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.