Let me start by telling you about Brighton. After having been matched with Larua and Tymm Hoffman for adoption, his little body succumbed to mortality after only 76 days of life. Laura and Tymm had not been given the OK to go and pick him up yet, so, he is buried in Ethiopia, the country of his birth. The Lord worked in their hearts and they eventually started a non-profit organization named after him: "Brighton their World". One primary purpose of BTW is to attempt to provide additional resources for formula, diapers, and medical gloves to one specific government orphanage and to partner with a few organizations that support children and their parents. This is the group we represented as we traveled. Laura and Tymm happen to be friends of our family. In addition, they have also continued to pursue adoption and now have three more little ones, who also happen to know that story.
So, as far as iteneraries go, we were scheduled to go to the preschool at Connected in Hope each morning. We brought crafts and games to play. We sang songs and learned traditional dances. The children were so sweet. They were patient with our mangled Amharic. They shared their space and their lives with us. There is a woman who works at Connected in Hope who loved my hat that I was wearing and I took it to her the following day. She is now my hat sister.
Another woman is a cleaner for the preschool. She has a hard story, but that is unfortunately the norm. One of her children was electrocuted at the age of eight and the other child died at some point. She is alone, except for her Connected in Hope family. She is in charge of cleaning, but more importantly, she makes the buna! That's Amharic for coffee. On one day, another team member and I had the privilege of assisting her in the making of the coffee. From roasting the raw coffee beans, to crushing it, she patiently showed us how to make coffee. When the brew was complete, she gently poured the brown liquid into tiny tea sized cups and served us. Precious.
Four members of our traveling team taught sewing lessons to women at Embracing Hope Ethiopia. They thaught them necessary skills to make school uniforms. It was a huge success with all four women demonstrating the ability to create the garments. They will be able to make and sell uniforms and thereby provide for their families.
In the afternoons, we went to a government orphanage. The children there were ages birth to ten years old. Both boys and girls lived there. Due to recent government policy, these children can only be adopted by individuals who are Ethiopian citizens. Unfortunately, lack of structure and little adult oversight has a nasty consequence. Children parenting each other, fighting, intimidating, wounding. And yet, after five consecutive days of playing with the children, bringing them crafts to do, singing and dancing, the walls started to come down. At one point, one of our team members took the opportunity to pray with the child "leaders". She encouraged them to lead with love and protection. I don't have a great way to tell you that my heart was full and broken at the same time.
One little gal that caught my attention was named "Hannah". She was about 10 years old with bright eyes and a contagious giggle. She patiently taught me to count to ten in Amharic. She sang "Jesus loves me" and knew her alphabet in Latin letters. She liked to sneak up on me and tickle my neck with her slender little fingers. At the end of our last day at the orphanage, I told her through our interpreter, that I would be back next year. I would be looking for her and that I would be praying for her. I left knowing that if the system stays the same, she will be gone by the time I can get back. She will move on to a much tougher setting where the older children go. I pray every day that some sweet Ethiopian woman rescues Hannah from her current situation. We were strictly forbidden to take any pictures there, so I have her image imprinted on my heart. Jesus knows here better than me. I trust him to protect her.
The orphanage also had its share of special needs children. Some were mobile and wandered the compound all day and night. They were paired with another typical developing child to make sure they didn't wander off. There was a room of children with special needs. These children could not walk or talk. About half of them lay on their backs all day and stare at the ceiling, while others could sit or stand in their cribs. Although there is no real way to know what life events led to the condition of these children, I can say with certainty that there is life in that room! We sang songs to the children and played finger games. They smiled and laughed. The nannies in this room were fairly sensitive to the needs of the children. One older nanny had a special connection with the children.
We had two translators, one young woman went with the sewing team and one young man was with the rest of our group. The translator that was with our group, was named Biruk. He made a huge impression on me. He is a young man with a bright future. He is seeking God will every fiber of his being. Obviously, being human, he will make mistakes, but by his own admission, he longs to correct his mistakes. He has recently released his first Gospel album of original music. His heart is pure and his music is like getting a hug from Jesus. He patiently put up with my questions and needs for translation, even things like "how do you say tickle monster?" I pray that some day I can host him here in the United States. He has a passion for Jesus and music; two things that I love as well.
While in Ethiopia, I kept a journal. One day I was struck by the contrasts. Some of these reflect differences between here and there, some observations would fit within the same camera frame.
Have, have not
Shoes, bare feet
I manage to go on about my days here in the States. I shop at the grocery store, Costco even! But as I live and move and breathe here among the full, I constantly think about the empty. There is a hole in my heart that was carefully carved out by a loving God who sees the have nots and long for the haves to get involved. Be a part of the solution. Love on those around you - regardless of which side of the contrast they exist on.
I am ready to go back. I miss Ethiopia.