A team is leaving for Sintaro Village on Thursday, February 2, 2017. Unfortunately, this blog is no longer being maintained and updates will not be available here. However, one of the team members will be posting regular updates to her personal Facebook page while they are in the village. If you would like the ability to read her updates, please send a friend request on Facebook to Debbie Cordray Wyne. Once that request has been confirmed, you will be able to see updates on her timeline. Thank you!
Join us for A Taste of Sintaro, Sunday, 9/20
You’re invited to come for a fun evening to celebrate what God has been doing in Sintaro Village, Ethiopia! Come learn more about the current status of the project, see videos, and hear updates from people who have recently visited. You’ll also have the opportunity to experience some local culture by sampling Ethiopian cuisine and observing a coffee ceremony! It promises to be a wonderful evening to celebrate how God is transforming lives and we hope you’ll be able to join us! When: Sunday, 9/20, 6-8:30pm, CPC’s Multi-purpose room. RSVP using this form. We hope to see you soon!
Sintaro Update Meeting
Join the team, just back Sintaro Village, as they share stories and videos from their trip—including the celebration of water! Meet in the CPC Chapel on Sunday (8/30) at 10:30am to hear highlights and learn more about the project. Additionally, there are new Sintaro students joining the school and in need of sponsorship. For more information, visit the CPC website.
We hope to see you on Sunday!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!