Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mission Trip To Kombolcha, Ethiopia 2013

Looking ahead to my mission trip to Kombolcha, Ethiopia  in 2013, I would like to put together hygiene kits for 200 kids. I am thinking that we will have little bags that contain wash cloths, a bar of hotel (travel soap), a tooth brush, tooth paste, nail clippers, wide tooth combs, and a bandanna. We will need 200 of each of these items, my dentist will donate the dental supplies (Thank you Amherst Dental Center). If you could donate any of the other items, please let me know. Even if it's only 10 of something, we can all work together to get enough! I would also like to take 200 inflatable beach balls again! They were a big hit this year! There are amazing things happening in Kombolcha, and I would love for you to be a part of it!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hey everyone. I'm still finishing up writing my blog entries. In the meantime, we are scheduling next year's trip. The dates are March 9-18, 2013. There are 20 spots, and half are already taken. If you would like to go, let us know.

There is a Facebook page for the trip. The link is:

https://www.facebook.com/events/321747424561877/

I don't get to go, as it is Lori's turn. I'll go again in 2014.

Tom

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Photos

I'm still sorting through photos, and weeding out the ones that aren't anything. However, in the mean time, I've added a link to our Picasa album. Enjoy!


Ethiopia 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

One God, Two Sanctuaries, Lives Changed

April 29, 2012


Today is our last day in Ethiopia. Tonight we begin our long flight home, back to a culture that may now seem foreign to us after a week immersed in a different country. This week we will go back to our families, our jobs, our friends, and the daily hub bub that constitutes our American lives. We'll have to take the kids to their activities, help them with homework, shop for food, catch up on our television shows, learn what's going on in the world since we left, pay bills, all while doing our best not to forget what we experienced here. We vow not to forget what we experienced, while acclimating to our new sense of self after these life changing events.

For some of us, that reacclimation started today. After buying coffee and making sure one of our team members finally got her ice cream fix, half of our group went to a church service in Addis Ababa. It was remarkable how much the service felt like those at our home churches. The service was conducted in English. The pastor and worship team leader are both from North Carolina, without the strong accent possessed by some of the North Carolinians in our group. Familiar contemporary songs such as "Better Is One Day" as well as traditional hymns like "Amazing Grace" were sung. The sermon, in English, focused on how our world views can forever change once we've experienced a new perspective (how appropriate was that sermon to what we've been through this week?). "Amazing Grace", already an emotional song, seemed to have extra relevance today as we prepare to return to America, especially the line "'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home." I must confess to getting a little misty-eyed during this hymn.

The beauty of the inside of the church was in sharp contrast to the service we'd attended earlier in the week. While this church had polished marble floors, stone walls, and beautiful wood ceilings, we had all attended a prayer service at the drop in center on Wednesday evening. This service was in a facility with tin walls and roof, torn screens, dirt floor covered with grass, and wooden benches. The songs were sung in Amharic. The prayers were also in Amharic, but were (for the most part) translated for us. During the songs, women would uvulate loudly. If you're not familiar with uvulating, do a Google search. It's quite interesting. I'll also say that one of our team members is a natural at this. She couldn't explain how she could do it, nor could she teach anyone else, but the sounds came out of her like she'd been doing it all of her life. Rob was asked to give a brief message, which he did quite well. Both Rob and Greg did closing prayers.

While the two services were in sharp contrast to one another, the common denominator was the unmistakable presence of God. Whether we were in a hastily constructed metal building, or an elaborately constructed, beautifully adorned church complex; whether we were worshipping in Amharic or English; whether we were singing songs we've been singing for years or listening to songs sung in a language that we don't understand; whether we were participating in a service that had a familiar flow or one that was very unfamiliar to us, we were all celebrating, worshipping, and praising one God. Quakers believe that God exists in each of us. Looking around at the people during each of the two services, and knowing that millions of people around the world were also worshipping in their own churches, in their own traditions, and their own languages, magnified the significance of what we were experiencing.

"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home."

After this week, these few lines, always so familiar to me, have extra significance. How great is a God that allows us to break through the complexities of language, culture, and environment to bring us together from miles apart for a short period of time while impacting our lives forever.

Tonight we return to America, but we will never be the same.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tears of Angels

April 27, 2012

Life in Ethiopia is hard. Our Ethiopian daughter had lost both her parents and two siblings by the time she was four. It's not an uncommon story here. Electricity and running water are commodities that many can't afford. Poverty is rampant and getting worse. We spent the week with children with a wide variety of living conditions, but most come from one room houses with stick and mud walls, dirt floors, and tin roofs. They walk and run up to thirty minutes to school with their toes sticking out of their shoes (if they have shoes).

You would think that such a life would harden these kids. You would think that they would push people away for fear of losing them. You would think that emotion was something they could not afford when they don't know from where their next meal will come or if they will have a roof to sleep under the next night. You would think wrong.

Our last day in Kombolcha was full of emotion. As the day began, we were anxious because we knew all 160 kids would be there when we arrived and we had a hastily devised plan on how to keep things organized for three hours until lunch was served. We were overwhelmed as we carried out our plan with mixed levels of success. We were happy because even though it was chaos, we were still having fun and loved spending time with the children. We were sad when we had to say our good-byes and leave.

First, the feast. All of the kids were given a full meal that included injera, the lamb, shero (I didn't have any  but I understand it was the spiciest food the brave in our group have had), potatoes, and carrots. They also received Orange Fanta or a Coca-Cola (no complaints from the kids about which they received). There was enough food that if any of them wanted seconds, they could take them. Needless to say there were lots of full tummies in Kombolcha today. The entire meal, plus plates, fed almost 200 people and cost $1000.

Because our group had passed out the meals and helped clean up, we didn't eat until after the kids were done. One member of our group, who had insisted that she didn't want to see the sheep (although I think she did) said before we ate "I've only known them for a few days, so I'm just going to eat them." We were also treated to a traditional coffee ceremony. The meal was very good, and once again we were treated to a home cooked meal that can't be matched by the restaurants.

Tummies full, it was time for what we knew would be the hardest part of the trip; saying good bye.

The staff had lined the kids up outside to sing us some songs. I've gotten to the point that I recognize some of the church songs when they're sung in Amharic, although not to the point that I can sing along. The kids started singing, and I saw immediately that a few of our group started to tear up. Next, we were asked if we wanted to say anything to the kids. I've taken a lot of pictures on this trip, but I decided then to put the camera away. Given the emotion that was starting to come out, some things are best left unrecorded.

Rob gave a very moving talk about how he and Candy had promised to come back and they did. The kids are part of our lives and we will always remember them. We will take their stories and their spirit back with us to our churches and to our friends and family in America. And, we will be back.

I didn't realize the impact his talk had on the kids until we stood with them for group photos. Several of the kids' faces were streaked with tears. One little girl started to sob. Like a wave that comes on shore covering more and more of the sand, the kids, one after another began to cry. When you see our group photos, don't expect the best pictures in the world, because most of us were doing all we could to keep it together.

And finally it was time for goodbyes. One by one the kids came to give us hugs. By this point, most all of them were crying. I've never given so many hugs in one day. Some would give me a solid but brief hug, but some didn't want to let go. They would grab me around the neck and squeeze tight and hang on. My shirt became wet from their tears. Even the older boys, who tried so hard all week to act like grown ups had tears in their eyes. They would walk up to me offering their hand to shake, but didn't object in the least when I pulled them in for a hug. All around me, other members of our team were surrounded by children reaching out for hugs and that last touch before leaving for the day. For at least thirty minutes, the only sound coming from over 180 kids and adults was the sound of crying. Even the staff of the drop in center were wiping away tears. We were told later that the ferengi (foreigners) always cry when leaving a drop in center, but this was the first time that the kids have cried. The ride back to the hotel was unusually quiet as all of us were deep in our thoughts, not wanting to let the moment go.

We have become a member of these kids' families, and we have welcomed them as members of our own families. Even though we are separated by thousands of miles and even though next week we will return to our regular routines and they will continue to try to be a kid while surviving from day to day, we have developed a strong bond. Our resolve to help these children, our children, of Kombolcha has grown stronger. We would do nothing less for our extended family of Ethiopia.