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!