Friday, June 10, 2011

home is where your heart is

i’ll admit—i have been avoiding sitting down and composing this final blog. i keep putting it off and finding other ways to occupy my time. why? because as i seek to formulate the appropriate words and expressions, my heart and mind must go back to those final memories in the place that my soul yearns for. and with that, journey with me one last time to those final days at project mercy…with my students and the house kids…as i aspire to put into words what my heart was experiencing during those difficult days.

wednesday, may 4---just two days before i had to say goodbye to my students. i was finishing up teaching my 3A class when terefe came up to me. he tapped me on the shoulder and said, “i go to shopkeeper to buy you biscuits.” (biscuits are what we would call cookies) i quickly reply, “oh no terefe, you do not need to do that,” but he insisted as he said, “yes, i go and give you.” and so, a little while later during lunch, i see terefe standing outside waving at me, trying to get my attention to come out and see him. as i make my way over to him, he pulls out a small packet of biscuits from his jacket and hands them to me. “i love you, teacher.” i immediately take him in for a hug and thank him, trying to fight the tears that are welling up inside. once i made it back into my room i begin sobbing. to most of us, receiving a small packet of biscuits from someone isn’t that big of a deal. this is not the case here. it was a huge deal for terefe to buy me something when he and his family have SO LITTLE materially speaking. and yet, this small token of affection demonstrates the generosity and beauty found in this little guy’s heart. in those moments, terefe showed me the sheer splendor of acting out what’s going on inside your heart—i know he has no money, and yet he was willing to make a sacrifice and give something to me that i’ll forever remember and cherish. and to think that the Lord places little 3rd graders in my life to teach me a thing or two about giving and loving—that’s awesome. that packet of biscuits—hands down the best gift i have ever received.

friday, may 6—my last day of school. much thought and prayer went into this monumental day. i knew it was going to be draining on both the students and myself, and that’s putting it mildly. i had been praying a lot about how to wrap up these past 9 months or so in one class period with each of my four sections of students—definitely daunting. in the end, i decided to write a standard note on the chalkboard as i went into each class. i proceeded to have the students write the note in their exercise books, as this would give them something to do (and continue to practice writing english), as well as be a keepsake for them. the note read:

Dear student,
English is fun! I am so proud of you. I will miss you very much when I am in America. I will always remember you.

Teacher Elizabeth

i then attempted to read the note aloud to the class but was quickly stuck down by emotions through the outpouring of tears. there i was, standing in front of my students—the children who have stolen my heart—unable to control myself. as i stood there and tried to regain some composure, the other classroom teacher thankfully began translating what i had written into amharic. it was in those moments that i looked out into the sea of stunning ethiopian faces and am forever struck by the images that were staring back at me—tears streaming down the faces of the boys and girls, sobs breaking the silence, heads down on the desks. it literally felt like someone was ripping out a part of my heart, a part that will forever remain in ethiopia. i hated that i was doing this to them, causing them to hurt like this. and then, i gave it another go at reading the note and made it through without breaking down. i went off the cuff and told them again how proud of them i was, encouraged them to continue working hard in school, and told them i loved them. and with that, i took in their faces one last time, said goodbye, and walked out the door. i proceeded to do this 3 more times, with each time as difficult as the last. oh my goodness, i was beyond the point of exhaustion at the end of the day—more emotionally drained than ever before. it got to the point where i was too tired to cry.

sunday, may 8---the day i left project mercy. it started out as any typical sunday does…breakfast followed by getting ready followed by church followed by lunch. there was a peace and sense of strength that was emanating from me throughout that final day—and undoubtedly that serenity stemmed from the Lord. i anticipated being an emotional wreck as i was on friday, but to my surprise i was composed and so were many of the kids. God was truly in our midst during those last moments, letting the memories be joyous rather than full of so much heartache (although it still existed and continues to, it was shielded then). with marta and deme being present, they don’t like to elongate the goodbyes, as the children are so accustomed to people coming into their lives and then leaving. and so, the goodbyes were short and sweet, probably healthy for all of us. and then feelings of numbness started settling, as i struggled with the notion that all of this was coming to a screeching halt. i could not process it in those final days at project mercy, nor could i as i actually left the country. i got into the white van with marta and deme and we drove out the compound and then the tears surfaced. marta had me come sit with her in the front and just held me as i wept, speaking soft, encouraging words into my heart that blessed me in those moments.

when i first came home, i was drawn back into the busyness that takes a toll so easily on our lives—being reunited with loved ones, visiting college friends, and beginning the real world job search. but shortly thereafter, i became overwhelmed. my parents and dear friends have been incredible: teaching me patience and gentleness. i feel like it was a mistake to wake up for 9 months, asking Jesus to borrow his eyes. i was not meant to see what he sees. the Pain, emptiness and want that i saw, all juxtaposed against those who have plenty, who are known, who are not in need, was all overbearing. but then He told me a story: the precious and powerful story of when he healed the paralytic. He reminded me of how He did it— Jesus said, 'Your sins are forgiven' and then, so they would know my authority to do so, I made him to stand'". He gave me His eyes again, this time not for clarity of sight; but rather, perspective. Jesus Christ is my living and powerful Savior who saved me first from my sin, and now is working on healing me of its effects.

i’ve been away from ethiopia for about a month now and my heart still hurts. i long to see my ethiopian family…my students, the house kids, the staff. i long to hear their voices, to receive their hugs, and to see their beautiful abasha smiles. the journey i shared with these people the past 9 months will forever shape me and forever be a part of my testimony. one of the hardest parts now that i am back home is the separation that i feel—i feel so far away and distant and i don’t like that. i have had my fair share of emotional breakdowns. i find that as of late they come when i am looking at my pictures, as those pictures so quickly spark the memories and ignite the joy that was shared. i know my processing does not end here, but i am ever so grateful for those of you who have reached out to me through encouragement, simply asking me about it all, and praying for me. i’ll take any chance i get to talk about that place and those people who have left hundreds of fingerprints on my heart.

i am slowly beginning to realize that "my journey" was really Jesus. He took me down those rocky, dirt roads, taught me the beauty and value in meaningful relationships. He rocked me to sleep in the cool, rainy days and in the hot, fly-infested ones. He enlightened me on the brevity of life, and that in the beginning, was Father, Son and Spirit: in the beginning was love and relationship. Love and relationship have been at the beginning through the Trinity, and i am invited into this dance, invited to accept as well as offer this love and to accept as well as enter into this relationship.

with sincere and heartfelt gratitude, i thank you for being God’s hand extended to the people of ethiopia.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

as a forewarning—this blog entry is a mixture of writing styles. the first part you will find to be more narrative and lighthearted, the second rather expressive, honest, and transparent. and with that, i thank you for your continued support, love, and prayers you so graciously extend to me and the people here.

okay so in my last blog i shared that zondra and i were heading to addis during the weekend of april 15. we had a nice time away as we enjoyed some rest and relaxation and even some pampering (pedicures and massages!). we had our way into the city all figured out, but our transportation coming home was unclear. after making many phone calls and realizing that no project mercy vehicle was available to take us home, we resorted to public transportation. let me try and paint the picture of what it’s like for a foreigner to travel via public in ethiopia. picture in your mind a large bus that can seat approximately 50 people (definitely not up to greyhound standards). add some luggage overhead (not much at all in relation to how many people are on board...they know how to pack light). rule out good ventilation. insert unpleasant, congested smells. and merge in 2 white ladies into the mix of all the ethiopians. that about depicts our trip to butajira—what would normally take about 3 hours to arrive (in a project mercy vehicle) took us closer to 5. and to top it all off, the bus broke down 28 km outside of butajira where we sat and waited for 45 minutes (as dusk was approaching) for the driver to fix it (and thankfully he did just that). we then made it into town and were warmly welcomed by familiar faces from project mercy and the reliable yellow bus. getting back to the compound never sounded so good.

the following weekend—easter weekend—we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves traveling back into the city with marta and deme so that we could share in the easter celebrations in english! we were not anticipating this which made it all the more wonderful and joyous. praise praise praise! we went to a service in the morning (at the International Evangelical Church) where we always go if we’re in the city for the weekend—i love the idea of praising and worshipping with hundreds of people from all over the world! and later that evening we went to a much smaller Anglican church where the congregation was predominantly from Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain—beautiful accents and a really intimate setting. gotta love the body of Christ spread out throughout the world. it’s definitely difficult being away from family and friends during holidays such as these, so do know that you were in my thoughts and prayers as you too were celebrating and giving God the glory in remembering this foundational weekend in our faith. He is risen indeed!

OH! encouraging news from my 3rd graders! i gave them a test about 2 weeks ago and was absolutely thrilled when i saw the results. in both of the classes, 47 students scored a 6 or higher (out of 10)!! this is a really big deal for them and i was and am so proud of their growth and continued understanding of english. little by little they are making progress and i praise Jesus for that!

to put it simply, this past week has been full of some crazy weather. it has felt like the rainy season all over again, but with a new twist—HAIL. our mornings have been stunning—clear, blue skies and lots of sunshine—and then the thunderclouds roll in bringing with them an abundance of rain and hail! this whole hail thing in ethiopia was not something i expected and as a result, had to be properly documented. i’m not one to miss out on prime photo ops ☺ one evening around dinner time the sky was getting extremely black and thunder was booming nearby. senite was beginning to walk the three little girls back to the house before the storm hit, so i decided to help out and grab a few of them. i picked up little lydia and carried her with my right arm and held little sarah’s hand on my left as we ran. there were giggles the whole way down to the house from the little ones—yet another special memory i can cherish with these girls.

upon my request, zondra came into my classes this week to document one last time group shots of me with the kiddos. she was a big hit amongst the students as her inner child shines so brightly in these sort of settings. i’m so grateful for any and all of the pictures i have with my beautiful students.

marta and deme have graced us with their presence the past few days which had been a true joy and delight. we are thankful for the times we are able to share with them as they not only bring about much humor, laughter, and smiles, but also such wisdom, discernment, and grace from the Lord. meal times with them are the best—intimate, engaging, and genuine. they truly are ambassadors for Jesus and i consider myself extremely blessed to have grown closer to them this year and learn from their Godly examples.

this past weekend we were able to have our long anticipated movie night with the house kids! the original plan was to show the film friday night, but after having lived in africa for 8 ½ months, i’ve come to realize that the original plan more often than not will not be the one that gets carried out. thanks to yet another power outage (there have been a lot this week due to the storms), projecting the movie in the cafeteria was not possible friday, but thankfully it was saturday! the kids were totally enthralled by the lion, the witch and the wardrobe, and were equally reveling in the yummy packs of skittles that my sweet family sent our way for easter! who knew saturday nights could be so fun? ☺

i have begun the daunting task of writing notes to some of my most special students and house kids. this process calls for a whole lot of reflecting and being ready to let the emotions flow—and oh how they are flowing. i want to be able to give the children a keepsake from me—something to hopefully help them in remembering me years from now. in addition, i have made many copies of pictures to hand out to the children (and many adults too). i know that i treasure all of the pictures i have from my time here and i pray that these pictures and notes will touch them as well.

it’s hard to grasp that i am leaving project mercy in just one short week (sunday, may 8). and so, i don’t even know how to put into words the thoughts and emotions i am experiencing. to think that i have invested 8 ½ months in this place and these people, fostering relationships that i will always hold dear to. and then to think that i will go from this place, leaving behind countless people to whom i love and care for, sadly severing these relationships simply because of the miles that will separate us. these people have been my family, my life, and i dread the fact that there will be much heartache on both ends upon my leaving.

i have felt the power of God run through my fingers to the ones i now love in His love. my heart is divided now. i long to be with family and friends but yet i will forever leave a portion of my heart in ethiopia in the children i ministered to.

my students are aware that my days left with them are numbered and they are really struggling with accepting it. they ask me how many days i have left, i tell them, and then they become really quiet and their facial expressions turn to ones of great sadness. and then many of them say aloud, over and over “I am so sorry; teacher do not go to America.” whew—hearing those words over and over will take quite a toll on the emotions. there have been times in class where i have had to quickly turn towards the blackboard to regain composure and then direct our attention back to our textbooks. this last week of teaching with them is going to be really difficult. i love them SO MUCH and will miss them with every ounce of my being. i am sitting here in my room crying just thinking about it. it’s only through God’s strength and the prayers of you that i’ll make it through this week and the weeks to come. i praise Jesus that we, the students and i, have been a gift to one another this past year.

surreal. surreal is the one word that seems to accurately describe how i feel about all of this at this present moment. as i try and process what lies ahead of me—in saying the goodbyes, in preparing myself for the re-entry culture shock that will inevitably come, and in beginning the job search—i’m left overwhelmed. and with that, i’m reminded by our Lord to take one day at a time, committing each circumstance to Him in faithful and earnest prayer. He will take care of me and all of those here in ethiopia, just as He has always proven Himself faithful in doing so.

just as i put my faith in God before the trip knowing He was calling me to africa, i can trust that He will direct me when i come back. i must wait on the Lord and when He reveals the next steps i am to take, i must be obedient to those orders.

as i have been trying to process all of this, i’m coming to grips with the sheer magnitude of saying goodbye. i’m not just leaving a school. i’m not just saying goodbye to a church or a couple families. i’m leaving a community—the people of yetebon and of project mercy—and with that are literally hundreds of people i love whom i may never be blessed to see again this side of heaven. if that isn’t a whole lot to process, i don’t know what is. what i do know and can continually cling to is this—our Lord and Savior will continue to love, comfort, and provide for each and every one of His people—those in ethiopia, america, and all throughout the world. He sustains us when we are hurting and gives us hope with each new day.

i ask that you keep zondra in your prayers as i go from this place. she will remain here through the end of june, and i know that the days ahead might be difficult for her. may she continually be encouraged and built up as she so fervently loves and gives of herself to the people here. may the Lord be her source of strength and comfort, and may feelings of loneliness and discouragement be banned from her thoughts and heart. i too will miss her terribly but am so proud of the work she is doing and will continue to do in the years to come here at project mercy. she has been an enormous blessing to me during our time serving together and i praise the Lord for her life and her friendship.

i also ask that you partner with me in faithfully praying for the people here at project mercy and within the yetebon community. pray that they may ever so diligently turn their eyes to Him in the midst of hurt and heartache. pray that their strength may come from God alone. pray that they may work and live together as one body, acceptable and pleasing in His sight. pray that their lives may be an example to those around them as they find their love and hope from God above. pray for my students, that they may be comforted and shown love. pray that the raw love of Christ permeates every aspect of their lives. and finally, i ask that you pray Ephesians 3:14-21 over the ethiopians with me, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

there is much to report on the latest happenings here in yetebon the past couple of weeks, so here’s the recap.

i’m always proud of my students and the efforts they put forth in the classroom and i look forward to seeing them shine outside the classroom setting as well. a couple of weeks ago i got to see what they do best out on the soccer field. i was at the championship game watching my students, 4B, compete against 2A. this was the final game in the tournament between grades 1-4 and i was thrilled that my guys were representing it out there! after a competitive and high intensity game (and almost the whole school in attendance), my guys came out with the title, defeating the 2nd graders 2-1. as a result, they got to carry the big trophy and parade around the compound singing cheers and seeking out money to have a celebration party. the sounds, the sights, the smiles—priceless. atta boys! ☺

not only am known as teacher elizabeth (or elizabetch, elizben, or elsa depending on who’s talking to me hahaha) around here, but lately i have taken on the role as nurse elizabeth. whether it be break time or during lunch, day after day there are crowds of students seeking out band-aids (or plaster as they call it). some of the wounds are legitimate, others are just seeking out attention. who knew our supply of band-aids, neosporin, and hydrogen peroxide could be depleted so quickly. whatever the case, i love being able to care for them in this way and give them a little bit of tlc.

last week zondra and i had the opportunity to attend a birthday party for one of the teacher’s little girl. debora was turning 2 and we got to tag along and take pics and enjoy the festivities. we were honored to be a part of the celebration and it was so fun seeing some of the littlest house kids—tesfu, salem, sarah and lydia—at the party as well. we were spoiled as we took part in a coffee ceremony and delved into little pieces of bread, popcorn, and candy. the little tikes were loving life. and for the sake of being polite, i consumed 2 small cups of coffee, which for those of you who know my distaste for coffee is quite an accomplishment ha. we are planning on making copies of many of the pictures so that the family can have tangible memories from the happy day together.

get ready for this—i have been helping coach basketball a couple days a week after school for 2nd-7th grade boys and girls! i love any chance i get to play and teach basic fundamentals of the game i’m so passionate about! last week we spent a lot of time focusing on defense—proper stance, when to use man-to-man and when to use a zone, and things of that nature. i’ve enjoyed watching some of them try and implement what they’ve learned into their games in the afternoons. as challenging as it can be to coach 15-20 kiddos with only 2 basketballs and translating happening throughout it all, i’m having a blast and i hope they are getting something out of it ☺

for those of you who don’t know this about me, i love love love children’s books. one of my most favorite courses i took in college was my children’s lit class. as you can imagine, i get really excited when one of my students shares that passion for books like i do. bechernet (who is a house kid) is that student—4th grader, incredible leader, incredible english capabilities, big heart, loves reading. a few weeks ago i decided to go to the school library and check out some books that i thought he’d both enjoy and be able to read and i’ve been sharing them with him each week. i give him a book, he reads it, we talk about what he read, and then he trades it in for a new one. i love being able to share in this together and i know it’s enhancing his english skills and pushing him as he seeks to excel.

who would have thought that having 30 students in one class would feel incredibly SMALL?? one of the 3rd grade teachers has been out sick and when i came to teach the kiddos one day this week i was shocked to only see 30 out of the 90! it was a pleasant surprise having such an intimate setting as we were able to do a lot of reviewing, as well as coloring pretty pictures on the chalkboard with colored chalk. there are many benefits to smaller class sizes!

this past week grad students and faculty from the nursing and physical therapy departments at regis university (denver, co) were here at project mercy. i can’t even begin to put into words what an incredible time i had with their group of about 20 guys and gals. whether it was hiking together to fanna falls on saturday morning, enjoying one another’s company during meal times, witnessing them using their gifts so fervently with the people here, sharing in the yummy goodies they brought from america, or just playing with the kiddos together, i loved the time i had with them!

here are some specific highlights that stand out in my mind while they were here:

• observing the physical therapy students set up clinic here at the school and give attention and support to countless students (a couple of mine in particular). i’ve always been keenly interested in pt and i enjoyed watching them use their gifts for the sake of the kingdom.

• hiking to fanna falls and sharing in God’s creation and new friends

• having a social life in the evenings—staying up way past 10pm each night (yes that is normally my bed time over here haha) while hanging out with people.

• playing nerts (awesome card game) multiple nights after dinner.

• receiving candy (thank you noel cunningham and randall dodge!), new kids dvds (thank you sheila carlon!) to show the house kiddos, and mini boxes of CEREAL from a sweet couple on the team !!!! ☺

• going on a scavenger hunt as i sought to look for notes hidden throughout my room thanks to one of my new best buds katie. yeaaa girl.

• watching some of the guys rock their soccer skills and show that some americans do in fact have soccer capabilities haha

• witnessing clusters of kiddos gathering around the guys and gals to listen to new books.

• being invited to travel to lake zewai and lake langano (a couple hours east of yetebon) and see camels, go on a boat ride, see hippos on the lake, eat delicious strawberry sorbet, KAYAK, and have a blast with these awesome people from colorado.

• having kidane and dembele come along to lake zewai and langano. seeing the joy they experienced that day blessed me.

• watching this group love on the people and the ministry of project mercy. i love it when people come through here and whole-heartedly give of themselves and in turn receive so much love and blessing from the ethiopians and ultimately the Lord.

all in all, it was such a great week having them here and definitely hard to say goodbye. i’m excited for the new friendships and connections i was able to establish with this group, especially as i continue to pray about where the Lord is leading me upon returning home! colorado sure sounds more and more appealing ☺

things always get a whole lot quieter around here when a group like theirs leaves so zondra and i will again have to adjust to our new kind of normal. on the day they left i was reminded in my devotion to be thankful for the quiet days, because it is in those moments of stillness that His voice can be heard more clearly. great joy can still be found in the midst of routine and there is something positive to be said about the peace He provides when we unreservedly seek Him.

zondra and i are off to addis ababa for the weekend which we are eagerly looking forward to. it’s hard to believe that this will be the last trip into the city before i come home! goodness how quickly the days are going, and with that my emotions are intensifying as i come to the realization that i will be saying goodbye so soon. i ask for prayer in this area, as the emotions are beginning to surface when i think on leaving these people and this place. may i still be able to find the blessings and joys of each day without dwelling too much on the goodbyes that are inevitable in just a few weeks.

lots of smiles. lots of hugs. lots of lovin from hot, sunny, fly-infested ethiopia ☺

Sunday, March 27, 2011

stories from project mercy!

i apologize for not updating you as frequently as of late. i know that this blog entry is long overdue so i guess i’ll just have to hope that this post has been worth your wait (if in fact you have been waiting...if not, no worries ☺)!

first and foremost, i want to express my sincerest gratitude to the many of you who have been faithfully praying for and encouraging me since my last entry. my heart and spirit have been overflowing with thankfulness and love as i received email upon email of prayers and blessings. it has been oh so incredible and humbling to witness the body of Christ come together when one of His children is hurting. and how amazing to truly sense His calming presence when we cry out to Him in the midst of our insecurities and weaknesses! thank you for touching my soul across the vast ocean that separates us!

since i have last written, small groups of americans have come and gone. sweet victoria, who was here since january, left in the middle of march and it was definitely hard to say goodbye! she touched the hearts of so many of the kids and is deeply missed around here! and holly, a recent high school graduate who is taking a gap year and traveling the world while serving at various ministries, was here for a week gracing us with her bubbly, joyful spirit. i was really blessed by the time we shared together. the following week, janelle and lindsay, recent college graduates, taught up at the kindergarten and so naturally fit into the atmosphere here. we had a blast spending time with each other and every night they were here we watched a movie together—you could definitely say that i loved the time i had with girls my age! it’s incredible to see who the Lord brings through this ministry at just the right times!

we had quite the cold front hit the country a couple weeks ago which took us all a little by surprise. you might be thinking to yourself, “cold. in africa?” and my response would be, “let’s just say i could see my breath.” i was really cold and i know what cold feels like living in michigan. it rained six out of the seven days—not just little sprinkles here and there, but hard, heavy rain. the sun peaked out of the dreariness maybe one or two times for brief intervals. and the sweet students—they were oh so cold in class, as they were soaking wet and had no way to warm up. it’s times like these where i’m reminded of the need to be grateful for the dry, warm room that i have and the bed and blankets i can cuddle up with while wearing my wool socks.

thankfully the cold front was short lived and we are now sharing in the beautiful, hot sunshine daily. the one benefit of the cold was the absence of the flies—now they are back and pestering us ever so fiercely. in the afternoons i have been spending a lot of time reading (i just finished Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese—excellent read, and have moved on to a different genre with A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers) while basking in the sun, with roughly 8-10 flies swarming each leg, as well as having to bat them from my face. it’s a tough price to pay to soak up some rays! despite the flies, i’m loving the hot (yes, we are only 7 degrees north of the equator!), sunny weather God’s blessing us with!

one of the highlights of my day is going to see the little ones—tesfu, salem, sarah and lydia—as they are eating their meals. i just can’t pass up the opportunity to watch them eat, not to mention seeing their precious smiles and hearing their voices. on one specific day at lunch, senite, one of the house moms, was there monitoring their eating and when i came around the corner to say hello, little lydia was all smiles and started reaching out to me. she began saying my name over and over (which is one of the most heart-warming sounds i’m blessed to share in while here ☺) and then began speaking in amharic to senite while smiling and pointing at me. of course i was very curious as to what she was saying, so i asked senite to translate for me. senite told me lydia had said, “i love her so much”. my heart burst with joy right then and there. to hear those words coming from little lydia means the world to me and i dread the day when i will have to say goodbye to her. i too love her so much and told her this in amharic (betam wedishalo) and i know without a doubt that we have been a gift to each other. i’m ever so grateful for times like these and memories that will forever be etched in my heart.

although it is obviously both necessary and essential for me to test my students quite regularly, it’s not something that brings me a ton of encouragement. with over 90 kids in each class, differentiated instruction is not possible, nor am i able to give individual attention to each student as i would like to. as a result, i have students whose scores are all across the board. generally speaking, i have students who score rather low each time, and then i have those who obviously grasp the english language quite naturally and perform with great accuracy. it’s when i sit down and grade the hundreds of tests that my spirits can quickly dampen, as i struggle with the results and doubt my abilities and effectiveness as an educator here in this third world country. in spite of all of this, i do come across tests that easily bring a smile to my face. the smile appears on my face not because of their test score (although i am extremely pleased when i see a high grade), but because of the words the student has written somewhere on their test. these words are i love you. here i go again, telling you yet another story of the love i am overcome with here in yetebon, ethiopia. and yet it’s stories like these that i hold dear to my heart and give me purpose and affirmation that what i am doing here matters.

okay so here are a couple amusing stories from one of my 4th grade classes last week. as i do each time i enter the classroom, i told the students to get out their english books. i quickly noticed that one of my top students, bechernet (who happens to be a house kid with four younger siblings), had a different book out on his desk so i approached him to see what he was looking at. when i got a closer look, i saw that he had a grade 10 history book out. i asked him what he was doing, and ever so confidently he said, “i’m reading teacher elizabeth”. i couldn’t help but smile and know that he was in fact reading that 10th grade book because he is that advanced and capable. not only is he a top-notch, way ahead of the class kind of student, but he has such a gentle, affectionate, spirit that he so naturally leads others with. he is a rare gem and i know i’m blessed to call him one of my students. another story from that same class—mekonnen, a beautiful, bright, smiley guy—had a book out that he was looking at when he was supposed to be writing sentences. i went over to him to see what he was reading and i saw that it was an english/amharic phrase book. i kindly asked him to put it away, and he replied by saying “true love”. as much as i was humored by this reply, i had to get him back on track with what we were working on. did i mention how adorable he is? ☺

here’s another story, this time from 3rd grade. one day last week i had entered their classroom as they were finishing up a lesson (in amharic class) about addressing and writing letters. some of the kids showed me the envelopes they had made, as well as the letters they were writing to their friends. i was impressed with what they had been working on, and i then asked a few little guys where my letter was. they got these big grins on their faces, probably thinking i was just joking with them. i definitely wasn’t joking ☺ the next day in class i asked for my letters and they got all shy and said they didn’t have them and i said i’d be excited to receive them tomorrow. well, to my pleasant surprise, i had two letters given to me that following day in class! they had made and decorated their own envelopes and written sweet messages inside for me. one of the little guys, nuri, wrote his own letter and did a wonderful job. mechal, by far one of my smartest students out of all 360 or so students I teach (and my mom’s favorite when she was here ☺) had given me a letter that was beautifully written and had words contained that were much bigger than his vocabulary. i of course smiled at this, as i figured that his older brother had written the letter in english as mechal was saying what to write in amharic. i loved the team effort and i asked him if this was true and his face lit up in agreement. i later learned that his older brother is a recent university graduate and was flattered that mechal sought him out to write a detailed letter to me. i’m going to include pictures of these two letters and i hope you enjoy them (and can decipher what they are trying to say!) as much as i do!

so that’s the latest and greatest from ethiopia! apparently there will be a large number of physical therapy and nursing students from regis university (denver, colorado) here in a week or so which should be a lot of fun. it’s always exciting to see who comes through this ministry and i know the children get excited when new visitors are here.

it’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that i’ll be coming home in a month and a half! goodness, how quickly the time is going. i want to thank you again for faithfully supporting me on this journey—i wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything. may we never forget that much joy comes when we are walking in His will!

please pray...

- for continued healing over the loss of sweet nati

- for strong performances by the students in their studies

- for my precious family at home—pappa john, momma louise, jack & sam

- that i might finish strong in all areas of my ministry here

- for guidance and direction as i seek job opportunities when i come home

- for continued growth as i seek to view God bigger in my eyes

something to think about..

“...i know i’m filled to be emptied again, the seed i’ve received i will sow.” a line from the song: desert song by hillsong