Saturday morning began our last day in Ethiopia. We all had a mixture of feelings of happiness to be heading home to our families and sadness over leaving the city of Addis that we have grown so fond of. Our day started out with a quick trip to the music store. Our driver Solomon has been playing us an Amharic praise CD all week. A few of us have fallen in love with some of the songs while riding in his van. The store turned out to be a small Christian bookstore. As we purchased the CD's, felt very good to support a Christian business in Ethiopia.
The store also had Christian books in Amharic. I was immediately drawn to some illustrated children's Bible stories. Since they were only 23 Birr a piece, the equivalent to around $1, I decided to buy four to give away to children during the day.
Our next stop was the AWAA Transition Home to drop of a few more donations. We were excited to find that 4 children had just been transferred into the home from a government orphanage that we had visited earlier in the week. Three of the children were tiny babies. We took turns peeking in on the sweet sleeping babies. The fourth child was a 6 year old boy. He was so happy to tell us that he remembered us giving him candy at the other orphanage. It was so nice to see children moving another step closer to adoption. It was also nice to hear that we had made at least a small impact in his life by visiting his orphanage.
Barry and Shelly's son Grady only asked for one souvenir from Ethiopia. He asked for a piece of bamboo. While we were near the stores, Shelly decided to quickly look to see if she could find some. The rest of us waited in the car and spent our time saying “no” to the many, many street vendors that approached our van window asking, "You want?" Shannon spotted a boy walking down the street carrying what she thought was bamboo. She stuck her head out of the window and yelled, "Hey, we want." It turns out it was sugarcane. One of the veteran street vendor boys heard us say we were actually interested in purchasing bamboo. He disappeared and returned only a few moments latter with an 8 ft., freshly pulled stock of bamboo. After we finished laughing at his tenacity, Barry and the driver negotiated a price and asked him if he would be able to cut the stock smaller. He disappeared again, and this time he returned with a machete knife. We all had a good laugh again. Barry finally found shopping he enjoyed – shopping that involved machetes, resourceful street vendors, and car side service. We were all glad that Grady would get the small piece of Ethiopia he wanted.
Next we were off to complete our main mission for the day, visiting sponsored children in their homes. AWAA has a sponsorship program for 107 children in Addis Abba. The children are high risk families referred to them by the government. The sponsored families receive 360 Birr per month ($18 US dollars.) The only stipulation is that families put 100 Birr of this money into a savings account for the child's future needs. We had seen so much of the city in the past week, but I was really excited to see where people lived, to see what a home in Addis would look like.
Our mission team split into two groups, and each group would visit 3 families each. On our way to our first home, I asked permission to give away the children's Bible story books that I had purchased that morning. I was given permission to give them to families that were Protestant.
The first and third homes we visited were both young girls who were orphaned but being raised by extended family. Both of the homes were Orthodox Christians, so I was not able to give a book to the children.
The second home visit was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The home was about 100 square feet constructed of corrugated metal and cardboard. The sponsored child was a 12 year old boy who lived there with his mother. The mother warmly invited us in to her home and quickly offered us coffee. We insisted that we had just ate and would not be able to stay long. She repeatedly offered us coffee and tea. She was just so hospitable to us. We were told that both the boy and his mother were HIV positive, and the mother was battling depression. She was very proud of her savings account for her son that included the money from his sponsorship. She passed around the bank register for all of us to see. We began to chat with the family. We asked if they were getting all the medicine they needed; they were. We asked what subject he enjoyed in school; he likes English. We asked what he wanted to be when he grew up; he wants to be an artist, more specifically an author. We finally asked if they went to church, and they proudly told us that they were Protestant. It dawned on me that I was going to to be able to give the children's books to this young man who dreams of being an author. Then the mother told is something I will never forget, she told us that she was happy to have us visit. She said, "You are the only one's who have come here to see us." I felt so completely filled with joy and sadness at the same time. Joy that we were able to visit this family and bless this young man with children's books. Sorrow for the struggle that this family faced with their medical problems, stigma they face having HIV and depression, trying to keep feed and warm in their metal and cardboard home. But I also felt joy that they knew Jesus, that they will one day be free from these Earthly struggles in Our Father's House. As we left I knew I had been blessed by our visit exponentially more that the family could have ever been. We said our goodbyes with hugs and Ethiopian style three kisses on alternating cheeks. As we drove away, I realized that God had orchestrated our seemingly random events that day to bless that boy who loves stories and books with books that he could call his own. That family may not have had visitors, but God is watching, God knows their struggles, their needs, and their desires. He loves and cares for them. What a hope we have in Jesus!
"The Lord is near all who call out to Him, all who call out to Him with integrity. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him." Psalm 145:18-19a
Written by : Jennifer Lane