Here I am alone, finally, at 9:30 p.m. I am gathering my thoughts and I hope I can successfully communicate the sights and impressions of today. I met Brian Smith and Jason & Kameron Shadrick early this morning at the Ethio Comfort Guest House in Addis. The guest house hostess, Tsebay, had a lovely breakfast waiting for us (she is certainly the hostess with the mostess) and we ate heartily because we knew it would need to last us the entire day. Brian and the Shadricks arrived the previous night and were tired but up for the day's adventure.
Brian's church put together backpacks for the twenty children sponsored by the Smiths, Shadricks and various other big-hearted people throughout the United States, and the Shadricks brought school supplies to add to those I brought from two generous donors in Washington. The day was beautiful and off we went to visit the children and the new school, started just for them in a village three hours southwest of Addis Ababa.
The school is built on a lovely piece of property given to the Christians of this village by the government. It is a stick and mud building with two windows and is brightly painted (emphasis on brightly) with vinyl over the cement floor. When we poked our heads inside, there were 19 eager faces (one child was sick) sitting at their little desks waving their hellos.
The teacher is a kind young man who is very patient and gentle with the children, who range from 3-years-old to perhaps age six or seven. These children were selected by the village chief as being from the poorest households.
At first, the children were solemn, their big eyes looking at these "ferengi" with white skin. The teacher lined the children up, smallest to biggest, and led them outside to receive their gifts from Brian.
Brian placed a brightly colored backpack in their outstreached arms and the children were so good to just wait for everyone to get theirs before curiosity got the best of them and they started to peek inside them. They found a pair of flip-flops (all of the children are barefoot), a new tee shirt, a box with school supplies, a tablet of paper, some candy, a bar of soap, tooth paste and tooth brush, and a small toy. Many had big balloons with a rubber band to put around their wrist so they could hit the balloon, and they were a huge hit. One little guy got a harmonica, and he certainly made a joyful noise!
It was lunchtime. Again, the children were lined up smallest to biggest and they patiently waited their turn to get their dabo (bread) and boiled eggs along with a cup of milk.
It seemed like quite a lot of food for such little ones, but there was not a crumb left and not one complaint, either! These children are very, very thin with many runny noses and coughs and we were told by the village elders that this probably will be all they have to eat. I want to get chewable vitamins to the teacher to give to the children every day. Monday, Wednesday and Friday they will get eggs, and on Tuesday and Thursday they will have potatos and carrots or maybe spaghetti, all with dabo. Getting a good meal a day with protein added, I expect I will see quite a change in these little ones in the months to come.
After lunch, it was play time.
The children were getting a bit more acclimated to us and started holding our hands and running their tiny hands over our exotic skin.
Brian and Jason were great and taught the boys high-five and low-five and played patty-cake with the girls. Pretty soon they were showing us the things in their backpacks and having us help them put on their new shirts. We put toothpaste on toothbrushes and they had fun brushing their teeth and spitting! They weren't real sure about what to do with the bar of soap in their bags, so I hope the teacher will teach them how to properly wash their hands.
Next to the school is a brand new lavatory so the children do not have go to the bathroom outdoors, and this is a first in their lives.
In front of the school is a water station with six spigots just their height to wash from.
They loved the water and it was great fun watching them splash water all over their faces and heads. The day was a hot day and I am sure the cool water felt wonderful. Until very recently when YWAM paid to bring water to this village, water was a very scarce commodity, and I am sure it felt extravagant to them to be able to have all the water they wanted.
The Shadricks, Brian Smith, Abebe and I waved good-bye to our new friends and began the three hour ride to our hotel in Adama. Not only did we enjoy these delightful little children, but we had the opportunity to visit with an amazing man, Aman, who is discipling the pastors and new converts of this village. God is doing amazing (AMAZING!) work in this area, and I want to share the stories I heard. Stay tuned! I felt I was talking to a modern day Apostle Paul.
Tomorrow Jason & Kameron and Brian will meet their baby daughters for the first time. They are understandably quite excited! One of our other families traveled to Gimbie to bring back their little girl. By all reports they had a fantastic time at the orphanage, and their meeting with their little one's birth family was better than they could have imagined. They travel back to Addis tomorrow, as do we with the Smith's and Shadrick's babies. These three families have their adoption court hearing on October 22nd.
We had a full and wonderful day basking in the goodness of our Lord. It is fantastic to see what He is doing among the "least of these." His love for these dirty, skinny children is demonstrated through the generosity of His people in the United States who sacrificially gave to make this small school a reality. To those who sponsor these children, to those who gave to bring water to the village, to those who donated money to build the fence around the property, to those who gave to build the school, a playground and a latrine .... Amesegënallô ('Thank you' in Amharic)!!
Egziabeher Yimesgen (God be praised!)