Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day 7: Friday

It's hard to believe that it's Friday already. Last week, leading up to our departure from the U.S., seemed to take forever. Today we have the feast, goody giveaways, and good-byes to say. It will be a long day.

The Bible story today is about serving others. Rob tells the story of how Jesus washed feet. Today, we will wash the kids' feet. Eight of us took turns washing feet. About thirty of the kids chose not to have their feet washed, mostly the older kids. We had gloves for these dirty feet, but several of the group chose not to wear them. I started out wearing them, and made Michael and Allison wear them. To be sure, the kids' feet were filthy. Even after taking my time to clean them, there was still dirt on the rags when I dried them.

Eventually, though, I shed the gloves. To me, it contradicted the message of servitude by having these blue gloves on while showing these kids that we were serving them. They were a barrier between my hands and their feet. I felt that they said I will serve you, but only if I am protected.

After we were done, the kids washed our feet. Natnael immediately found me and washed mine. The water was COLD! Not one child had reacted to the cold water, so I made sure I did not mention it either.

At the same time, some of the team were painting faces. I think the two most popular selections were hearts and the Ethiopian flag. The kids loved having their faces painted.

I heard later that some of them were wiping their faces clean so they could be painted again. These kids love the attention they receive this week. They love being held. They love being touched. It doesn't surprise me that they wanted their faces painted again.

After the foot washing, we handed out bags packed with goodies. The bags had been donated and included a small book with pictures depicting scenes from the Bible. It also included a stuffed turtle. The team supplemented the items with water bottles, granola bars, pens, and hygiene kits. The hygiene kids came in hand sewn bags by Lori's aunt and a colleague at work and her friends. each kit contained a toothbrush and toothpaste, chap stick, a wide toothed comb, band aids, alcohol wipes, soap, and a rubber band bracelet. Fikre explained the contents of the bag in Amharic, which none of our team could understand. The kids roared with approval as he was talking right before he pulled the pens out. They definitely like getting pens! Next, we handed out Amharic Bibles. Samantha, my niece, raised money to buy a Bible for everyone. There were two versions of the Bible; a standard Bible with a blue or brown leather cover with a bookmark for the older kids and a paperback Bible with pictures for the younger ones. About 40 of them returned the Bibles, as they are Moslem and it would have been dangerous for them to take them home. (Some of the kids from Moslem families have become Christian but have not told their families as it would be trouble for them.) The Bibles will be left at the church for them to use when they are there.

Then came the feast. There were three stations set up. One was for the Moslems. They could only eat meat from an animal killed by a Moslem. The second station was for the Greek Orthodox kids. Since it is Lent, they are fasting on meat. The final station was for Christians who did not have any dietary restrictions. The woman at one of the tables was serving the potatoes and carrots and the meat, so I jumped in to help. It was the longest line of the three. I found out later I was serving the Moslem kids. Fortunately, I didn't break any rules about serving Moslems. I was scolded for not giving the kids enough carrots and potatoes. I was all too happy to give out more. I was worried about making sure there was enough for everyone. There was no reason to worry. They had enough so that the kids could come back for as much as they wanted.

And then it was time for good-bye.

Two years ago, the good byes took a very long time as everyone was crying. I wondered if it would be the same as they had learned we return every year. Sure enough, the tears started to flow. Even the kids who showed the tough personal all week had wet eyes. A few of the older boys were joking about the kids who were crying, but by the end some of their eyes were misty too.

Natnael and friends. I decided to give Natnael my
Notre Dame cap.
I had decided earlier that I was going to give Natnael my Notre Dame hat. At first, he thought I was giving it to him to wear just that day. Zelalem came over asking about it. Natnael's eyes lit up when I told them that it was his to keep.

A few of the kids wouldn't let go or kept returning. Natnael, Seada, Abebaw, and Karima, especially were repeatedly back at my side. The kids were finally shoed out. We took a moment to regroup, and started packing up to return to the hotel.

After a bit, when we thought the kids were long gone, we gathered for a group photo. Sure enough, many of the kids were still there, standing on top of the bus yelling at us. We were mobbed on the way to the bus. Another round of hugs and we were off.

Team Photo. It takes a lot of people to pull this off.
In the afternoon, some of us went to meet with a pastor who is trying to get a care point started with support from Children's Hopechest. It was a great conversation. If all goes well, there should be another 150 kids to sponsor by June. We learned that there are over 4000 kids in Kombolcha on a government waiting list to get into such programs. The government is eager to support organizations looking to create such care points.

While at the pastor's house, we had a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. I'm not a coffee drinker, except for when I'm in Ethiopia. The ceremony starts with green coffee beans being roasted over an open fire. The coffee maker, traditionally a woman dressed in a white dress with her head wrapped, walks the still roasting beans around the room so everyone can smell the aroma. The beans are then ground and put into a clay pot with water over the fire. Right before the coffee is served, a bowl of popcorn is passed around. The popcorn is air popped and has sugar sprinkled on top. The coffee is served in small cups. A spoonful of pure (not processed) sugar is added, and wah la, a great cup of coffee. It was Glen's first cup of coffee ever. I don't think he was very impressed, but I LOVED it!

We said our good byes and headed back to the hotel to pick up the rest of the crew for dinner.

Dinner was back at the church with its leadership. We had a great time eating a traditional Ethiopian meal, listening to music, and lighting sparklers. The church leadership is doing a great job with these kids. I can't wait to return in two years.

Tomorrow evening we meet in the lobby at 5:30am so bags can be loaded for a 6:30 departure to Addis. It's much harder to think about getting up at 5:00 then it was a few days ago.

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