Relax, everything's going to be all right; rest, everything is coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!!!
Friday, February 20, 2009
Day 6: Beautiful Country, Beautiful Children
As I awoke to this day, I had begun to notice the same sounds on this early morning as I have heard all week long. A call to prayer broad casted throughout Addis, roosters crowing, dogs barking, the cleaning lady sweeping the hotel stairs, and big diesel trucks roaming the streets of Addis can be heard faintly in the backdrop of my sleepy dreams as they transfer to the reality of a brand new day. There are a million things that are new to me about this city, but the things that will make an imprint on my memory for eternity are the fact that there were trees everywhere. Usually in big cities, trees are scarce, but in this huge city with a population of several million people, there are so many trees. I will also remember the hospitality of the people here. These people really took a hold of Jesus's words when He said to serve one another. It seems to come so effortlessly to them and so apart of their culture that it is almost expected to put other's needs before your own. On this morning I was humming the tune "greater things are yet to come and greater things are still to do be done in this city". Now that I have been, seen, and tasted this beautiful country, I will never be rid of the burden I have for her. At the beginning of the week, all I could think of was how I wanted to get home and was counting the days of our departure. Now, tears welled up in my eyes as I looked across this beautiful city from my hotel balcony window thinking that my days here were coming to a close. The thought of seeing Hally and Brady soon are one of the comforts in leaving this beautiful country.
I was very excited about this day particularly as I knew we were going to visit several of the city's orphanages. We all got ready and met in the hotel lobby where we again loaded up the hotel's mini van and headed to our first orphanage called Gelegela. As soon as the home gates were opened, children could be seen running frantically trying to get a glimpse of the foreign visitors they had grown accustomed to seeing periodically. We all looked each other over and after exchanging waves and smiles, we began to make our tour. Forget everything you know about orphanages when you are visiting this place. Images of Oliver asking for more please to an overbearing heartless caretaker and the tune "a hard knock life" would have come to mind if you said orphanage before visiting Gelegela, but this place was a happy place. The children were happy and well taken care of, and you could feel that they had a sense of belonging and purpose in this haven they had been giving from a prior life of who knows what. Make no mistake, though, that this is not where these children belong for the long haul. They need homes desperately. They need mommies and daddies to hold them when they cry, cheer them when they accomplish a hard task, and to encourage them to reach their dreams. Gelegela is providing a short term need with excellence and the children are thriving. There are millions and millions of orphans in this tiny country just twice the size of Texas. This facility cares for less than 100 children. There are more children that need to benefit from this haven. About half way through the tour, we met the most amazing woman. She was the director of the orphanage who appeared to be around the age of my own mother. This women had the face of an angel. And to the one's she has been in contact with, I can only imagine they felt she was an angel. She proceeded to tell us her story and vision for the impoverished of Ethiopia. I will not share the details of her story as it is hers, but I will tell you that I was in sobbing tears by the end of her story, and will be forever changed and motivated by her testimony. Michelle, thankfully, was our group's spokeswoman and thanked her for sharing her story and for all the work she has done. The director was ever so humble and gracious and said something I would never forget. She said that she was nothing, had no education past 5th grade, and that God delights in using the foolish to confound the wise. There was nothing foolish about this women, and I can only hope to be and do a portion of what this women has done. We finished the tour by handing out treats to the children and giving the orphanage donations (which included the tees from James River Kids.... isn't it cool to think that kids in Africa are wearing "Got That" shirts?!!!!). There was one particular little fella who stayed really close to my side. He absolutely stole my heart and Kevin's....
The visit to Kids Care was also unforgettable. The same feeling of happiness that exuded from Gelegela was also present in this facility. We met Duni's mother at this establishment, and if you ever wondered where Duni got her fearless determination wonder no more as it is definitely hereditary. Rae was quite content on my lap as we watched Jason play jump rope with girls, Scott spin a basketball on his fingers, and Kevin taking pictures like mad of willing and excited children. We all left with a greater sense of gratitude towards the people who had been caring for our children and a feeling of awe and wonder as we witnessed many of God's commands set in motion.