Monday, February 20, 2012

2012 Ethiopia Mission Trip - Day 7

As we neared the end of our time in Addis Ababa, we had to find at least a little time to shop in the small shops dotting the city.  After a restful morning, we had lunch with two of our Habesha friends and then went directly to a shop for Ethiopian scarves.  A new American 501(c)3 has sprung up in North Carolina to aid this organization called Connected in Hope Foundation.  It is helping to empower women who were formerly fuel wood carriers, a very hard and labor intensive job that makes women old before their years.  Now, these women are weavers and operate 16 looms, making scarves at a price of 60 Ethiopian Birr a piece.  This is the equivalent of about $3.60 or so.  Our little group purchased 14 scarves.

We then departed for a coffee shop to fill orders for friends and relatives who had requested Ethiopian coffee.  This is the largest export produced in Ethiopia.  Next, we were off to another local market area for souvenirs of a wide variety, from earrings to wood carvings.

We took a couple of hours off in the late afternoon to review hundreds of photos, especially from the weekend, and then went off to a cultural dinner near Bole International Airport at a place called Yod Abyssinia.  We ate traditional food with Injera and lots of various wots and other foods that I surely don't know the names of.  All the while, we watched dancers and musicians regale us with music and motion from many different Ethiopian tribes.  Near the end of our stay there, I even got a chance to do a mirror dance with one of the male dancers.  Woohoo!  I think I passed the test.  All in all, a pleasant day.

Tomorrow, it'll be back to Grace House for another afternoon to help tie up loose ends with the website work, and also to work with the little boys some more, as well as to do at least a bit more video work.  Then, Andy and Dannette will be off to Rwanda, and Jo and I will take Million on his first airplane flight for a few days of R&R in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

2012 Ethiopia Mission Trip - Day 6b

After breakfast, we all retired to my lodge's little "parlor" for our worship service.  It turned out that we were in a Muslim area of the country, so we did not worship in the outdoors, but had a lovely service indoors.  I gave a short homily on Matthew 6:7-15, and then we used the call and response version of the Lord's Prayer with our Ethiopian friends.  They joined in and it was beautiful.  We followed with a 3-part round (Father, I Adore You). Dannette, Jo and I led the three parts and, again, it was truly lovely and worshipful.  Our Ethiopian friends taught us a song called Misgana, which means praise.
Leading worship in the parlor of our lodge.

This ended our time in Awash Park. It was a wonderful time of fun, fellowship and bonding, and the boys from Peace House (6 of the kids) had never had such an opportunity before, so it was truly very special for them.

On the way back to Addis this afternoon, we stopped in Nazareth to let my boy Ashenafi out to go home.  Just an hour or so beyond there, in Dukem, we stopped to let my boy Million go home.  Then we continued on our way back to the big capital city of Addis Ababa.

My boys...Million and Ashenafi.  They met each other for the first time on this trip to Awash National Park.

2012 Ethiopia Mission Trip - Day 6a

[Originally written on Monday, February 6, 2012]

I am happy to report back in after a weekend in Awash National Park where my little team hosted 18 of our Habasha (Ethiopian native) friends. There were seven MDEC staff, 8 MDEC teenage boys, our tour director, my Ethiopian Compassion graduate boys, and we Ferengis (white foreigners).

Our trip to the park was long...more than four hours with a stop for lunch in Nazareth.  When we finally drove off of the main road to head into the park, it was another 15 kilometers or so to our lodge.  As the leader of this little excursion, I was provided the place of honor among the various traditional style buildings.  Our lodge (Jo's and mine) was two story with a balcony and a parlor of sorts, in a very rustic style.  Most of the lodges were, in a manner of speaking, duplexes.  Though this new lodge just opened in 2009, it was intentionally designed in a style similar to Ethiopian country homes with a few more modern conveniences than some country homes might have (electricity and indoor bathrooms with running water).

Our lodge that sat on the edge of the Awash River gorge.  It overlooked the river and waterfalls in the distance.
This sign graced each and every lodge door in the park.  The baboons were not timid about being around humans, and as we learned on Sunday morning, would even steal toast from our breakfast table in the restaurant.
After we settled in, we took the walk back down the road, meeting up with a few of our Ethiopian friends, and headed down to the river that is filled by several waterfalls.  Soon, our whole crew was down there having the times of their lives climbing on boulders (for pictures), climbing trees (for pictures), standing high on a cliff (for pictures), decending to the base of one of the falls (for pictures)...well, you get the drift.  After most of us had practically expended all the juice in our camera batteries, we came back up the hill to the outdoor restaurant to enjoy a wonderful campfire-lit dinner.
One of what seemed like 1,000 pictures that were taken down at the Awash Falls.  Everyone loved getting into the act.
Everyplace was fair game for more pictures.  Does it look like fun?  Heck yeah!
While we ate, someone was in my lodge unbeknownst to me at the time.  I had laid two full water bottles on one of the beds, and when we returned, one of them had been chewed through and the bed was all wet.  We had been sure to lock the doors and windows, as directed by signs left on each lodge's front door.  It seems the baboons like to raid the buildings if given half a chance.  Anyway, we weren't sure who had done this dirty deed, so headed back to the restaurant to find some lodge employees who could look at the evidence and tell us.  Turns out, we had a rat (or perhaps only a mouse) that was thirsty.  We definitely moved from the first-floor bedroom to the upstairs bedroom and crossed our fingers for the night.  All went well as we slept under mosquito netting.

We arose at 5:15 a.m. so we could be ready to depart before 6 a.m. for our wildlife spotting tour of the 700+ square kilometer preserve.  We saw oryx, dik diks, lesser kudu, wild boars, baboons, a crocodile, a white headed eagle that looked similar to our bald eagles, and some other interesting birds.  My photos were coming out terrible, so I offered my camera with the long telephoto lens to Million (another of my Ethiopian kids) who, fortunately, had a much steadier hand and better eye on this day.

A great shot of some of the wildlife we saw in Awash National Park.
When we returned to the lodge for breakfast, we had quite an interesting and surprising experience.  We were on the second level of the outdoor dining area.  As most of us were either looking over the wall to the gorge below, or sitting at our table looking toward the wall, I felt a brief pressure on my left leg and saw a hand reach out and steal a piece of toast right off of the table in front of me.  It was a baboon.  We all startled and made little shouts, which caused the creature to drop the toast and scamper down the stairs.

This was our toast thief.

2012 Ethiopia Mission Trip - Days 4 and 5

We took 31 people to Bora Amusement Park.  Twenty-two of them were kids age 12 and under.  By American standards, it was a very tiny park, but things are different here.  There were really only three working rides: a Ferris Wheel, a small Merry-Go-Round, and the Swinging Chairs.  The kids used them all well, however, a few literally got sick on the swinging chairs.  I could not join them on that ride for the very same reason.  It was still a happy, fun and memorable outing for everyone.
Bora Park, as seen from the top of the Ferris Wheel.
Here's a happy boy riding the swinging chairs.
Burgers and Orange soft drinks all around!
The day after Bora Park was the day we arranged to visit our Compassion International sponsored children.  Andy and Dannette are also sponsors of an Ethiopian boy who they met for the first time today.  We took our kids, my two (Beza and Ashenafi), and their boy to a local arcade where we had great fun playing air hockey, shooting basketballs, and racing cars and motorcycles.  Then, it was off to lunch for more time to chat.  We followed that with a short visit to the Compassion country headquarters office where we met with my friend Yoseph Kentiba, who is in charge of international tour groups.  I was quite surprised to find a large framed photo collage on his wall with three photos I had taken during a sponsor tour here in 2008.
Beza and Ashenafi, two of my Ethiopian kids.  I love 'em.
With my friend who is on the staff at Compassion Ethiopia, Yoseph Kentiba.  Notice the photo in the upper right.
It was one I had taken in 2008 when I first visited Ethiopia.
In the evening, we returned to Grace House to complete the two-part leadership seminar for the MDEC staff.  We got a lot more into communications issues, team building, conflict resolution, and things of that nature.  These were matters the staff was very interested in pursuing and I hope Andy's presentation met their needs and expectations.

2012 Ethiopia Mission Trip - Day 3

This day was more relaxing and unstructured, even within the confines of a prepared schedule.  Our morning was planned to consist of painting at Moriah's main house and continuing the editorial work on the website.  So, we put Jo and Dannette back to work in the office, and Andy and I watched to make sure that the professional painters were happy to do the job of painting the porch on their own.  In fact, I suspect they were grateful to keep us out of their hair.  So, he and I spent much of the morning playing all kinds of different games and activities with the boys including checkers, chinese checkers, frisbee tosses, jumping rope, playing jacks, playing football, assembling jigsaw puzzles, and practicing our English with Q and A's.
Serious strategies being contemplated.  Chinese checkers was quite a hit.
Jo and Dannette completed most of the editorial work on the website this afternoon, though it has not yet been put into the new and improved version online.  Soon...

The boys from Peace House came over to Moriah House again this afternoon for English practice and playtime.  We learned a new game...well, new for here.  You know it!  It is Simon Says.  Even some of the big boys joined in the fun and we switched Simon out a few times as winners were eventually determined.  This gave us a great and fun way to practice some verbs and also to review English words for body parts.  Later in the afternoon, we worked on spelling practice.  Today, it was numbers, days of the week, colors, and simple nouns.  These young boys are eager learners and love the fun of succeeding at their Enlgish efforts.
Simon says, "Hands on hips."
Following a short break in the late afternoon, Dannette took top billing and presented a seminar on project management to the MDEC staff and invited guests.  She used Nehemiah chapter 3 as an important part of her examples, but also easily worked MDEC's current efforts in various facets of the ministry into her talk.  The audience was quite receptive and many took notes.  Like their young charges, the staff is also eager to learn new ideas and ways they can implement them to improve the scope and impact of their ministry.
Dannette provides a seminar on project management.
Andy followed Dannette's presentation with the bare beginning of a continuing leadership presentation that will be completed on Friday evening.  Today, he talked mostly of brainstorming for ideas, prioritizing, and ways that this can even help with conflict resolution within an organization.

Carmen and Trent Post attended the seminar as well.  They are an amazing young couple from Charlotte, NC, who, with their family, moved to Addis Ababa at the end of August 2011 to serve as missionaries for the coming five years.  They are doing amazing things with their ministry to the street population, primarily girls.  I would love to introduce anyone who is interested in following the Post's efforts to
their blog.  You, too, will be inspired at their story and their lives dedicated in service to our Lord.  I tell you this so you will know to whom I refer when I write that we enjoyed dining with Trent, Carmen, their family and five of our MDEC colleagues after the evening's seminar.

So, the day may sound reasonably routine, but all days are good when we are serving our Lord and bringing praise to His holy name.

Tomorrow is a major play day with the MDEC kids.  We'll take them to Bora Park, a small amusement park near the airport, and treat them to burgers and pizza for lunch.  Too many kids in the developing world don't have the luxury of pure, unadulterated playtime.  These kids likely did not know this part of life in years past either.  So, I am very happy that one of the things we do here in Ethiopia is provide the time and opportunity for kids to do what God intended for children.  It'll be a time of giggles, shouts, fun and joy.

2012 Ethiopia Mission Trip - Day 2

Peace House
Our first stop of the day was at what is billed as Peace House.  It is a large, very old home (more than 100 years old and with walls made from mud and straw).  The upper part of the house still needs additional repairs before it will be used, but the hope is to eventually turn that part of the building into a vocational training center.  For now, this house's (what some of us call Ady's mother's house because Ady has graciously donated it rent-free to the Moriah ministry) lower rooms are used for the Peace Center gatherings of boys still living on the streets.  Today, I presented a couple of scripture verses (Colossions 1:15, 27) and a brief talk to the boys after they finished their Bible study and light breakfast.  Then, we toured the other rooms where the teen boys now living in that home sleep, and also the very tiny kitchen used for these boys' meal preparation.  But the big event of the morning there was the dedication of the toilets!

Street boys at a morning Peace Center gathering for breakfast and Bible study.

Yes, folks, the new toilets and showers were not opened until today because they were awaiting my arrival to do the ribbon-cutting and dedication.  When I was told this a couple of weeks before, I thought it was rather funny, but on this day I learned how significant an event this truly was.  A local government official was there, a television cameraman, my MDEC colleagues, the current owner who has donated the house and compound, and many other family members who are now living in this compound.  I was told that nearly 100 people from 10 families will use these toilets, and that it is truly a major blessing in the lives of this community.  So, I cut the purple ribbon with Wanna Balina, the Moriah director, and following his speech and the government official's speech, I was asked to also say a few words on behalf of those donors who made the funds available for to bring this project to fruition.

There are four toilets in the building, two for the community, and two for the boys living at Peace House.

Cutting the ribbon at the dedication.
After lunch, we returned to Grace House where Andy McKellar and I taught the boys English.  I had the little boys and Andy took the big fellas.  We had great fun playing card puzzle word spelling and recognition games, and doing question/answer practice.  We also read a funny story about four hungry wild boars.  The bigger boys worked with primary readers we had brought along telling stories about Jesus.  This activity will resume in the next few days.  The boys were off from school between semesters, but they couldn't escape English class while we were there (!).  Even the little ones have English in the primary schools and they are doing well.

English class.

Andy reads a story about four hungry wild boars.
All the while we were teaching English, Jo Roberts and Dannette McKellar were doing editorial work on the MDEC website.  They seemed to enjoy that work, so I believe we divvied up the responsibilities in a good way.  They have much more work to do on that effort, and appear to be looking forward to getting back on the project.

This evening, we were invited to a good friend of mine's home to visit.  She had gotten married only two weeks ago, and told us we were the first to visit her and her husband in their new home.  While there, we were treated to another coffee ceremony and then provided a wonderful Ethiopian meal.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this style of dining, no utensils are used and the food is served from a large common platter in the middle of a group of people.  Various kinds fo stews (called wot) are ladled onto Injera, a sponge-like pancake type of staple food.  This is then torn apart and used in one's right hand to pick up the food.  We had a beef dish and green beans with carrots.  It was a lovely meal with wonderful people, and I was glad to share this with my small team.

Jo, Dannette and Andy had never visited Ethiopia before, so they are experiencing many new things.  I hope one day many of you reading this might be able to also come and experience this culture, the wonderful people here, and the love and grace of God occurring in this place.

2012 Ethiopia Mission Trip - Day 1

One of many coffee ceremonies.
We arrived safely Sunday morning in Addis Ababa after a smooth, 13 hour flight from Dulles International.  Customs moved very quickly and before we knew it, our friends Jerry and Fekadu met us at the airport.  Wanna, Micky and four of the Moriah boys were waiting outside to greet us with fresh, beautiful roses.

We needed to have our accommodations moved from our hotel to a nearby guest house for a night because of a huge pan-African conference being held in the city that had overtaken all the hotel rooms everywhere, by government decree.  Fortunately, we were able to move to our hotel the next morning (Monday).  Following lunch on Sunday, we returned to our rooms to catch some much needed sleep before walking to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

This morning (Monday), we had an opening ceremony at Grace House (Moriah's main house) where we listened to a talk about the ministry and viewed the office setup as we continued learning more about the operations of the organization.  We then toured the house and facility.  That was followed by the traditional coffee ceremony that shows honor to guests (us).

After a break for lunch, we returned to provide many gifts including clothing, sporting goods, games, school supplies, and dental supplies, mostly provided by Trinity UMC members and friends' generous donations.  This was happily received.  The boys particularly enjoyed playing with the American footballs.  This year, there were three of those and they were leather so they will last.

Just some of the games, clothes, and other gifts.

Footballs were fun.