Final Reflections by Rachel and Sarah (High School students and team members)

Final Relections (Written by high school students, and team members: Rachel Kuehnle and Sarah Obujen)

RACHEL WRITES: Going to Sintaro Village this summer has definitely impacted my life in several ways and there were a few experiences that really stood out to me. One of the things that stood out to me most was the water ceremony. Although it seemed long, it was well worth it because at the end, we got to go around to all four of the distribution points and officially “open” them. Even though the villager’s didn’t express their emotions with facial expressions (because its their culture not to), we could tell that they were excited to have fresh, clean water in the village because of the lines that were forming outside of the distribution points and all of the people following us to the different distribution points.

Despite the extreme poverty in the village, their prayers were to increase their faith, have peace throughout the village, and then have God provide for their family. Also, the people were always welcoming us strangers into their huts, including Iyob, the boy my family sponsors. When we got to his hut, my mom told him my family sponsors him and he ran inside and brought out an envelope full of all of the letters and pictures we sent him. It was truly touching to see that he treasured all of the letters we sent him. These are just a few of the life changing, unforgettable experiences for me in Sintaro.

Rachel and Brenda visiting Iyob, their sponsor child

Rachel and Brenda visiting Iyob, their sponsor child

SARAH WRITES: My head is still a whirlwind of the past week in Sintaro. I know I will never ever forget my time spent in Ethiopia, and I know that I will hold it in my heart forever.

Overall, the week was truly life changing. How was it life changing you ask? I’m honestly not sure yet. But, I know God was extremely present and working in my heart throughout the week. I know that I am changed, in a good way, and I can’t wait to share my stories when I return home. This week has also taught me a lot of life lessons, from traveling without my parents, to the cultural norms of Ethiopia. I keep thinking back on my trip, and I begin to relive it all over again. It seems so surreal, and I can’t believe I just spent a week in an African Village! God is SO GOOD.

There are no Earthly words to describe to you how much I have fallen in love with the village, it’s people, this country, the culture, etc. The village itself is beautiful and lush. Although the roads leave something to be desired, the views and scenery are fantastic. The people have such a rich appreciation for God and are truly thankful for everything they have (which isn’t much). God is the center of their life, and their community is built around the Gospel. I strive to even have an ounce of their faith. They have to depend on the Lord of their daily bread (literally) and have an incredible trust in him, even if their daily bread doesn’t come.

This week, there were many highlights on a day-to-day basis, but I wanted to share one of my favorites with you all. Wednesday, we had the big Water Ceremony. It was such an honor to be apart of such a large celebration. After the ceremony, we were honored to be the first ones to drink the fresh, cold, new well water. I must say, it tasted clean and good, and I couldn’t wait until the villagers could start drinking it. I even got to use it to wash my hands! I know this sounds so silly, but it is was a huge deal to have running water!

We hiked up and down to each water distribution point, and I kid you not, we had a crowd of hundreds following us from place to place. I never had free hand because a small hand of one of the children always occupied them. When Rachel and I began the trek back up to the school, we had a long line of about a dozen children holding our hands. Along the way we made various silly noises and sung songs. Some even copied my simple English words like ‘Wow’ and ‘Okay’, and repeated them over and over. They also loved my long, blond-brown hair, and thought it was hilarious when I would flip it around.

I spent a lot of time walking hand In hand with kids this week, with no translators around, so we couldn’t speak to each other. Yet, we seemed to have more valuable and fruitful conversations through sounds, faces, and eye contact then I usually have at home, where we all speak the same language.

Sarah and Rachel walking hand-in-hand with some of the village children

Sarah and Rachel walking hand-in-hand with some of the village children

The learning about the culture this week has been fascinating to me. On our last day in the village we were able to talk to the village elders, and learn more about their village. The elders each wear a white cloth draped over their shoulders, and carry a walking stick (seriously looks like something right out of a movie). When there is a conflict between two people, an elder brings the two people under his wing and they drink a cup of honey. This symbolizes peace between the two parties. We also noticed that many Ethiopians touch their elbow when shaking our hands. We asked our translators about this, and they told us that this is a sign of respect. If someone’s hands were dirty, then you would clasp each other’s forearms. Also, to show more affection, you would clasp hands, and touch shoulders. To show even more affection, a normal hug is acceptable.

One of the village elders arriving at the Water Celebration

One of the village elders arriving at the Water Celebration

On Thursday, we where supposed to go into the village, but the weather report showed heavy rain. The night before, Worede and Aganani (A driver/mechanic for Hope) got stuck in the village at night because of a fallen tree and a large rainstorm. It was only about an hour after we left!! We were all very thankful that God protected Worede and Aganani After a lot of praying, talking and consideration, we decide that best route to take is skip going into the village today. I must say I was totally heartbroken and devastated not to have closure with the villagers. But we were able to have a nice lunch and spend time with our translators. I have LOVED getting to know and bond with our translators this week. It has been super fun to work with them and become a team.

Friday was spent driving back into Addis Ababa, and then the traditional dinner. During the dinner, we were joined by Pastor Mattewos and Aganani Traditional Ethiopian food is Ingera with lentils, meat, etc. The Injera is used to scoop up the Lentils and meat. If you’ve never had Ethiopian food, it is hard to describe. Ingera is spongy bread, but it has a tart/sour taste, and is only good with enough meat or lentils. We also were able to watch traditional Ethiopian dancing and music, which was very fun to watch! Dinner was followed by a coffee ceremony, which included them roasting the beans, grinding them, and pouring your coffee in front of you. The coffee ceremony also had popcorn, which I happily snacked on. As good as the coffee smelled, I have never loved it, and I didn’t want to start with the strong Ethiopian coffee.

After dinner, we said our goodbyes to Pastor Mattewos It has been an honor to work with him this week. He has such a passion and fire for God. It is so wonderful to see how God works through him.

Saturday, we were able to sleep in, and enjoy a nice breakfast.

Then, Aganani picked us up in his 4-wheel drive Land Rover, and drove us to the Hope headquarters where we began our adventure. I must say, after riding in the front-middle seat of a stick shift Land Rover in Africa, I have a totally new appreciation for driving in America. Aganani did a fantastic job of navigating the donkeys/goats/horses/cows, pedestrians, bumps, crazy buses, etc. It takes a talented person to get through downtown Addis. Very few people stay in their lane, and most weave in and out as they please. There is a lot more communicating by honking, waving, and headlight flashing. For the most part, pedestrians don’t have the right away, which makes crossing the street a challenge. All that said, I am extremely thankful for our wonderful drivers this week; I know I would never be brave enough to do their job.

Shopping was super fun, and I loved seeing more of Addis. Aganani was very patient and he even got into the shopping! He would show us stuff, and explain what it was, and compliment us on our multiple scarves we tried on. He even helped us on our epic hunt for these cute animal napkin rings. By the end of the day we had accumulated many more bags and we very happy with our purchases.

Later that night, we were all standing outside with our bags lined up outside the Land Rover, watching as they were packed in. I couldn’t believe we were already heading home. My heart ached to stay longer, but I was excited to start the journey home.

Goodbye for now Ethiopia. You will forever hold a piece of my heart.

The Long Journey Home Begins

7/25/15 Addis Ababa, Washington DC… home! (written by team member, Debbie Wyne)

Today begins the long journey home! We take advantage of a little more leisurely schedule this morning and get a few extra minutes of sleep. Lori has a meeting at Hope Enterprises scheduled, so we all pile into a well loved Land Rover that is owned by Hope, and our driver, Aganani skillfully winds his way through the bustling street of Addis. I was a bit intimidated by this city the first time I saw it, but find that now I’m adjusting to the chaos of it all.

We are in Addis at a very interesting time because Barack Obama is arriving here tomorrow! We drive past the Ethiopian President’s house and observe guards stationed on the periphery of the grounds. Some are armed with machine guns, and others carry a large metal baton. We also drive past the African United Nations and the streets are lined with Ethiopian and American flags! Everywhere we go, people mention that the American President is coming to visit, and we joke and tell them that he is following in our footsteps!

We meet Worede at the Hope offices and Lori goes into her meeting. The rest of us walk through the surrounding neighborhood with Aganani, and do a little shopping. Aganani’s English is quite good and although he seems disinterested at first, he quickly joins with us in the hunt for bargains.

After a bit, Lori and Worede join us and we finish up our shopping. The next stop is the Azee Café! The shop owner has become a friends with Laura and Gary Taggart on a previous trip, and he welcomes us with a warm smile and a handshake. He is very proud of his coffee and pastry shop, and gives us the grand tour. We see where his chefs create the delectable desserts and we learn that he uses this facility to teach others the craft. In the back room there are many burlap bags full of fresh coffee beans, which he opens and shows us.  Then he points out a roasting machine and opens the bottom of it to reveal freshly roasted coffee beans. Coffee is one of the crops grown in Sintaro, and I imagine that some of these beans may have originated in the fields there. I’ll never walk into a Starbucks or Peet’s coffee shop again and see “Ethiopian Blend” without remembering this experience! We finish our tour and delight in some of the delicious food and coffee.

Fresh coffee beans and freshly roasted coffee beans at the Azee Cafe (the roaster is pictured in the background)

Fresh coffee beans and freshly roasted coffee beans at the Azee Cafe (the roaster is pictured in the background)

It’s time to head back to our hotel and freshen up before we head to the airport. We eat some dinner at the hotel and prepare for the long journey ahead.

As we pull into the airport parking lot, guards direct our car off to the side and ask all of us to exit the vehicle. It seems they are doing this with the majority of cars that enter the lot. Lori climbs out of the front seat and the door is ajar so the rest of us can climb out from the back seat. The van next to us maneuvers to leave and as he does so, his vehicle catches and pulls our passenger door, which scratches up the side of their vehicle, and tweaks our door to the point that it will no longer close. The rest of us choose to stay put in the back seat as there is a flurry of activity and animated conversation from the drivers, passengers and police. Fortunately, the police were right there and observed the whole thing. It’s terrible that this has happened to Hope’s vehicle. After several minutes, Lori, Worede and our driver re-enter our vehicle and we drive the rest of the way to the terminal. It seems the guards have forgotten all about wanting to search our vehicle or question any of us! Once again, we thank God for His protection. There were so many opportunities for things to happen on this trip, and when it does, we are sitting in a parked car with police all around us!

Without further ado, we pass through the 3 levels of security at the airport and proceed to our gate. We fly from Addis to Dublin, Ireland for refueling, and then on to Washington DC. Unfortunately, there is a passenger in Dublin who is evacuated from the plane for medical reasons and this delays our departure somewhat. The flight is looong and every seat is taken. There are more crying babies on this flight than I have ever experienced before and I’m thankful for ear plugs! It feels like we’ve been on this plane for days, and truthfully, we have.

There’s something reassuring when the plane touches down on US soil and the knowledge that we’re “home”. The first phase of going through customs is a breeze, but we have to wait for our luggage, and we’re watching the clock closely because we don’t have much time before our next flight departs. Lori’s luggage comes out first, so she heads straight for the gate to try to hold the plane for us. We only have about 20 minutes before our departure, and the rest of us still don’t have our luggage! I hear a man behind me on his cell phone talking with the airline. It turns out he is also on our flight to SFO and is worried that we’ll miss the flight. He learns there is another flight into SFO two hours later, but there is only one seat left. I say a silent prayer that we will make our flight and not have to deal with any travel complications. Right about then, the baggage carousel stops moving, but we are still empty handed without our luggage. We know we can’t board our next flight without getting our bags all the way through customs and TSA so we must wait. A few more anxious minutes go by and finally, the last 3 bags emerge and we’re on our way! Our dreams of using an American restroom, eating Chipotle, drinking Starbucks and filling our water bottles from the tap, disappear as we only have minutes now to make our flight.

Finally, we are through TSA and we literally begin running through the airport terminal to our gate. It is empty and they are making the final boarding announcement. Out of breath, but elated to have made it, we board the plane.

Six more hours of flight, and we arrive safely back at SFO, where we started. It was just a few days ago that our adventure began, but it feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened, and we have been changed by our experience in Sintaro. We’ve experienced a different culture and will see the world around us differently as a result. We’ve left behind our Sintaro family but we will forever hold them near and dear to our hearts, and in our prayers.

We have many stories to share of our experience and a lot to process, but first, we are joined by our families and enjoy a much anticipated and hearty meal at Chipotle! Aaaah, it’s good to be home!

Celebrating our return by enjoying a much anticipated meal at Chipotle with family!

Celebrating our return by enjoying a much anticipated meal at Chipotle with family!

Experiencing Ethiopian culture

7/24/15 Ethiopia Update (Written by team member, Debbie Wyne)

Today we begin the long journey home. Our drive from Awasa to Addis takes about 6 hours, including a stop for lunch along the way. We continue to see many pedestrians and livestock of various kinds everywhere we go. We also see many areas of agriculture where various crops are being grown. The farmers are out in the fields using oxen to plow the rows and it’s interesting to realize that such basic techniques of farming are still employed.

Primitive, but effective, farming techniques

Primitive, but effective, farming techniques

The team is quiet on the bus. Some nap, but I suspect there is a lot of quiet contemplation happening as we all observe our surroundings and reflect on the happenings of the past several days.

Arriving into Addis is a bit of a culture shock all over again. The traffic and congestion is overwhelming. The smell of diesel and smoke permeates everything. Our driver is doing an excellent job of weaving amongst all of the obstacles, whether it’s another vehicle, a pedestrian, motorcycle, Bajaj (a tuk-tuk type taxi), a donkey pulled cart, or a herd of cows or goats. In a place where lane markers are rarely used—or if they are, they’re merely a suggestion–this is no easy task!

After we’ve been driving through Addis for a while, I begin to see some familiar sights. I have my bearings, and I know that The Amenities Hotel where we are staying, is not far away. I’m shocked to realize that I’m beginning to learn my way around this city of chaos!

For dinner we are going to a place where we will be served a traditional Ethiopian dinner, and see a show with live music and dancing. Pastor Mattewos is meeting us there and we are thrilled to see him again. He has been such a positive and inspirational presence with us on this trip and he is someone I will miss. As he says, he has a “fire in his heart for God”, and from what I’ve observed, this is an accurate description of who he is. My conversations with him this week have been very inspirational.

Dinner is an adventure! It begins with a hand washing ceremony. Our server brings a silver basin and we are to hold our hands over it. He puts some soap into our hands, and as we rub them together, he pours warm rinse water from a kettle over us. When the food comes, it is little piles of wat (various meats, lentils, vegetables, potatoes, cabbage…) over bed of Injera. Injera is a flatbread made from a sour dough with a very unique, and spongy texture. Cooked and seasoned lamb is delivered over a bed of hot coals to the table. Eating with your hands, you are supposed to tear off pieces of Injera and use it to sop up the rest of the food. We are also served Kocho, which is a staple of the diet of the people of Sintaro. It is made with the false banana plant that we saw growing all over the village. We are adventurous and dig into our meal. Meanwhile, we are being entertained by music, song and dance. I learn from Mattewos that they are performing in a manner typical of the Sintaro region.

Ethiopian hand washing ceremony

Ethiopian hand washing ceremony

Traditional Ethiopian meal

Traditional Ethiopian meal

Dinner ends with traditional Ethiopian coffee. When it is delivered, there is also a little container of wood/incense that arrives and begins to permeate the air with scented smoke. Mattewos tells me that this represents the smoke that would be in the hut from cooking, and symbolizes the presence of God in our midst, in the form of the Holy Spirit. Finally, we receive a small basketful of popcorn. As I’m eating, I realize that we have experienced many elements of this meal while in Sintaro: When we were in the village, someone would pour water over our hands before we ate lunch, Injera and wat were part of each meal, and was followed by coffee and popcorn. It’s very cool to have experienced this so authentically.

Dinner is over and we are sad to say goodbye to Mattewos. He reminds us once again that God should be first in all things. He has such passion, and I will miss him immensely. Before we board our bus to head back to the hotel for the evening, we stand on the busy sidewalk of Addis, put our arms around one another in a circle, and pray together. It is a sweet moment and feels like the benediction to our trip.

We will continue to be in prayer for one another, and ask that God will bless both of our ministries!

Reflections by Brenda

Reflections on visiting Sintaro Village (written by team member Brenda Kuehnle)

Today was a travel day to make the 5-6 hour drive from Awasa back to Addis Ababa. During the drive, we got to enjoy the beautiful Ethiopian countryside, which we were too tired to enjoy on the drive down, and reflect on our experiences in Sintaro.

I was surprised how varied the landscape is from Sintaro. Sintaro seemed more tropical than I thought existed in Africa. The steep hills planted with crops reminded me more of Thailand than of my trip to Kenya, which is just south of Ethiopia. An hour outside of Awasa, the landscape became flat, and we were able to view miles and miles of farmland with a lake in the distance. It was almost like driving up I-5 on the way home from Disneyland, except for the occasional donkey or herd of cows that got in the way and the farmland plows were powered by bulls.

As I reflected on my time on Sintaro, I really found that the people had more similarities to us than differences.

The people were kind and hospitable. When we visited their homes, they would find us a seat and make us comfortable. They cared about their families and wanted the best for their children. They wanted their children to study and attend college, just like we do. They shared their struggles, hopes and dreams.

When I walked up to my sponsored child’s home, he immediately knew who I was. He ran into his home to fetch his treasured positions that were the pictures, cards and letters that our family had sent him. They were in good condition, not bent or torn. He could immediately call me by name and pronounce it perfectly. It made a difference to him that Rachel and I were there.

The children were intrigued by the visitors that looked so different from them and they wanted to explore the differences—touch the skin, feel the hair, etc. They also loved to try to attract attention from us. When in their school groups, they wanted to be in the front of the line to get the best view, and loved photo bombing the other students’ pictures. They also loved to cuddle and hold hands as we walked.

The babies couldn’t yet understand the differences, and preferred mom or dad’s arms to mine. No matter how hard I tried to love the babies, I still made them cry. They loved to be held by the familiar loved ones, not the strangers from America.

The first difference that stuck me was the poverty. Their houses were made with sticks, mud and straw and had dirt floors. They smelled like smoke from the fires they used for cooking. Most had a sleeping area that was separated from the rest of the house with a straw mat used as a wall. It was about the size of a double bed for the entire family to sleep. The rest of the house contained the animal quarters and kitchen which was where the family worked. They were so tidy. It was hard to believe that they really lived with the animals. This difference made me feel like there was so much that we could still give to them.

The second difference that struck me was their priorities. Even though they had so little and had such a hard life, their first prayer request was for increased faith. They knew that faith was the thing that would get them through, and their hope lay in Jesus. Their second request was for peace in the village, and the third was for a better life. Romans 5 tells us that suffering produces endurance which produces character which produces hope…and hope does not disappoint. This difference made me realize that the people in Sintaro have so much to give to me.

My prayer for the people of Sintaro is that they will not lose their first love. Now that they have clean water closer to their homes to relieve some of the burden, that they do not lose sight of their first love, and continue to seek after faith.

A Change in Plans

7/23/2015 Update from Awasa (written by team member, Debbie Wyne)

After such a great day yesterday at the celebration of water, we all awake this morning, rarin’ to go back to the village. It has been raining quite hard during the night, and we’re concerned about what travel might look like on the muddy roads. Worede (the project manager from Hope) was able to join us in the village yesterday and he is scheduled to meet us at the hotel this morning. Although our driver arrives early, Worede is not yet here. We assume that he is making phone calls to try to figure out the road conditions and if it’s safe to make the trip or not. Around 10:00, Worede arrives and gives us an update.

He had stayed at the village later than we did yesterday afternoon, he reports that it began raining really hard there in the late afternoon. This is significant information because we didn’t get any rain in Awasa until around 2am. We didn’t realize that the weather pattern could be so different between the two locations. Worede also tells us that because of the heavy rains, a big tree fell down just a few hundred yards from the school and blocked his way out. We are sorry that he got stranded, but we thank God for our protection and that we were not in the same position! The villagers worked together and cut up the tree to clear the path. Worede ended up getting back to Awasa about 9:30 last night.

Armed with this information, and the weather report for Awasa (rain, rain and more tain), our team gathers in prayer for wisdom as we make a decision about whether to try to make the trek to the village or not. We gather with Worede and talk through our options, and ultimately make the decision that, as much as it breaks our hearts, we will not be returning to the village today. That also means that our time in Sintaro is over, because we must begin the long trip back home no later than tomorrow morning.

One of the things we were supposed to do today was to visit Hailu, my sponsor child, and his family, in his home. I’m more than a little disappointed that this won’t be happening, but also feel very blessed that God provided the opportunity for me to see Hailu several times this week, and to visit with Hannah yesterday at the water ceremony.

A decision made, we move forward with our day. Worede leaves to attend to other business and our driver takes us to another area of Awasa for lunch. At this establishment there are a few shops, so we take the opportunity to explore a bit and make a few purchases. I don’t have any Ethiopian cash (Birr), but I’m pleased to find out that they will take US dollars. I make my purchases and move on to the next shop. A few minutes later, the shopkeeper from the first shop hunts me down and basically tells me they can’t accept one of my bills because it’s the old style and they can’t verify it isn’t counterfeit. This is surprising to me, but we swap out bills and all is well.

We return to the hotel and wait for our interpreters to arrive. One of the things that we wanted to do on this trip was to document the interpretation for various Sedama words and phrases, and videotape someone saying them. The intention is to be able to make this information available to future teams so they have some exposure to the local language before their arrival. All of the CPC team members and the interpreters sit around a table as Berhano, Sarah and I type up a list. It is a fascinating to work through this and I find I am beginning to anticipate spellings, pronunciations and meanings of some of the words! I begin to realize that there are often several ways to say basically the same thing so we all work together through the nuances of both languages to arrive at the best selection. This process is joy-filled and there is much laughter with everyone around the table. It’s awesome to see how two separate teams have bonded together and truly become one this week.

We are able to ask our interpreters more questions about local traditions—including how the people of Sintaro shake hands and greet. We’ve noticed some variations and we learn that some of the things we are seeing are the villagers way of showing us respect and affection. There are several people that I embraced in a hug and it occurs to me that perhaps I have overstepped a cultural line in doing so. I’m assured that this is okay and is in fact, a sign of great affection—which of course is exactly how I intended it. Phew!

Near the end of the day, Worede returns and we say our final goodbyes to the translators. Berhano tells us that he wishes there was time for us to visit their homes in the local countryside and have their mothers cook us some of their local food. I feel honored that they have extended this invitation to be in their homes. We stand to say goodbye and Berhano extends his hand to me. I reach for it and pull him into a hug, and I remind him that it is a sign of great affection, and we all smile. We have enjoyed our time together with the translators and it is sad to see them walk away.

Our time in Sintaro and Awasa is coming to an end. It’s time to pack up and get ready to leave early in the morning, but first, we enjoy some pre-dinner Gelato. We are all a little sad that we are leaving this place and these people, but we know we’ll carry them with us forever in our hearts.

The celebration of water!

7/22/15 Update from Sintaro (written by team member, Debbie Wyne)

Today we celebrate the arrival of fresh, clean water in the village! It’s a day that is much anticipated and has been several years in the making. As we approach the main meeting area of the village, I see flags erected. This is where the celebration will occur!

We have some time before it begins, so we continue on to the school. People are starting to gather, and we see a group of village elders sitting nearby. Lori has begun a conversation with them, and the rest of our team joins in. We have been hoping to have a more casual encounter with them, and this seems to be our opportunity.

Once we get past some opening greetings and remarks, we are able to begin asking them some questions about life in the village, and their role as an elder. We are told that they have responsibility for helping to resolve conflict and to pursue reconciliation. Part of this process is that they will cover the two parties in conflict with their shawl, and then the two parties will drink a cup of honey, and after that, they are reconciled. I find this fascinating, because it explains the significance of their attire. After they have told us more, they ask us questions about our culture, and it is an enlightening exchange as we learn more about one another.

The time has come, and we’re ready for the water celebration to begin! We hike down the road to the village gathering place—underneath a giant tree. A few chairs have been set up and the village elders take their seats. There are additional chairs with tables in front of them, and this is where our team is directed to sit. We spread the interpreters among us so that we have an understanding of the various speeches to be given. There aren’t a lot of people here yet, but I have no doubt they will come. The students are lined up and the teachers direct them to sing. They sing, and sing, and sing. The villagers have come in mass, but we’re still waiting for one of the local government officials, so the students continue to sing. Poor things, they must’ve been exhausted after all of that! The interpreters tell us the gist of each song, and Sarah and I have a good laugh when we realize that one of their songs is the same concept as “9 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”! Finally, the ceremony officially begins.

A choir from a local church is introduced and there is more music. There is a battery operated PA system, and also an electronic keyboard. Here in a rural area of Africa, it seems so out of place to hear accordion sounds with an electronic back beat! The choir looks stoic, but soon begins moving to the beat. This goes on for quite some time and then they begin to sing. Some of the lyrics are interpreted: “Jesus is the friend of the poorest of the poor” and “Let our praise cover Your holy place”.

The ceremony goes on for two hours and there are various speakers. I have the privilege of being CPC’s spokesperson and I have to pinch myself realizing where I am and what I’m doing. It feels like something straight out of National Geographic!

I have a prepared statement from the Pastoral leadership of CPC that celebrates the answers to prayer that have been witnessed through this water. We are reminded that God loves us and provides good gifts. The presentation firmly places all of the focus on Jesus as the living water, and refers to the passage from John 4:1-14 of Jesus with the woman at the well. Afterwards, Pastor Mattewos preaches on this same passage. We also hear from Worede, representing Hope Enterprises, local officials, village elders, church elders, the water engineer, and more. Throughout the entire presentation, everyone in attendance is very quiet and respectful. The students barely make a peep, despite the length of the ceremony. I note, as I have in the past, that the women and men sit separately from one another and that the crowd has swelled to hundreds.

Finally, it is time to start the flow of water! Villagers crowd around the distribution point as the CPC team has the privilege of turning the tap to release the water. There is significant water pressure and we have to back up to keep from getting splashed! We have brought empty water bottles and we each fill one up and take a few sips. Soon, training begins and villagers learn the importance of sanitizing their Jerry cans to prepare them for the clean water. I take lots of photos and videos to commemorate the occasion.


After a bit of time at this distribution point, we walk to where the storage tanks are, and then to the other water distribution points. It is a procession of hundreds as we hike throughout the village. One of the most remarkable moments is when I witness a nursing mother being handed a bottle of the well water, and she puts it to her baby’s lips. It is such a symbol to me of how this precious new life is going to be significantly altered because of the presence of this water.

Our last stop is to the well itself, where more presentations are made and finally a plaque is revealed dedicating the well. On it is John 4:14: “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, will never thirst”. Groups are gathered together for official photos, and then it is time for the long hike back to the school. The parade of villagers continues in the procession with us and my heart smiles when I look ahead of me and I see Rachel and Sarah linked hand-in-hand with a string of children.

While walking between distribution points, I am approached by a woman who has clearly sought me out. As I turn to look at her face, I realize that it is Hanna! Hanna is the mother of my sponsor child, Hailu. I had the opportunity to meet her and visit her hut when I was here in February. It is a joyous reuniting of a woman who has come to be my African family.

It’s late now and our team is tired from the festivities and hiking through the village at almost 7,000 feet elevation! We return to the school, and finally have lunch. This is the end of our day in Sintaro, and it’s been a very momentous one! This is a day that will truly change lives and I feel incredibly privileged and blessed to have been a part of it.


A delayed start, but worth the wait

7/21/15 Update from Sintaro (written by team member, Debbie Wyne)

The morning began with the sound of rain. Uh Oh. Will we be able to make the trek into the village today? After discussion and prayer, we decide to wait it out for a while to see what happens. Soon the rain stops and we leave the hotel at 10am. Our driver, Iyob, manages to get us all the way to the health post, and drops us off to avoid the final muddy, rutted incline up to the school. We walk up the path, and by the time we arrive at the school, our shoes are caked with about half an inch of mud. Today we are showing “The Jesus Film” in another one of the churches. As we walk back down the path towards the church, we encounter a truck that is stuck and we realize Iyob’s wisdom in dropping us off. This could’ve easily been us!

After we get the projector set up, we begin the walk for another hut visit. This morning we get to visit Lemlem—she’s one of the students that I had such a connection with last time I was here. She was one of my “music girls” and we had the fun exchange where I would say her name excitedly, as if I was encountering a long lost friend, and then we’d embrace over and over. She has been more reserved with me this trip and I’m looking forward to being able to have a conversation with her.

The walk to Lemlem’s hut is beautiful and takes us past groves of coffee, “false banana”, corn and chat. Chat is a leaf that is chewed and is addictive, and has a high cash value. Lemlem’s parents are not at home, but we are able to visit with her older sister and another relative that we think was her Aunt? Her brother was in the process of building his own hut, which we learned has to be completed before he can get married. The wooden branches were drying outside and we were told that once all of the building supplies were prepared, it only takes about 4 days to build a hut, and they typically last 10 years.

Our conversation with Lemlem’s family goes well and we learn that her sister is in the 10th grade. We tell her that this is the same grade as Rachel! She hopes one day to be an Engineer. We then told her that Brenda is an engineer and she seemed intrigued by this. Lemlem said she hopes to be a doctor one day so that she can help the people of Sintaro who are dying. It’s an ambitious dream, but it’s exciting that she sees that as a real possibility. I ask what brings them happiness, and they tell me that their greatest joy comes from praising the Lord! We finish our time together with a time of prayer, and they kneel on the floor to receive my prayer over them. Having seen this before, I’m no longer surprised by this posture in prayer, but I’m consistently humbled by it.

On our way back, we pass another hut with three women sitting outside. I wave at them and they wave back… of course, that’s not quite enough for me as I see this as an opportunity for more conversation! They are sitting on a mat on the ground, surrounded by dried corn kernels. They are sorting through the kernels and shooing away the chickens that are hungrily eyeing the bounty before them. The corn will be taken to the nearby towns of Wujigraw or Tula and ground into flour to feed the family. The amount of corn here will feed their family for about 4 days. As I leave, I try out one of the new words I’ve learned, “keerunni” (goodbye). They congratulate me on my use of their language and tell me that if I come next time, I will be one of them!

Preparing dried corn kernels to be ground into flour.

Preparing dried corn kernels to be ground into flour.

We keep walking and encounter an older woman on the trail. Brenda noticed that the woman’s earlobe had a large hole in it and we learned that when a woman’s ear is marked like this, it means that she is married. Sarah and Rachel are now wondering what everyone must think about them because they are students, but have pierced ears. Needless to say, this leads to an interesting conversation!

Lunchtime arrives and the room is abuzz with conversation. It’s good to see so much interaction among all of the people working together this week. We talk about our different lifestyles, cultures and worship styles and there is a lot of laughter and joy in the room.

After lunch, the kids receive their nametags and I take individual pictures of each one for our records. The children are learning to smile for photos and sometimes need a little encouragement. Mattewos helps with a few of the stragglers and we have one particularly memorable experience together: As one of the final children arrived, Mattewos instructed the boy to “osotliy!” (smile!). Apparently, this boy thought that he was supposed to laugh. He obviously didn’t think there was much to laugh about but was trying to appease us, so he put on something that could potentially be interpreted as a smile, but instead appeared like a toothy grimace, and then he made grunting noises. As the boy walked away, I mumbled just loud enough for Mattewos to hear that this was definitely not the smile we were looking for, and next thing I know, Mattewos is crying tears through contagious laughter. Soon we are both giggling hysterically, and doubled over with laughter.

Next, the students head into one of the classrooms where Brenda and Sarah are enjoying time with them. I can hear them all singing joyfully inside. The projector is set up in the classroom, and we were able to show the students a video of CPC kids singing one of the VBS songs. After a few times through, the Sintaro kids were doing the hand motions and singing along. How wonderful to have kids connect across the miles with one another! We also show them a short animated movie depicting stories from scripture.

The end of our day is nearing and it’s time to pack everything up. There are some kids “outside the fence” that have been watching us all afternoon. Before we leave, I want to talk with them. They begin singing in English for me, and I quickly realize that they are singing the songs that are taught in school. The interesting thing is that these are not students of our school! This means that our students are taking home the knowledge they have learned and are sharing it with their friends and family. This was our hope, and it’s nice to see some tangible evidence that this is happening.

One of the new songs that I’ve heard the children sing this week is the chorus of “Bless the Lord, O my soul”, and it brings tears to my eyes to hear these sweet voices praising the Lord in my own language!

We make one last stop before heading back to the hotel. We drive to where the new well and generator are. We want to see them before the water ceremony tomorrow. Nearby is a distribution point for water, and we happen upon some workmen who are able to start the flow of water for us! We take pictures and videos and clap our hands in celebration!

The water is flowing and ready for distribution!

The water is flowing and ready for distribution!

A small crowd has gathered around us and as I turn to my left, I see my friend “Joy!” I am so excited to see her again and this time we have an interpreter close by. We relive our first meeting from last February when she taught me how to harvest “Kocho” (false banana) and how much fun we had together. I learn what her name really is, and I tell her that I refer to her as “Joy” because that is what she is filled with. This makes her happy face all the more, well…joyful! We are hugging and hugging and I’m wishing that we could get past the limitations of language, culture and distance because I’m quite certain that we would be close friends.

We board the bus and head back to Awasa. It’s been a very good day and we are all reliving some of our highlights. I remember my laughing fit with Mattewos and ask him to tell the story. Next thing you know, he’s laughing about it all over again, and hilarity ensues. Rachel does her impression of the grunting laughing boy, and then gets the wild idea to video tape everyone—including our interpreters–doing it too! Needless to say, everyone had the giggles! What a great way to end a great day!

Visiting sponsor children and reading letters

Monday, 7/20/15 Update from Sintaro Village (Written by team member, Debbie Wyne)

We want to get an earlier start this morning, in the event that we might have afternoon rain again. Things don’t quite work out as planned, but we still manage to arrive a little earlier today than yesterday. Progress!

When we make the turn off the main road into Tula we are pulled over by a local policeman. No one translates what is going on, but moments later, the policeman boards our bus and sits down next to me. Mattewos and our translators are quiet, but don’t seem bothered by this, so the rest of us take it in stride too. Not wanting to do anything which may be misconstrued, we ride the rest of the way quietly into Sintaro. As it turns out, he works in the Malga district, and he is just hitching a ride!

As we arrive in Sintaro, the kids are once again lined up to welcome us. They seem happy to see us… until they see the policeman step out of the van instead, and then their demeanor changes and they get much more serious! Their smiles reappear when we step out behind him and begin our day together.

The day starts with handing out name tags to all of the children. They enjoy our attempts at pronouncing their names and patiently wait to be called. I find that I am much, much better at pronouncing their unusual names since I’ve met all of them once before. Progress!

We’ve decided that we want to start the day doing hut visits so we’re not so rushed by the weather. Hut visits are an amazing opportunity to meet our sponsored children, see their living environments and to learn more about their culture and lifestyle. We have three visits scheduled for today.   We visit Lori and Sarah’s sponsored children (you can read about Sarah’s visit in a separate post), and another student named Kassa.

Last month, many children from our community attended an African themed Vacation Bible School at CPC. Sarah Scott, Heather Southworth and a team of volunteers did a fantastic job of educating our kids about Sintaro Village and introducing our kids to the concept of supporting those in need through the giving of themselves, their finances and through prayer. Each day, the VBS kids brought in donations that ended up being enough to sponsor two Sintaro children for SIX YEARS! Kassa is one of those children, so we are thrilled to be able to visit him and bring back the stories of our visit to the children of CPC! It is a beautiful thing to realize how this project is impacting lives in Sintaro, as well as at home!

As we walked towards Kassa’s hut, the neighbors file in parade with us. We join hands and sing songs as we get closer to the hut. Kassa’s family is home and we are invited inside to meet them. Kassa’s mom is there, with three additional siblings. We learn there is a 5th child who was in 9th grade and left to attend school in Awasa (about a 45 minute drive away). Unfortunately, he has fallen sick and has had to drop out of school. He is still in Awasa, but is working to help provide income for the family.

As we look around the hut, it’s hard to see because it is so dark inside. I’ve been in several huts and by comparison, this one is fairly large and seems sturdy. We notice that behind a basket-weaved wall there is a raised mat, where presumably, the entire family sleeps. On the wall, they have a poster of the American alphabet! Dad isn’t home because he’s out farming in their fields. I ask if they have any livestock, and they point behind me where, unbeknownst to me, there is a cow—inside the hut! As we finish our visit, I ask how I can be praying for their family. Mom’s immediate and authoritative response is that she would like us to pray that they increase their faith. This is profound to me—here we sit among the poorest of the poor, who have such great physical and financial need, and yet, her hearts desire is for increased faith. Oh, we have so much to learn from these people! I ask about any potential health issues, and she asks me to pray for her insides. She says she hasn’t felt well for a long time, is very weak, and has little energy to do her work. As I begin to pray for her and her family, she kneels at my feet and I kneel beside her to lay hands on her and the children. We enjoy a sweet time of prayer, where at every pause she joins me with an “Amen”. Too soon it’s time to go and we take a few family photos with them outside the hut.

It’s lunchtime, but first we must wash our hands. Imagine my delight when we realize that we have running water!!!!! Just this morning, a spigot has been installed with water from the well! Although the water celebration won’t take place until Wednesday, we are able to enjoy the fresh, clean, cool water! The team takes a moment and just appreciates what a momentous occasion this is and praises God for the flowing water!

Once again, I’m hungry for lunch. In past visits, the Hope staff, interpreters and school staff all wait until we serve ourselves, and then they sit at a different table from us. I noticed this when I was here in February and yesterday I made a conscious decision to not sit at “our” table, but instead to sit at the empty table where they would normally sit. I was pleased that they joined me and we conversed all through lunch. Today, I sit at the end of the table with the rest of the CPC team, and I am so pleased that the interpreters join me. Yes—they’ve taken my lead and want to join us! Being here in Sintaro is so much about developing relationships, and we have an opportunity to do that in so many more ways than just with the people of the village.

After lunch, Lori, Sarah and Rachel leave to go to the local Catholic church and set up the screen and projector for another viewing of “The Jesus Film”. They report back that the building is overflowing and spilling out with people there to watch the film. Initially, some of the school children are there, but when it’s time for them to leave, some of the other local children and young adults (the ones “outside the fence” rush forward to take their place. A few of the village elders are in attendance as well.

Meanwhile, Lori and Debbie attend a meeting with the Water Committee to discuss the plans for water distribution. We are all excited about the upcoming celebration of water!

The rest of the afternoon is spent reading sponsor letters to the school children. It’s a sweet time of being one-on-one with each student and really connecting the to the community back home. We take pictures and are able to share the letters and tell the students about our friends back home who love them and pray for them.

We manage to get letters read to all 150 students and we’re all exhausted. We drive back to the hotel and look forward to a shower. Unfortunately, when we arrive, we have no power, no water, and no wifi. Some of use baby wipes to clean off a bit, and then walk a few blocks for some refreshing pre-dinner gelato. We enjoy Italian pizza for dinner, and then finally come back to the hotel to find we have power and water again. Unfortunately, wifi is still somewhat elusive, but when I walk to one of the other buildings, I’m able to find some. It’s a late night and that bed is sure looking good. It’s been a good, full day and I look forward to what tomorrow may bring. G’night!

Sarah’s hut visit

7/20/15 Update by team member, Sarah Obujen (Sarah will a High School Junior this Fall, and this is her first trip to Sintaro)

Selam! (Hello in Sedama-the local language spoken in Sintaro).

So far my trip here in Ethiopia has been eye opening, fun, and full of adventure. Today was our second day in the village, and it is packed with reading letters, hut visits, showing the Jesus Film, singing, etc. When we pulled up to the village, we had kids running along both sides of our bus shouting and waving. As we continued down the road the amount of kids grew and the yelling got louder. I couldn’t keep the giant smile of my face as I waved out the bus window. When I got off countless outstretched hands greeted me. I grabbed as many hands as I could and gave them a squeeze. Adorable faces grinned up at me, and I realized that my heart is totally captured by these kids.

We first hand out name tags for each of the 150 students. We each grab a stack of name tags and start calling out the names written on the tags. This is no easy task, especially for me. I take my best guess at each name but typically I wasn’t even close. Luckily the translators, school teachers, and children are willing to step up and help me find each student. During the controlled chaos I was able to find and meet my sponsor child, Zena. She was very shy and first and tentative about approaching me but, I saw her watching me from a distance.

We make our way down the “road” (a term to be used loosely) and to our first hut for the day. During hut visits, we are able to meet the sponsor child, their family, siblings, and any animals that share their home with them. We have the opportunity to ask them questions, and see what their living conditions are like. We are able to visit three huts today, Wondi, Lori Larson’s sponsor child, Zena, my sponsor child, and Kassa, one of the sponsor kids that VBS raised money to support.

Today, visiting Zena’s hut especially touched my heart.

She was finally coming out of her shell, and she and I held hands the whole way to her hut. When we arrived he mother came out to greet us, and three kids followed. I greeted each of the kids by shaking/squeezing their hand and hugging the mother. The family then led us inside her hut, and pulled out small wooden stools for us to sit on. Inside the hut it was very dark but you could see it was clean and organized. The huts here in Sintaro are made out of tree branches and mud for the walls. The roof and made out a thick grass and tree branches.

Sitting near Zena and her family, and an interpreter I began to ask them questions. I came to discover that most of her kids attended the public school, which is about a two-hour walk away. Her eldest son went to school in Awasa, but became sick and couldn’t attend school anymore; instead he found work in the city. The family owns crops near her house, where they grow false banana and other crops. They also have a cow that sleeps in their hut night so the hyenas don’t attack it. I also found out that the new water distribution point is close by to their house, and it is an easier route then going to the old water. I am so excited for the family to have clean water.

Zena then gave me a tour of their hut; I saw their small sleeping area, and their kitchen right next to it. The kitchen/bedroom was blocked off by a weaved wall of sorts. They also had an area set up for the cow with tree branches and a spot to tie him up at night.

Just as we were finishing the tour, Zena’s father came racing in the door with Zena’s brother. They both still held farming tools in their hands, and were sweaty and breathing hard. He told me that he was working in their fields but then he heard that we were here so he sprinted back. He thanked me multiple times for visiting with them, and for providing Zena the opportunity to go to school. This pleasantly surprised me, because on Zena’s information form, it said her father was “tired” and did not work. I was so excited to meet him and have my expectations blown away. He was fantastic to talk to, and I know that he is an amazing man of God.

I then asked what I could be praying about for them. He asked me to be praying for continued health, food, and water for their family. He was also very grateful that their kids were able to attend school and that God has continued to provide for their family. He wanted me to pray for their family and the village for peace and prosperity. Once he had finished, I prayed right there with the family, holding as many hands as I could grab. It was an amazing experience and I could feel God’s presence in the moment.

God has been stirring my heart for this village, these beautiful people, and especially Zena and her family. I am so pumped to continue to serve God this week, and see how He works in my life, the villagers’ life, and the lives of my team.

Sarah visits her sponsor child's hut and meets the family

Sarah visits her sponsor child’s hut and meets the family

Sarah and her sponsor child, Zena (Zena's mother in the background)

Sarah and her sponsor child, Zena (Zena’s mother in the background)

First Day in the Village

Sunday, 7/19/15 Update from Sintaro Village, Ethiopia

After a good night’s sleep, we arise feeling much more rested and ready to face the day. We eat breakfast in the hotel, and are pleased that it is ready “on time”! Typically, time here is a suggestion. After a hearty meal, Pastor Mattewos arrives at the hotel and we are ready to start our day! The first stop is a sidewalk coffee shop to pick up our interpreters. We have to wait for a bit, but when they arrive, I am thrilled to see familiar faces! We have four interpreters today, and I know them all from my last trip! Several are all wonderful, kind-hearted men of God who dedicate their lives to the Lord. Joseph teaches catechism and teaching the gospel to children and Teshale is studying to be a priest. Also with us are Berhano and Aklilu, who I learned has recently gotten married! We make a stop to buy some more bottled water and then we are finally on our way to Sintaro Village!

As we approach the village, my heart begins to warm and my pulse quickens with excitement. I am about to be reunited with some beautiful souls that I have fallen in love with. The drive passes quickly as I observe my surroundings and note that everything this trip is much greener. The weather has held out for us so far and we have dry weather. It’s obvious that it has rained significantly though by the puddles and the ruts in the road. In very wet weather I can imagine that this road would be virtually impassable.

We make a final turn and I spy crowds of children—OUR children!—who see us approaching and begin singing a song of welcome. Tears immediately spring to my eyes as I recognize familiar faces. They recognize me too and several children call me by name. My heart is melting. One of the faces in the crowd I recognize is Lemlem. I greet her by name and she breaks into a huge grin as I embrace her. Too soon, I realize that the rest of our team has started walking away. Those who know me well know that I’m always the last to want to leave a group of people!

Sarah is with me and we follow the rest of our group up the hill. I make eye contact with her and I can see that her heart has been captured with love already for these people. I embrace her and we walk arm in arm up the hill. It is my extreme privilege to be with her on this trip and watch her grow in love and service for the Lord.

When we get to the top of the hill I realize that we have arrived at Meker (which means “Harvest”) Church. The building is fairly large and is packed with people. Church is already in session and they invite us to come to the front of the room. We sit facing them and they welcome us. When they invite us to respond, Lori stands and speaks for the group. She tells them that although we have traveled from far away, we are neighbors and brothers and sisters in the Lord. She says that we love Jesus and are visiting Sintaro because we love them too. She refers to the water that will soon be flowing from the well and that we are excited to celebrate not only the physical water, but the Living Water also. They respond with “Amen’s” and “Praise God!”. The service continues for a few more minutes as Pastor Mattewos gives a short message from Ecclesiastes, and then it ends with songs of worship and prayer.

At the end of the service, the announcement is made that there will be a short break and then we will be showing “The Jesus Film”. A few people leave, but most stay. I take this opportunity to get up and mingle with the crowd. I walk throughout the church shaking their hands and offering a greeting. Many respond with smiles and respect, but are a little unsure of how to respond to me. Noneetheless, I can tell that they appreciate the effort that I am making as they are very welcoming and glad to have me there. Others are more affectionate in their response—especially the women. Many hold me close in an embrace and whisper quiet words in my ear. I don’t know the meaning of the words, but I can sense their love.

After a few minutes, the show begins! The room has filled up once again and there is a quiet excitement in the room. I know that this is the first time for probably all of them in the room to experience seeing a movie of any kind. I make my way back to the front of the room and search for a seat. There are none to be had, so I end up sitting on the steps at the front of the church. Sarah, Brenda, and Rachel are there with me, and Lori is on a bench in the same area. We settle in, knowing that we will be there for about two hours until the movie ends.

I keep my focus on the film rather than watching the villagers. I don’t want any of the focus to be on me, but instead to be on the message of the movie. The movie is a dramatic reenactment of the gospel of Luke and it follows the life of Jesus from birth to death. Although I can’t understand the words, I know the story, so I’m able to follow along. It’s interesting to be able to pick out a few words and names here and there. Every once in awhile a sneak a peak around the room and see how intently everyone is watching. It’s an amazing thing to behold! Also, I realize that the room has continued to fill. Adults and children have filled every nook and cranny of this building and there are probably several hundred people in attendance! Children are continuing to press forward and before I know it, we are surrounded by them. They are pressed close and begin leaning on me and cuddling with me. I look at their faces and they are mesmerized by what is happening on screen. I silently pray for the work that is happening in their heart through hearing the word of God! I believe that this will profoundly impact them in untold ways.

At the end of the film, Pastor Mattewos stands and gives the invitation to have any who have not yet decided to follow Jesus to accept Him into their heart and accept the gift of salvation. He tells them that we will be showing the film again throughout the week, and suggests they invite their friends who need to hear the gospel message. We end in prayer and there is a real sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence among us.


We leave the church and start walking back to our bus. A group waits outside of the church for us, and in my normal fashion, I greet everyone and smile into their eyes. As I make eye contact with one woman, my heart leaps with excitement! This is my friend, Joy!!! Those who followed my journey in February will remember that she is the one who taught me how to harvest the “false banana” (which is a staple of their diet). I don’t know her name, but I’ve called her “Joy”, because that’s what she exudes. When I met her in February, she smiled and laughed throughout our entire encounter. I feel a kinship with her that is unmistakable. When I realize it is her, my face lights up with excitement and recognition and she knows that I remember her! We hug for a long time, and she is laughing and smiling just as I remember her. I pull back and look into her eyes and say “Kocho!” (which is what they call “false banana”) and she knows that I remember her. We hug and hug and I invite her to walk with me back to the bus. We walk arm and arm and smile and laugh the whole way. When we get back to the bus, she thinks that’s the end of our encounter, but I have a surprise for her. She steps onto the bus with me as I reach into my backpack and pull out photographs of her and her family from when I visited in February. She is surprised and thrilled! It’s time for us to go, so reluctantly, I say my goodbye and say wishful prayer that I’ll have the opportunity to spend more time with her as the week progresses.

It’s not even lunchtime yet and I’ve already had such an amazing day!!!

We drive onto the school property and I’m excited to see how much the construction on the school has progressed. The classrooms that were under construction a few months ago are nearly done and almost ready for the new students that will begin school in the Fall. The administration building is nearing completion too, and one of the new latrines is operational! I also see a distribution point for the water on the school grounds! This truly is SO exciting!

As we get off the bus, I see the familiar faces of Hanaga, the school principal, and Ashenafi, the English teacher. Lunch has been prepared, so we wash our hands and enter one of the classrooms, which is our makeshift cafeteria for the week. The cooks are there and I recognize them too. They are pleased that I remember their names. It has been such a pleasure to see people again and continue with developing our relationships. All of us have a longing to be known, and it is no different here in Ethiopia.

When I was here last time, many will remember that I got quite ill. Unfortunately, that means that even once I’d recovered, I had no appetite. Today was different. At lunchtime I found my stomach grumbly and even ate seconds of the delicious food prepared!

The skies are now looking quite dark and our driver and Mattewos are very concerned that we need to leave the village before the rains come. Covering these hillside dirt “roads” in dry conditions are challenging, and in heavy rains, I can imagine that they’d become nearly (if not completely) impassable. Their concerns are well founded.

We make a quick stop to do a hut visit of a young student, named Matthew. He is very quiet and shy and conversation with him is somewhat difficult. I ask him a number of questions that result in him showing us where he sleeps—a family of 6 shares a mat about the size of a double bed. He pointed to the corner and indicated that this was his spot.

The next hut visit is to see Brenda and Rachel’s sponsored child, Iyob. Brenda tells him that they are his sponsors, and he goes into his hut and comes back with their picture! He understands who they are! We are invited into his hut, which is filled with too many children to count. Based on what he said, it sounds like they have 9 children and both parents who live together in their hut. They also had at least three cows, 5 baby goats (plus the goat’s parents?), and chickens sharing the hut too. The baby goats were itty-bitty and Sarah was instantly smitten!

Sarah with some adorable baby goats!

Sarah with some adorable baby goats!

Brenda and Rachel visit their sponsored child

Brenda and Rachel visit their sponsored child

We are racing the rain, so it is time to go. We make our way down the hill and just as we get onto asphalt, it begins to rain. By the time we get back to our hotel and hop in the shower, it is a torrential downpour. We are thankful to have missed being out in it!

After a brief time of rest, we walk a few block away to eat dinner at the Lewi , which is a resort right on Lake Awasa. The rain has stopped so we eat outside as the monkeys, cats, and even a duck enjoy the evening among us. Dinner is over and we are ready to call it a day!