(Written by team member, Debbie Wyne)
Day 6 Sintaro Update, Feb 5, 2015
I’m still feeling well today–unfortunately, Kindri, our team leader, is not. She decides to stay behind to rest and recover, and I know that this is a wise decision. The rest of us plow on ahead with a full list of items to do today. This is our last day in the village and we want to make the most of it. Our plans today include following up on many of the medical issues we’ve seen with the health post worker, purchasing and dispensing medications for some ailments our doctors have diagnosed, reading sponsor letters to the rest of the children, participating in a meeting with the village elders and hopefully we’ll get to do hut visits with “our” own sponsored kids.
We stop along the way to pick up medications and also our interpreters. We are concerned for several of them because yesterday they too, were complaining of stomach issues. At the agreed upon stop we find 3 of them, and we are so happy to hear that they feel well enough to join us. However, Joseph is missing. We are assured that “he is coming”, and sure enough, we pick him up a little further down the road.
I get the joy of reading sponsor letters to the kids again today! Berhano is my interpreter, and we jive well together. I pull 10 kids out of the class at a time. Now, I’m reading their names much more comfortably and they know what to do as I point and communicate through gestures where I want them to line up to come outside. One-by-one they sit on the step next to me as I read. I’m starting with the older kids, and as we’ve experienced before, they’re much more comfortable with us. When I ask them questions they are much more apt to answer. I hear many of them say how thankful they are, to us and to God, that they can go to school and that we are here. Otherwise, I experience many of the same things as I did yesterday.
As we each finish up with our morning tasks, we are ready for lunch, but it is not quite ready for us. I decide that this is a good time to do a little classroom visit! 😉 They see me coming through the window, but as I approach I stop just shy of the door. I peek my head around the corner and give just a little impish wave. As expected, they wave back. I hide behind the threshold for a moment and repeat the process. Pretty soon, they are waving and encouraging me to come all the way in, and I happily oblige. Several of them call different things out to me, all at once, in an effort to engage me. I grin and pantomime that I want them to be ve-r-r-y quiet. They silently wait for what’s going to happen next. I stand tall and put my hands on my head and quietly being to sing “head, shoulders, knees and toes” and they immediately get excited because they know this one! We sing it over and over again and pretty soon I realize that the rest of our team has joined me in the room and we are all doing it together! Well, everyone except Mark, who is busily photographing and videotaping with his camera! When we start doing more songs together that require jumping, turning around, and hip wiggling, Mark teases me that this footage of me is going to go viral on Youtube! I made a decision before leaving home that I was going to go “all in” with the kids, and this is proof that I have!
We finish up and head out to lunch. Unfortunately, lunch still isn’t ready. While we’re standing outside waiting there are some kids milling about and it doesn’t take long before I’m in the middle of them. My music girls from yesterday appear and one of them looks at me to see if I recognize her. She says her name as if to question me, “Lemlem?”. I greet her as an old friend, excitedly exclaiming, “Lemlem!!”, and draw her into an embrace as if she was an old and familiar friend. We are smiling and having fun! As we let go of one another, I step back and then look back at her and excitedly start the greeting again, as if for the first time. We hug again, and repeat this 5 or 6 times. Now it is funny and everyone else wants to do it. I cheat and look at their name tags, but I get lots of hugs in! I truly hope that if/when I’m able to make it back to Sintaro that I will see Lemlem and she will run into my arms like today!
Since these are my singing girls, we begin singing our little ditties together again. I sing a phrase (just tones, no lyrics) and they echo it back. Pretty soon, we’re all dancing and wiggling again! My back is to the rest of the team, but I’m pretty sure I gave them a pretty good show!
Lunch is ready and everyone is eating today! After all the stomach problems we’ve had this week, this is big news!
After lunch, we begin our hut visits. All of us on our team have sponsored a child and this is our opportunity to go to our child’s home with him/her and meet their families. We are particularly excited about this because we really hope to develop more personal relationships with people in the village, especially the women. We know that through them we will learn a lot about the workings of the community. In this culture, they are strangely absent because they are busy fetching water and doing most of the work for their family. They work hard, and are often alone.
Lori and I are together and we start hiking with Worede (our Hope contact), Joseph, our interpreter, a guide, and a few more. My little guy, Hailu walks in front of me. He is so small and as I watch him walk barefoot down the path, I’m struck by how much responsibility these kids have at such an early age. It’s a long, long hike down a narrow washout, and he makes this trek probably every day. It’s so steep that all of the men we’re walking with are worried about us slipping. We take it very slow, and several times they reach out to offer their support to make it through some of the particularly challenging spots.
We pass other villagers along the way, heading either up or down the hill. I’m excited to meet up with some women on the trail. They are happy to meet me too and we end up taking some pictures together. I ham it up for the camera and have them laughing. One of them is carrying a load of wood and she starts to set it aside for the photo. I pick it up and hold it instead and they think it’s funny that I would do that. I’m not really sure why I do such things, but I think I just want to show them that I’m a woman like they are and I’d be doing this job too. As we pass others on the trail, they join us and pretty soon we are a large group again.
Finally, we get to Hailu’s hut. It is perched on a hillside and has a beautiful view of the valley below. We stand outside of the hut, but quickly realize that his mom is nowhere to be found. There is much talking among the locals and Joseph informs me that Hailu’s mom is at a prayer meeting that the women hold every Thursday afternoon. This is news to us and wonderful to hear. I suggest we sit in the shade to wait (primarily because I’m hot and exhausted at this point) and while we sit there, an older woman approaches. She comes straight to Lori and I and emotionally greets us. It turns out that this is Hailu’s grandmother. We talk with her for a few minutes and then Hailu’s mom, Hannah, joins us. I don’t understand a word she says, but I can tell from her emotions and the way she touches me that she is overwhelmed with thanksgiving for the impact that has been made in Hailu’s life. Joseph interprets and confirms what I already know. To her, I represent hope.
We enter into her hut and there is much scurrying about as she tries to establish a place for us to sit. Like others we’ve seen, the hut is round, with a thatched roof, and has a dirt floor. The walls of the hut are not tight knit and light enters in. It occurs to me that wind and rain would certainly enter too. Chickens are roaming freely inside of the hut. The hut is probably not more than 12-15 feet from one side to the other. The only “furniture” are 2 or 3 crudely made wooden tri-pod “chairs” which are only about 8 inches off the ground, and a flat piece of wood, which she covers with a cloth for me to sit on. As I sit, she begins to talk, and I reach out and hold her hand. She tells me that she prays to God for help and relief and she says that we are like Jesus sitting in front of her. Her heart is overflowing with thankfulness and several times she says, “thanks be to God!” It is humbling to be used so profoundly as an instrument of God’s grace and provision in the life of another and I’m overwhelmed with love for this woman. I’m emotional and having a hard time keeping it together!
As we continue talking, she allows me to ask her some questions about what her life is like. She shows me where she sleeps with Hailu and his 3-year-old brother. It’s nothing more than a collection of a few pieces of fabric and what looks like a hide of some sort. When I ask, she tells me it’s very cold and uncomfortable–especially during the rainy season when the water runs right through the hut. I’m pleased to see that they have a mosquito net, although it is riddled with holes. The “kitchen” is just an area where she burns a small fire and cooks over it–INSIDE the hut. There is nowhere for the smoke to ventilate, so I know they are breathing it all in. I learn that she buys a few beans and then resells them at a profit to support her family. When I ask about Hailu’s dad, Hannah becomes angry and indignant in her tone. I learn that he is away most of the time and is regularly intoxicated. He basically does nothing to support the family because he spends all of his money, presumably on alcohol. She says she survives with the support of her mother and uncle, who have now also joined us in the hut. I also learn that she gave birth to both of her children right where we are standing. I tell her she is a very strong woman, and I say that because I truly see that in her. She is the poorest of the poor, doing everything she can to survive and support her children.
It is time for us to go and I ask if I can pray for her. She literally falls to my feet and I am crouching down to grasp her hands. We hold on to one another as if for dear life. I speak in English and no one interprets. There is no need. We have all joined our hearts in prayer together. I can no longer control my emotions as I pray aloud and I sense that everyone is sharing the moment with me. When I say “amen”, everyone in the hut echoes “amen” also. Hannah and I embrace and I don’t want to let go. We step outside the hut, take few pictures together–me, Hannah and Hailu, and it is time to say goodbye. She holds my hand and leads me up the steep embankment back to the trail. I turn and wave goodbye and seal this moment in my memory. I feel we are family now.
There is more to tell of my day, but I will write that later. Trust me though, it’s good.