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.