husband had left her and never returned.  She was two months behind on her rent of her shack (which by the way, is about $18 a month) and was at a very low place in her life.  We were able to inform her that she had a sponsor and she just bawled. I was just the messenger but she still bowed down and kissed my feet and hugged and kissed me.  She kept saying that God sent us to her and that there is a God!  There is a God!  Very powerful moment to realize that God really was using us to change lives.  As sad and as difficult as this week has been, I've had the biggest highs of my life through serving others and being God's hands and feet.  I don't want that to stop!

In the evening we headed back out to the boarding school.  We were all looking forward to spending more time with the kids there.

At the end of the evening, we were able to start a bonfire and teach the kids how to makes smores.

Kat and Peter were the fire crew.  There may have been a bit more concern from us American's than the African's about the risk of fire spreading.  They may or may not have been patting out multiple grass fires there in the beginning! 

As evening set in, the children erupted into singing and dancing!  It was a blessed moment to be standing under millions of stars covering the African sky and seeing pure joy erupting from children who have been through more in their short lives than I can even comprehend.  There is poverty that us American's can not even fathom without witnessing it ourselves.  But what I wish to share even more is that there exponentially more joy coming from Africa than we have ever seen in America.  In more instances than I can count this week, I have come across people who have literally lost everything and yet they are filled with more of God's love and joy than I, who have it pretty good am!  Life lessons taught to me from children this week!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Orphanage Visit

Today started out with big plans but because of massive traffic and trips back and forth across town, plans changed.  I am sure God had a reason for it all and all the pieces will still line up perfectly! 

This is Robel, he is Kelly's sponsor son and he has spent a good portion of the week with us.  He's got a heart of gold and is a bit of a jokester too! 

Once we were ready this morning we headed off to an orphanage visit.  You guys, if I am completely honest with you all (which I tend to be too honest on here) I was dreading this one.  Orphanages are a very difficult place for me to be.  

This one is run by the sweetest little nuns you will ever meet.  One thing I continue to be amazed of is that God is so apparent in all of the lives of the people who work in the ministries here.  They all have magnetic personalities.  She explained how she has spent 40 some years of her life leading the way here at this orphanage.  She's strong and firm with the kids and so so wise in her dealings with them. 

After she shared her heart with us, we were allowed to go visit the kids.  Again, this week has been so emotional for me already and I just had to disconnect a bit on this one or else I would be a sobbing mess in the hallway the entire time.  We did get to love on some precious little babies and pray over them as they wait.  Chicken pox made its way through this orphanage last week so all the precious babies have bumps and scars right now.  Thankfully God spared their lives.  There were some very, very tiny little ones here too from the same city our son is from.  They are now 3 months old and weigh somewhere in the 4 1/2 lb range.  The nun said she didn't expect them to make it but they came through.  Some very hard moments in there this morning.

One thing I continue to be amazed about is my husband.  He has grown and changed a lot.  Service is a pretty attractive quality on a man if I do say so myself.  He continues to amaze me as he does things out of his character.  I was shocked when I saw him walk into the baby room and pick up a little guy right away to feed him a bottle.  Babies look good on him ;)

After the orphanage visit we spent a lot of time in traffic.  Our lunch also took a lot of time which made the afternoon really wonky.  

One of the Lion of Judah Statues in the city.  Lion of Judah is kind of our "thing" now.

 We did make a stop at Kore Beth Coffee.  This is a ministry that Ordinary Hero was able to help a young man here start.  A woman very close to Ordinary Hero passed away tragically.  Instead of flowers, her husband asked people to donate to Ordinary Hero.  Her life and story touched many and the donations poured in.  Her husband came on a trip with Kelly and during that trip a young man shared his vision for a company (who Kelly said had been sharing this vision with her for 4 years at that time) that would empower woman from Korah to work and in turn change the course of their children's future.  He believes that changing the lives of the kids, starts with empowering their mother's.  Beth's husband heard this man's vision and decided to invest in it and bam  - Kore Beth Coffee was born!  It's still a small operation as he works to get his export license but is expected to grow rapidly when he does!

This wonderful lady works to hand stitch coffee bags during the day!  Very cool!

These 3 boys have spent a lot of time with the team this week!  They are all great kids and fun to have around!

At this point, my mind is kind of maxed out. There is so much to process and I can't even believe I still have  more days of experiences before we start on our journey home.  I'm looking forward to getting home where I can begin the process of working through all of this and figuring out what my role going forward is.  I can't wait to hold my babies, but I am also conflicted as leaving here feels very difficult.  I have great love for this country and know God has plans for us that include this place.