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Monday, 28 March 2011

Another Blog

Hello folks! I should have shared about this wonderful blog a long, long time ago, but it kept slipping my mind. Finally, I have remembered to let you in on a marvelous, well-kept secret. Elise, the other teenage girl who went to Ethiopia, writes a blog where she crafts stunning posts filled with gorgeous, breathtaking photos from the trip and short, sweet summaries of each day. I obsessively check it every day (even though I was on the same trip) just to see and read the unique perspective she has to share about each day of the trip. If you have a minute and want to be blessed by a truly amazing blog, click here or visit www.hiswaysarehigher.wordpress.com.



Just to let you know - I am risking Elise's bitter wrath for daring to post a  picture of her (she wouldn't even let me tell people when it was her birthday!!). But you have to see for yourself what a gorgeous, godly, loving young woman she is. :) Sorry Elise! Don't be too mad.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Day Four Pictures

Day Four, Part I

You know, each time I write about a day, I want to say, "Now, this day was my favorite!" But then I start writing the next day and I realize that one is truly my favorite. Until I start the next day...

Alright, so day four was definitely my favorite. Just like day three, and day two, and day one. Day Four I finally got to see my sponsors girls. Last year, our team interviewed over fifty kids in two communities and then came back to the states to find sponsors for them. I fell in love with Mekdes, one of the first girls I interviewed. Unlike all the other little kids, Mekdes was the only one not completely terrified of me. She looked me in the eyes, laughed at my lame jokes, and answered my questions herself. I came back to America completely taken with Mekdes and started sponsoring her. It was really neat because at the time, I didn't have a job so I was kind of worried about paying each month without draining my savings account. However, each month, God gave me some weird opportunity like babysitting, taking care of dogs, or working outside. He kept that up until I got a job, so I've been sponsoring her for a year. My family is sponsoring another girl named Fikre Addis. She is the cutest, sweetest, prettiest little girl I've ever met (besides Mekdes of course) but what really sealed the deal was her name, of all things. Before we changed her name, Sadie's original Ethiopian name was Fikre. Weird right? But there's more. Addis is the name of the girl who inspired our family to adopt (for more about that story, visited roadtoaddis.blogspot.com). In honor of her, Sadie's middle name is Addis. I think that was a pretty clear sign that our family was supposed to sponsor her. When my mom went to Ethiopia to pick up the girls, she was able to visit Fikre Addis' home and buy her groceries. Fikre Addis was wearing the same coat when my mom saw her and when I saw her. I blogged from Ethiopia about Fikre Addis here but I didn't get a chance to blog about Mekdes.
{I'm just going to copy this more or less right from my journal}
It took us about thirty minutes to get from MAKBC to Gulele after teaching the childrens' "Saturday" school. When we pulled up, we were greeted by yet another crowd of children. A quick glance revealed no Mekdes among the crowd. I absentmindedly shook hands with some of the kids, but there was no Mekdes and I was tired of getting excited to meet my girls only to find out they weren't really there. I had some shred of hope that maybe all the sponsor kids were somewhere else, so I asked Derege, the coordinator. "Is Mekdes Reta here?" He grinned, "Yeah of course! All the kids sponsored by Bethlehem are here!" I'm pretty sure I squealed at that point. We all followed Derege behind the church and entered a dark room in their offices. Before my eyes had time to adjust to the dark, I heard Derege ask, "Mekdes Reta?" Immediately, a little voice answered, "Yes?" and all of a sudden - there was my Mekdes. Unlike Fikre Addis, there was no shyness. I enveloped her tiny frame into a ginormous bear hug and said hi. After the whole team came in, we all sat down while Derege explained the sponsorship program. I was half-listening because every thirty seconds, Mekdes would glance up at me and just beam. Just a little distracting. :) After the overview, I gave Mekdes a plastic bag filled with presents. For Christmas, Leeann Chin gave all its servers $120 giftcards to Target. I felt like I should use it for something significant, so I used a big chunk of it for Fikre Addis and Mekdes. Mekdes loved the presents and positively gloated over showing it to her friends (I had to force her to share her tic tacs). Although that part was fun, by far the best part was something she said during our videotaped interview.
Last year, as we interviewed each kid, we asked what religion they were. Most said Orthodox, some said Christian, and a few said Muslim. Mekdes was one of those few. I was a little disappointed that she wasn't a Christian, but I started being really intentional about talking about Jesus  in a couple of the notes and letters I sent. For the first few months after being home, I prayed for her a lot too. This year, Dave taped us being interviewed again and this time when we asked Mekdes what religion she was, she replied, "Christian." I glanced at her in surprise. "Wait, ask her if she loves Jesus," I told our translator. He conversed with her and then looked back at me. "Yes, she says she loves Jesus." I'm getting shivers just typing it. Although, I must admit that I do feel a little ashamed because of how little I pursued her faith. During the summer, I basically just sent in the check without much more thought. I guess it just goes to show how much God can do even when I'm not doing anything. Still, I should have been more involved.
After our interview, all the sponsor kids went home while our team met with Derege again. Mekdes and I were still having a grand time with her friends though, so I dragged her into the meeting where the social workers very graciously let her stay and gave her Fanta and cookies. When it was time for our team to leave, Mekdes and I hugged about three times and waved until she was out of sight.
I am sure that I'll see her again - my dream is to bring her and Fikre Addis to the States for a couple weeks when they get older. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, don't even get me started.
Pictures coming soon.





Thursday, 24 March 2011

Yum

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I thought now that we're three tenths of the way done with our Ethiopia series, it might be nice for a little break. And that break is in the form of 42 pictures of Ethiopian coffee. Set to music. Does it get much better? Well, maybe drinking those 42 cups of coffee. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Day 3 Photos, Expanded



I've added the rest of the Day Three photos to this Picasa album. Check it out!

Day Three, Part II

     Okay, I'm facing a dilemma. I thought I had the perfect two songs picked out for my slideshow... but then I found another really good one. And another. And another. So now I have six songs that are amazing, but I can only use two. Unless I made it thirty minutes long. Ooh, there's an idea...
     Unfortunately, my poor, weak, American stomach couldn't handle the food we were passing out to the HIV people, or I totally would have eaten a big plate full. Once everyone was happily eating and chatting, our team headed back to the guest house for lunch. After lunch, we all piled into our blue and white mini van (a theme throughout our trip) and headed up to Mount Toto. Mount Toto is a mountain just outside of Addis that has one of the oldest Ethiopian orthodox churches at the top. The mountain is also very heavily forested (or it was) so it attracts many women who strip the trees of their bark and leaves, strap it to their backs, carry it all the way down the mountain, and sell it in Addis for about 18 birr (the exchange rate while we were there was 16.5 birr = 1 dollar). Once we got to the top of the mountain, Helena, our fearless driver, discovered that the gas attendant had filled up our tank so full that as our van drove up the mountain, our gas leaked out. Oh yes, good times. Our team last year had toured the church and the museum, so I stayed back with Dave E., who had also gone last year, Helena our driver, Alemnesh, and Binyam, Alemnesh's son. Dave handed out a track put out by Desiring God called "For Your Joy", which people were really excited about. However, we attracted too big a crowd which made the guards nervous and mad so they told us to stop passing them out. Alemnesh got kind of worried that there were going to get even madder at us, so we ended up camping out behind the van. Once the rest of the team's tour was over, we headed back down the mountain but stopped a couple times to snap pictures of the view, interview a wood carrier, and give the van a rest when it's brakes started smoking. The women who carry this wood generally come from homes where the man is absent or an alcoholic, so it's up to the woman to provide for her family. In a country with an unemployment rate of 50%, people have no choice but to take drastic measures to feed  their family. It was hard to drive down the hill, almost effortlessly, while watching woman after woman staggering down under the weight of the wood, which would sell for about one dollar. According to the National Geographic "Typical Man" study, 46% of the world lives on less than a dollar a day. The "typical" American lives on ninety dollars a day. Wow.
     There is a family living in Stillwater who has adopted a girl from Ethiopia and has been over several times because they support several schools there. While in Ethiopia two years ago, they met a boy named Sami who sold gum in a market. They fell in love with him, but were not able to get any contact information. When they found out I was going, they gave me his name, where he worked two years ago, and three huge laminated pictures of him, and asked me to try to find him. I was really excited to look - it felt like a really important, nearly impossible mission. However, our Ethiopia guide was less than enthusiastic about it. "When was the last time they saw him?!" she asked when I told her. Our team leader very graciously let us stop at the market and try to find him, even though I could tell that not many on the team were very optimistic either. After we got down the mountain, we made our way to the market. During the fifteen minute ride, I looked out the window and prayed and prayed and prayed. Helena pulled into the entrance to the market where there was a group of boys standing around. He and Binyam pulled out the pictures of Sami and showed them to the boys. "Sami?" the boys asked. "Yeah! He's right over there!" And sure enough, fifteen feet away, there was Sami! Poor kid. One minute everything was normal and the next, he in a van surrounded by white strangers (we had to bring him in the van because the moment people saw white faces they surrounded the van to ask for money). Through Alemnesh, I was able to find out all his contact information, if he was in school and attending church, and give him money the family had sent with me. It was so cool. After about 10 minutes, I had asked everything I needed to, so we snapped a quick picture and left. As we drove away, all the Ethiopians in the car stared at me with huge smiles. "You know you're so lucky, right?" But it totally wasn't me. Only God could have protected Sami for two years. Only God could have made sure he was at the market on the day I'd be there. And only God could have him be standing fifteen feet away from our van. I ended up seeing Sami twice more after that, and the second time he told me that he'd already emailed and talked to the family. Coolest thing ever!
     Ciao! (Thanks to the Italian invasion, I have retained one Amharic word). 

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Day Three Photos

Day Three, Part I

     What's kind of sad is that I can't really remember it! I have to check my journal and my pictures to remind myself what happened. Even then, the days are still a little foggy. That's why I love blogging about these days because it forces me to organize everything that happened into each day, hopefully it'll help me remember more clearly!     Alright, Day Three: This was a Friday, the 11th of February, and  every Friday morning, MAKBC (for those of you who don't remember - MAKBC was the local church we worked with while in Ethiopia) has a program called "The Good Samaritan Ministry" where they minister to HIV/AIDS men and women. The church holds a service for them, and then, if the church has enough money, they prepare and serve a huge meal of the traditional injera and weit. A portion of the money each of us raised was used to pay for this meal, so we were able to, not only be able to witness the feeding, but also help serve it! But that wasn't until after the service...
     Kenny Stokes, a pastor for Bethlehem and the man who took over preaching for the eight months during John Piper's leave of absence, was on our team and shared an amazing message from 2 Corinthians 5 about how our bodies on this earth are like tents.
"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." 
     It was such a blessing to sit in this church, surrounded by men and women who's physical bodies are being destroyed by this virus, and to see the joy on their faces as they heard that this body is just tent - we have a better one coming. Even if I forget a lot of things from this trip, that service is one thing that I will never forget - the looks of joy and hope and happiness on their faces was breathtaking. 
     After Kenny was done, Darlene S. came up to speak about HIV/AIDS. Darlene and her husband have just come off the field after being missionaries in Kenya for twenty years. While on the field, they also lived in Ethiopia for five years. Her husband is a doctor and Darlene ran an HIV counseling center in Kenya. So for the last half of the service, she shared  basic information of how HIV is spread, how to prevent it, and tips for making the HIV medicine most effective. That time was good, but it was also a little sad. One of the ways to help the medicine work is to eat balanced, nutritional meals everyday. When Darlene first shared that, everyone started laughing and asked, "Do you have any idea how impossible that is?" In a country where most people live on less than a dollar a day, it is nearly impossible to get all the nutrition one needs to help the HIV medicine.
     Once the service was over, we all headed over the compound next door where a group of women from MAKBC were busily finishing up all the last minute food details. Once everyone had totally filled the building and then spilled into the courtyard, we began dishing out food. Everyone, even the little kids, got one plate with a full injera (the bread staple - it's a round, thin sour "bread"... you have to taste it to totally understand what it's like) and a generous serving of the red stew called weit and a hearty pile of cabbage and carrots with the life cooked out of them. Once the 200+ people were all fed, there was still enough food for anyone who wanted to have seconds. What a great thing to witness people being able to eat all they wanted! Darlene said that in her twenty years of working with churches and HIV ministries, she has never seen a church that was so involved with HIV+ people as MAKBC.
     That feeding was also where Mike K. and I found the woman who accepted Christ while we were in her home. It was so neat to see her again - and what a difference! When we met her in her dusty, dark house, she was clothed in old, stained, dirty rags. But here in this bright, sunny courtyard she was clothed in a bright blue and purple dress with an equally colorful headband and a huge smile.  What an unintentional but perfect spiritual example! I'm getting shivers just thinking about it.
      Once I pulled out my camera to snap some pictures of cute kids, everyone wanted their picture taken. It was interesting because they didn't know how to pose. They would stare straight into my lense, look nervously off into the distance, or giggle at their friend. They weren't used to having pictures taken of them. American teenagers on Facebook could learn a lot from them. But don't even get me started on that...
     It made for a great series of pictures, though. It was such a sunny day and the walls of the compound were painted a bright turquoise, and the smiles of these people were huge. What a great morning.
     Obviously, this post got a little longer than I thought. I'll try to post Part 2 (which was full of a HUGE surprise involving an intimidating search for a boy named Sami) later today. Meanwhile, enjoy the beautiful pictures of the beautiful people from that morning!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Slide Show

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Here is the slide show! It's only two minutes because it was made for our church presentation and we had a limited amount of time. So think of this as a sneak peak for the real slide show. I hope you enjoy!

Day Two Photos (Finally)

This actually was from Day 3, but I couldn't wait to post it! This the woman who accepted Christ with Mike K. and me.


The first orphanage we visited. None of these kids will be adopted so it's fine for me to post pictures.

The girls playing their handgames






The amazing MAKBC church leaders. In true Bethlehem Baptist Church form, we gave them John Piper books. :)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Slide Show - Finished!

Wow. Just finished the slide show! What an amazing feeling. I just watched it for the first time - I literally jumped up and down with happiness as I watched it. :) I'll load it on here after tomorrow night, just because my church has dibs. Also, sorry I haven't posted Day Two pictures yet - I needed to make sure it was okay if I posted pictures of the kids from the orphanage. Now that I have the all-clear, I'll post them soon!