Saturday, July 23, 2011

Heading To The Countryside

On this morning, we loaded up bags of donations, threw them on top of the vans and climbed in for a nice, long ride into the countryside. We drove approximately 2 hours south of Addis Ababa. The drive was beautiful but it seemed that the further we drove, the more poverty-stricken the area(s) became.

If you've ever read Kelly's Ordinary Hero blog, there is a header at the top of her blog as she's leaning down to love on some Ethiopian children. These particular children live in the village in the area where we were headed today. Our final destination was Woliso Orphanage but, on previous trips, Kelly had fallen in love with these village children (she remembered 20-30 kids gathering to visit with her in the past) and our hope was to clothe them while we were there as well.
As we arrived in the village, the children's expressions as they saw our vans were priceless. They were so happy to see us and began to run alongside our van(s). Almost none of them were wearing shoes (and many had no pants or bottoms of any kind) and they were just running like mad on the dirt and rock roads, waving and smiling all the way. Quickly, we spotted the same exact little girls shown on Kelly's blog; the cutest pair of sisters who obviously remembered Kelly and were overjoyed at our arrival. As it turns out, we had missed the turn-off to the orphanage and this little girl (in orange) realized it and quickly began guiding us in the right direction. Look at this precious face.

We pulled into the orphanage and the gates were closed behind us. While we toured the orphanage, then divided up to play soccer, paint nails, do crafts and share a Bible story, these children (and many, many more) waited anxiously just outside of the fence. Some of the children actually were able to sneak in and become part of the fun. (By the way, none of the faces that you see on my blog are of orphanage children. We are unable to post their pictures on public sites; however, I hope that you will pray for the faces that you see and also the ones you do not.)

This orphanage is the poorest we've seen; it was very clean and tidy but there was not one single toy to be seen. The children were dressed poorly and the grounds were overgrown and crawling with ants, flies and other insects. Nearby, very eerily, many vultures circled overhead.
The potty was a hole in the ground out across the lawn with galvanized steel walls surrounding it. Malaria is present in this area so mosquito nets cover the beds.

But, as has been the case everywhere in Ethiopia, there seems to be joy on the faces of these children. Some of them are infested with flies but they are so accustomed to it, they don't even swat. I catch myself swatting a time or two and then I realize that if they can live with it, I can too. It's a battle not to swat them away but I feel that I must do so out of respect for the little eyes that are watching me.

We spend some precious time inside of the orphanage buildings and then prepare to leave for a walking tour of the village. We have been invited into three homes there. I go into the first; a mud and straw hut where there is a mentally challenged man sitting in one corner, an elderly lady sitting on blankets in another and a mother and her four children. The elderly lady is saying something that we can't understand and raising her hands as if she's praising God. Someone asks if they can take her picture and she agrees. They lean down and show her herself on the digital screen and she is overcome with emotion. She laughs, cries, shouts and then begins to touch her own face. Our guide/translator Bizzy comes in to help us understand what she's trying to say. He shares with us that she is a Muslim. She is raising her hands and thanking God (and us) for our visit....she is praying blessings over us all. Kelly asks, "Can I tell her that Jesus loves her....will it offend her if I tell her that?". Bizzy assures Kelly that it's okay and so Kelly touches her and says, "Jesus loves you" this, she tears up, raises her hands again and proclaims, "May Jesus bless you all, all the days of your life".

As we walk through the villages to other homes (I didn't actually go into the last two homes; our group is so large and the homes so small, it just seemed overwhelming.....some of the young babies are scared of us and, in fact, in the first home we were in, the youngest child cried out of fear our entire visit), the crowd is growing larger. At this point, we have quite a following; all of the children want to see the Americans. And that's not we've been walking, our guides have been gathering the villagers in a field so that we can begin passing out donations. By the time it was all said and done, there were probably 200 people (mostly children) gathered in this one area. It was quite overwhelming and hard to maintain order. However, we were able to pass out MANY pairs of shoes, lots and lots of underwear (most of the children wear none), some clothes, some food packets (rice and beans), etc.

It's funny, really, we do well handing out donations when it is only the children present. But then the adults start to arrive and it seems that, only then, things become chaotic. I had to admit that I too would become THAT mom. If my kids were bottomless, shoeless, cold and hungry, I'd likely stop at NOTHING to get a shot at some of the items being handed out. We've seen a lot of that "survival of the fittest" attitude here.
We left Woliso with hurting hearts and hopes to begin a sponsorship program there. We'll just see what God has in store.

Let me leave you with one of the neatest things that happened on this trip. God is good that he let us all be part of something great at Woliso as Kelly was able to share with a waiting child there (11 year old Getu) that he has a family. She wasn't able to make a huge production out of it (for the sake of the children who still don't have a family) but she took him aside and said to him, "Do you remember when I took your picture and told you I was going to help you find a family?". (That's one of the main purposes of Ordinary Hero.....advocating for waiting, adoptable children). He replied with a nod. And she went on to say (through near tears), "You have been have a family and they are coming to get you soon". That sweet boy who has been waiting at Woliso for years will soon live in Brentwood, TN....he has a precious family who already love him.....I was able to message with his Mom while I was there and share a hug with him from her. I pray that there are more "Getus" at Woliso in the days, weeks and months to come.

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