Day 2 Sintaro Village, Feb 1, 2015
(Written by team member, Debbie Wyne)
Dealing with such a massive time change always takes a few days. After about 5 hours of rock solid sleep, I awoke at 3:30 am (which is 4:30pm, the day before back home). I decided to read through everyone’s comments on my latest travel update and on the pictures I posted to Facebook. It’s so wonderful to have so many of you reading, enjoying, commenting and especially, praying for us. It is a great encouragement to sense your love from so far away!
After tossing and turning, I finally just got out of bed. I steeled myself to step under the tepid stream of water in the shower and was pleasantly surprised to find it hot this morning. Praise the Lord for the small things!
As I was in the bathroom, I began to hear chanting outside. I stepped out onto the balcony to listen more closely and amid all of the barking dogs and assorted animal noises, what I heard sounded like a Muslim call to prayer. In the darkness of the morning, I found myself reminiscing back to just a few weeks ago when I was in Israel and heard much the same thing.
Our hope for the morning was to have breakfast at 6:30 and be on the road to Sintaro by 7:15. Well, we must remember that we are operating on African time and “time” is a suggestion. Breakfast was served after 7 and our ride didn’t show up until well after 8:00. While we were waiting at the hotel, the power went out. I was warned this was a regular occurrence. We’ll see…
Eventually our driver and guide showed up and we began the journey to Sintaro. Come to find out, the church service goes on until noon or so, so our guides weren’t in a big hurry to arrive. About ten minutes into our drive, we pulled over and three men stepped onto our bus with big smiles on their faces. These are our interpreters! Several of our team recognize two of the men because they’ve interpreted on past trips. Tashale is new and welcomes me with a firm handshake and a big smile. As I get to know him, I learn that he has one more year of study in Seminary and then he will be a priest!
We travel about 45 minutes of bumpy travel, on primarily dirt roads, and I’m extremely thankful that we are traveling in the dry season. I can imagine that passage on these roads when they are thick with mud would be nearly impossible. As we travel along, the “road”–if you can call it that–is once again filled with pedestrians. I see many, many women walking with large yellow containers and I know they are making their trek to collect water. As we get closer and closer to Sintaro Village, the children on the streets greet us with big smiles and waves! Because we are white and traveling in a motorized vehicle, we stand out. They greet us with infectious joy!
Finally we are here! We’ve decided that we will split up and go to visit all 4 churches. Teri and I go to the Catholic church with our interpreter, Tashale. The building is constructed with mud and straw, and when we walk in we find about 15-20 people standing, hands raised, and we find out later that they were saying the Lord’s Prayer together. As they turn to sit, they spy us standing at the back of the room and encourage us to come forward. They seem to know immediately who we are. Through the interpreter they welcome us and give us a chance to speak. We say a few words and they respond with some of the most beautiful sentiments that I am having a hard time controlling my emotions. They tell us that having us in their midst is like how the disciples must have felt when Jesus appeared to them. They say that they sense in us God’s love and the Holy Spirit. The thank us over and over again for the things we have done for their village and the difference it is making. I read joy, peace and hope on their faces. After a verbal exchange for these few minutes, they applaud and let out an African cheer! They all come up and want to shake our hands, and greet us with a holy hug. There’s one woman in particular that gives me a full embrace and I feel a soul connection with. I hope that we get an opportunity to spend more time together.
This is the end of the church service and we all walk outside where we are met by many more of the locals–primarily children. Word is out that we are here! The children gather closely and each holds out his/her hand and offers a greeting. We try to learn some of the words they are saying. They are full of smiles and joy and laughter. Many are wearing their school uniforms (even though it is Sunday) because this is the only clothing they have. They want to touch us and greet us. We begin to learn their names and that each person’s name means something. Interpreted into English, we meet “Better things are coming”, and “Miracle” and “Blessing”, among others.
After visiting for awhile, we begin to walk to the site of the school. This is our agreed upon meeting place with the rest of our team. Also, Teri, who is an architect, wants to check out the progression of the new construction. As we walk, I feel a little like the Pied Piper. We are now a parade and the children are following us everywhere. I feel their eyes on everything I’m doing. I’m holding a water bottle in my hand and I sense eyes looking longingly at it. I switch the bottle to my other hand and one little boy reaches out to hold my hand. We walk hand and hand the rest of the way to the school. It is a sweet and tender moment and my heart is melting.
We walk onto the school grounds and our entourage stays outside the fence. There is a respect for this place and the children won’t follow us onto the grounds. They stay outside the fence and look through. They watch our every movement and as soon as we look their direction they wave and smile.
Teri was here last year and she is amazed at the progress in construction. In addition to the latrine, kitchen (where two meals are prepared each day for the students) and the main classroom, construction has recently been completed on a new classroom building. It is brand new, but already appears as if it is 50 years old by our standards. Construction is well under way on two additional classroom buildings and two more latrines. It’s hard to describe how rustic the construction is, but these are by far still the nicest buildings in the village. Most of what you see are thatched huts made with mud, straw and cow dung.
Once the rest of our team congregates, we take a hike (followed by many of the villagers) to the site of where the water well will eventually be. Everyone is so anxious for this well to be complete. We can’t underestimate what a difference access to clean water will make to the people here. As we stand in the hot sun, we pray over this site and the clean, sweet, living water that will arise from here, hopefully soon! To God be the glory!
We keep hiking and visit the clinic. We talk with the civil worker who has a HUGE job and responsibility of caring for the entire village here. Kindri lays the seed to spend more time with her later in the week to observe and learn more.
We hike on even further and see where it is that the women currently hike to to collect water 3 times daily. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to hike up and down that hill carrying the weight of the water.
Finally, we return towards the school. Our parade has grown larger and larger. Some of the kids begin to practice the English they have learned in school. I hear “Good Morning! How are you?” and “I am fine, thank you”. I begin to figure out that they have been learning the parts of the body and their numbers too. As they say things like “ear” and “elbow”, I point them out on my own body. They get a big kick out of when they said “tongue” and I stuck my tongue out at them! We are laughing and holding hands on the walk all the way back to the school.
Lunch has been prepared for us (by Hope workers who understand the importance of sanitation!). It is traditional Ethiopian fare, but I find I don’t have much of an appetite. I take samples of the food, but don’t eat much. Lori isn’t feeling well, so she heads to the van to lay down for a bit. When Kindri goes to check on her, Lori begins to vomit. Uh oh. We wait for awhile and when she is feeling better, we decide to call it a day and make the long, hot, dusty trek back to hotel.
I go back to my room and take a quick shower and lay down to rest. I am restless and not feeling very well. A few minutes later, I too begin to vomit and have diarrhea. Our phones don’t work, but we have wifi, so I send Kindri a quick email and Teri a text to let them know what’s going on. This is my biggest fear. Kindri (who is a nurse) shows up and offers me an anti-nausea pill. I take it, but it comes right back up. I take another… same result. And another, and finally I driift off to sleep for a bit. I’m up off and on throughout the night.
I managed to send off a quick text to my husband letting him know what’s going on, and an email to some friends asking for prayer. Then, the wifi goes out and I’m completely isolated. I have no way to communicate with anyone, so it’s just me resting in the presence of the Lord trying to get through it all. My stomach still isn’t settled, but I manage to doze off and on all night. When I’m not in the bathroom or fighting with nausea, I find I can’t keep my eyes open. “Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest”. Yes, Lord, please!!