Tuesday, October 26, 2010

i want you all to know how grateful i am for your faithful prayers and encouragement across the miles. it’s an incredible feeling knowing that there are so many people committing this ministry, these people, my teaching, and me to the Lord. in addition, thank you so much to those of you who have taken the time to email me! your emails provide much joy and i cherish each one. may God continue to be glorified in and throughout my time here, and THANK YOU for extending your love, support, and prayers to these beautiful people of ethiopia.

last thursday (oct 21) was a big day for all of my students—i gave tests in both grades 3 and 4. it’s not your typical testing experience like back home, so let me explain what it looks like here. i informed my students earlier in the week that they were going to be tested on thursday, and we spent much of wednesday reviewing. on the day of the test, each student receives a small piece of paper (about ¼ of a page...paper is used sparingly here) that is provided by the school. they all go outside and write their names and class number on their paper as i remain in the room and proceed to write all of the questions on the board. the tests are 10 questions long, usually consisting of multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, and so on. for this first test (in all my classes) i chose to only have multiple choice questions. once i finish writing the test, all the students come back in the room and i read each question to them and repeat them 2-3 times. the students write down their answers then turn in their test and we call it a day! having had time to finish grading the tests, i can see that i have students all across the board (no surprise with 95 in one class!) so we will continue to work on specific skills to enhance their overall understanding. i really care for these kiddos and want to see them succeed, but i know i won’t be able to reach every single one of them (and that is a hard thing to come to terms with). i also have realized that i cannot read MANY of the names of these students (often because they only wrote their name in amharic...oops) so i will have to get together with some of the other teachers so that i can properly record their scores. so that’s my first test-giving experience here in ethiopia!

on sunday (oct 24) a medical team arrived from california!! they are affiliated with the menlo park presbyterian church in the bay area and are serving here for a week and a half. there are twelve adults in the group, with nurses, physical therapists, doctors, and dentists being represented. three large unicef tents are set up here at the school where they are providing clinics for the students. last year when they were here they gave physicals to students grades 1-6, so this year they are finishing up the student body, as well as having their teeth checked out. in addition to providing assistance here at the school, a few of the doctors are working up at the hospital and performing surgeries—way cool. it’s an incredible process (very organized as they are keeping record of each student) and such a blessing that they are here using their God-given abilities to provide comfort and services to these children! one of the team members was so kind to bring me a few treats from my lovely family—peanut butter m&ms, skittles, sour patch kids and some dvds. it was like christmas in october! ☺

this past saturday (oct 23) zondra and i were not able to travel to butajira for internet access due to lack of transportation. the PM van was in the shop in addis (it still is there), so our only other option was walking the 7 miles there. being the obedient and compliant foreigners that we are, we knew we would have to ask a couple high school guys to escort us for safety reasons...but the longer we thought about this, the more we realized that this was rather selfish to ask them to take us that far. so no connection to the outside world for us that saturday! ah the simple things we take for granted back home—reliable transportation and internet access just to name a few! despite this, something rather out of the ordinary and extremely pleasant has surfaced now that the medical team is here. one of the nurses from addis brought her laptop with her and has a device that allows her to pick up internet connection, even here in yetebon! you have no idea how excited zondra and i were to hear this. she has graciously allowed us to use her laptop and that is why i am able to update you all this time around!

the volleyball net got brought out this week! the kiddos were very excited about this, as were many of the teaching staff (including myself). we had quite the games going on which was a blast, and basketball and soccer are still enjoyed by many. my computer classes with the juniors and seniors are off to good beginnings. the majority of the juniors have never used computers before, so we are still trying to gain confidence in using a mouse and opening and closing programs. with the seniors, their knowledge is greater and we are beginning to work with microsoft excel. i’m really enjoying working with these older students, as it is apparent that they possess great motivation and desires to succeed beyond their high school experiences.

here’s a fun story from school on tuesday (oct 26): in 4th grade we were working on reading a passage where a boy and a girl described the physical appearances of their siblings—not a very exciting passage i might add—so i decided to add a little twist to the exercise as i brought some pictures of jack, sam and myself with me to class. before i showed the students the pictures, i explained that i wanted them to pay close attention to the physical appearances of my brothers so that we would be able to describe them using sentences later on in the class period (i had to explain my purpose in sharing these pictures right away or else they most definitely would have lost focus ha). i proceeded to walk around the room and show them the pictures and boy did they love seeing them! they kept asking if the pictures were from america, as well as wanting to know who was jack and who was sam. after they had seen the pictures, i asked for them to describe jack and sam. essentially here is what they came up with:

• jack is tall. he has short brown hair and is thin.
• sam is tall. he has big white hair and is thin.

not too bad huh? ☺ we had a lot of fun.

things i’ve discovered...

- there are around 70 different languages in ethiopia with over 360 dialects. all i have to say is wow.

- for most of the students, english is their 3rd language. the language spoken in this area is gurage, and then they learn amharic and english at school. i try to continually remind myself of this in order to keep things in perspective!

- the surgeon at the hospital here, dr. abraham, does work that is equivalent to 3 physicians back in the u.s. he performs general and gynecological surgeries, as well as urological procedures. he is on call 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. may God bless this servant-minded man.

- head, shoulders, knees and toes is a song loved by students here.

- even though they are multiple choice tests, it still takes a long time to grade 372 of them. wowzers.

- there are 1552 students here K-12.

- a class size of 30 seniors seems extremely small compared to my usual 95 kiddos. it’s a nice change of pace.

- these house kids have extremely hard work ethics—they hand wash dishes, help in the kitchen, sweep and mop floors, hand wash their own clothes (yes, even 3rd graders!) and study, study, study! i’m so proud and encouraged by them.


-at church two sundays ago (oct 17) there were many baptisms! there were probably 20 children baptized, and ten of them were house children (3 of them being my students), as well as two other students of mine. the children wore teal blue hospital gowns and took turns getting into the small pool and an evangelist from the church and a choir member did the baptizing. it was such a beautiful depiction of the hearts of these children and their faithfulness and desire to serve Jesus. praise and worship took place throughout—it was evident that the joy of the Lord was radiating throughout the congregation and that He was being worshipped and adored.

-a high school graduate named taylor from yakima, WA has just arrived and will be here for the month! she is a super sweet, cheerful and encouraging girl and i’m so looking forward to getting to know her better and spending time with her. God continues to demonstrate His goodness and faithfulness!

please pray...

- for the medical team that is serving here. may they be strengthened, encouraged and blessed by the Lord for all the amazing work they are contributing here.

- that i would better understand and be able to live out Philippians 3:10, “My determined purpose is that I may know Him—that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly”.

something to consider...

“Whenever you feel you should do something for someone else, you should do it. Because you may never have another chance.” --Seeds, A Memoir by Sasha Vukelja, M.D. (I had the privilege of meeting this incredible doctor and her husband during their short stay here at PM and was moved by the incredible journey God has led her on)

Sunday, October 17, 2010


it’s all about your perspective. your perspective defines how you view situations, events, and even people; and the way we view those situations, events or people usually determines how we act in response. perspectives can be positive or negative—the choice is ours. the exciting thing is that we have the opportunity to look for the good in people and situations, rather than so easily pointing out the bad. now you might be sitting there wondering why i am babbling on about perspective; the simple response is that i want you to know what God has been teaching me as of late. this journey that i am on, this new place that i now live, and these people that i encounter challenge my perspective daily, and more often than not it is unintentional on their part. i want to look at these situations and people through the eyes of Jesus, being sensitive to how He would desire for me to act in response. it can be easy to think of all that i miss back home—family, friends, easy accessibility to things, and i hate to admit it, but sometimes material things. there have been times when i have thought negatively about certain situations that have transpired and i’m ashamed of this. but even in my short time here, i have already learned that there are blessings here that i couldn’t share in if i were still home. if i just take a step back and look at the lives of these people here, my students in particular, i’m reminded that i have nothing to complain about, but rather so many reasons to display a grateful heart. the people i so frequently interact with exude with happiness and joy. this joy comes from their positive perspective on life, and in many cases, the joy stems from the blessings that God is showering upon them because of their faithfulness to Him. God can be glorified when i respond in ways that are pleasing to His sight, and i pray that i continually make this a priority—seeing each day, each situation, each person, with a perspective that reflects the character of Jesus.

this week i have taken on a new responsibility of tutoring a university student named kidane. he graduated from the school here 3 years ago and the government decided that if he wanted to continue on with his education at the university level, he must study law. realizing the value of furthering his education, kidane agreed to this, despite the fact that ever since he was a young boy his heart’s desire has been to be a doctor. with 3 years of law now complete, that desire still resonates deep within him—he wants to be a doctor “wherever the need is greatest” (in his words). clearly i am not the person to assist him with biology, chemistry, physics, etc, but there are a couple areas that i’m blessed to tutor him in. the first would be enhancing his computer abilities. we are using programs such as microsoft excel, powerpoint, and word and taking the time to add to his repertoire of knowledge in each of these areas. he also is furthering his typing skills using mavis beacon. in addition to computer usage, i am helping him prepare and study for the SAT. with his goal of attending medical school in the united states, it’s necessary for him to take this test in the near future. we are talking through each section of the test and working through many practice problems to build confidence within him. kidane is an extremely capable, motivated, and positive young man. his english abilities are quite strong and he wants to keep improving. he naturally desires to help others and his love and fervor for Jesus exude from his very being. i know that kidane would greatly appreciate your prayers as he pursues this goal of going to medical school and becoming a doctor, after all, “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

get ready for this—in addition to this new responsibility of tutoring, i am now the information technology (aka computer) teacher for grade 11 and 12 students! who would have thought i would get the privilege of teaching english and computer skills? ☺ the school is blessed to have a computer lab with around 12 laptops and 8-9 desktops and they have been looking for someone to fill this position so i figured, why not go for it? i am excited for this opportunity to pass on some of my computer knowledge to these high schoolers, and i’m especially looking forward to working with these older students. i’ll be sure to keep you posted!

i have given myself quite the task this weekend—looking through all 180 or so notebooks from my grade 3 students. i collected their notebooks on friday and will be looking through each one to note the students’ progress, understanding, and lack of understanding. yes, it will be time consuming but i’m looking forward to seeing what concepts they are grasping and what ones they are not, as well as hopefully learning some more names in the process!

things i’ve discovered...

- i counted 95 students in my 4A class this week. that’s almost 100 students in one classroom. turns out that in 3 of my 4 classes I have 93+ students in each. and thought 80 students was a lot. whoa dang.

- there are pros and cons to this change in “seasons” we have here: pros—beautiful sunny, warm weather daily (mid to upper 70s would be my guesstimate); cons—flys are everywhere. and i hear it only gets worse...

- at the end of grade 8, all students must take the national exam (in english). if they do not pass, they cannot continue on to grade 9.

- at the end of grade 10, another national exam (in english) is given that is much like the ACT or SAT. if they do not pass, they cannot continue on to grade 11, meaning that they will not be able to attend a university in the future. students can try and retake the test, but they have to come up with the money to pay for it.

- the government determines what you will major in at the university level. after you have taken your grade 12 exam, they examine your scores and decide what they want you to study. more often than not students get placed in a major that is drastically different from their true passion.

- getting 9+ hrs of sleep each night is a beautiful thing. yay for bedtime around 9:30-10pm!

- i really enjoy cabbage. and picking pea pods off the bush—delicious afternoon snack.

- walking halfway to butajira (nearest town that has internet access) is actually rather pleasant. the bus broke down on our way so we ended up walking the remaining 4 miles. yay for some good saturday morning exercise ☺

marta and deme have arrived from the states safe and sound! i’m so happy to have them back, as are countless others ☺

please pray...
- for all the workers here at PM...those who work in the kitchen, the gardeners, the construction crew, the basket weavers, the cattle herders, the launderers, the bead makers, and the office staff. may they sense appreciation from others and experience the love and mercy of Jesus.

- for all the teachers and staff at the school...may they be the hands and feet of Jesus to each one of their students

- for all those on staff at the hospital...may they be reminded that Jesus is the Great Physician

- that I would continue to learn what it means to serve sacrificially as i see God grow bigger in my eyes.

something to consider...

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” –John Piper

Saturday, October 9, 2010

another great week of teaching has come to a close. in grade 3 we have been working on describing people (both orally and through writing) using words such as happy, sad, tall, short, old, young, fat, thin, etc. some of the students described themselves as both fat and thin; i tried to convey that you are one or the other. this concept of picking just one (tall or short, old or young, etc) was a little tough to grasp. we will keep working on it ha. in grade 4 we have been expanding our vocabulary to include words such as noisy, quiet, healthy, sick, strong, weak, etc. and learning about how many of these are opposites. i thought it would be fun to implement a little acting into my teaching so i decided to act out each word before verbally describing it. i must say, my acting skills went over quite well with the students ☺

not only was i a teacher this week, but i also assumed the role of a student. one of the girls who lives here on the compound named Lem Lem (8th grader) offered to work on amharic with me. i eagerly accepted this opportunity not only for the obvious purpose of improving my amharic, but also getting to spend some time with this sweet girl. her spirit truly radiates with love for people and love for Jesus. she is such an encouragement and a joy to be around.

many of my afternoons are spent playing with the children who live here on the compound. sometimes it’s basketball, sometimes soccer (which is definitely the favorite here...i was so happy to be able to bring them back a new soccer ball from addis last weekend...it’s getting LOTS of use), and other times it’s sitting with the little ones and just loving on them or reading books with some of the older kids. no matter what child i am spending time with, i always leave feeling blessed and uplifted. we keep things simple here; it’s all about the quality time and the authentic relationships—two aspects that are clearly desired cross-culturally.

i truly see these people living out a passage from Jeremiah 29 (verses 12, 13) that reads, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” they understand what it means to commit their decisions to the Lord and live in sincere dependence of Him. i see it through their actions; i see it in their conversations; and i see it as they earnestly pray and worship. i’m encouraged by their fervor and passion for serving Jesus whole-heartedly.

things i’ve discovered:

- chalk has dual purposes. not only is it a writing utensil on the chalkboard, but it also can serve as an eraser for those using pens. rub a little chalk onto the area that has pen and it will cover it right up. it’s like their own version of white-out. clever students i have. give it a try and see for yourself.

- erasers (those used to clean chalkboards) are called dusters. took me a while to figure this out.

- my students find it totally humorous when i try and speak a little amharic to them, such as gebachu? (do you understand?) and zimbelu! (be quiet!)

- once the students reach grade 5, all of their classes are taught in english (except for their amharic class).

- the hair braiding process is painful to watch, and i’m sure even more painful to experience.

- taking out the trash is way more fun here. after i dump it into the incinerator i get to light a match to it and watch it burn. a little more exciting than taking it out to the garbage cans in the garage.

- peanut butter and jelly is what i look forward to at the conclusion of each meal. yay for a little taste of sweetness.

- the Lord is faithful and true to His promises, as He says in Joshua 1:5, “...so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”

please pray...

- that in the hard times i remember to lean on God, in the quiet times i worship God, and in everything trust God with a spirit of boldness and thankfulness

something to think about...

“chocolate is not candy. candy is colorful” (one of my students). awesome ☺

and on a more serious note... each day is a gift from the Lord. with each new day, i’m challenged to ask myself these two questions: how am i going to edify and bring glory to Jesus today? how am i going to be a blessing to someone else?

pictures of the kindergarten lottery

pictures of the kindergarten lottery

Sunday, October 3, 2010

this past weekend (sept 24) we had the privilege of going to addis (the capital)! we left friday afternoon and arrived back in yetebon monday afternoon. there was no school on monday because of the Orthodox holiday called meskel (the finding of the true cross). allow me to share with you some highlights of our weekend getaway:

- first off, we (2 other american volunteers and a staff member from PM named ato adane) took public transportation, which basically means see how many people you can fit in a 12 passenger van. i think there were about 17-18 people in the van both ways—‘pack it full’ is definitely their motto. the drive from yetebon to addis is absolutely beautiful—vast mountains, lush, green vegetation (due to the rainy season), bustling little towns—great photo ops.

- alright now on to the driving conditions. yes, the road is paved (for the most part), and yes, other cars share the road. but it’s not just other vehicles we share the road with; cows, donkeys, goats, dogs, and people all believe that they have the right of way. this results in rather crazy driving conditions, conditions that i would never feel confident driving in.

- rest stops do not exist. if you have the urge to go to the bathroom there are two options—you either go or don’t go. if you decide that you must go, you pull over to the side of the road and do your business there (or go find a tree or bush to hide yourself if you want more privacy). despite the fact that it’s a 2 ½ hr drive to and from addis, i never had the urge of going to the bathroom and hope i never will haha.

- honking is by far the most frequent sound one will hear when riding in a vehicle here in ethiopia. often when i think of honking, it has a negative connotation—anger towards other drivers, impatience, etc. this is not the case here. honking simply alerts other vehicles, people, or animals that you are coming and ought to get out of the way. interesting.

- we had wireless internet. daily. major privilege.

- i was able to enjoy many tastes of home, such as: pizza, french fries, ice cream, and cereal (with COLD milk!!!). many of you know that cereal is like my favorite thing to eat (i’ve been missing my honey bunches of oats), so you can imagine my excitement that first morning when there was granola and cold milk. yummmm.

- we attended the international evangelical church and the service was in english! this was extremely refreshing and wonderful to worship in my native tongue. i thoroughly enjoyed the service, and was yet again reminded that when believers gather He is there! it was incredible worshipping with people from literally all over the world—australia, great britain, canada, china, ethiopia, korea, norway, the united states. God’s love and grandeur never ceases to amaze me.
yes, it was a wonderful weekend, but i was definitely ready to come back home to the people of yetebon. there’s a peace and sense of serenity here that stems from the work that God is doing in this community and i never want to forget how blessed i am to share in that.

now for some school stories from the week:

- a couple times i found myself whistling while writing on chalkboard. to me, this wasn’t super strange, but immediately many students began laughing. who would have thought that i could totally distract my students (as they smile and laugh at me) as i whistle? it’s definitely possible.

- in both of my grade 4 classes i decided to wander around the room and check their progress as they were answering questions from a short passage that we read. i began making my way down the rows to each cluster of students when i quickly realized how daunting the task was that I had just gotten myself into. let’s just say it takes quite some time to look at all 80 or so students’ work (although i find it very important to note their progress and see how well they are understanding what they have read). not only was i merely looking at their answers, but i decided to put a smiley face on their paper when i was finished checking. again, more smiles and giggles emerged. i am so grateful for the cheerful students that i teach ☺

- kindergarten selection took place on thursday. students who are admitted as KG students here at the medhane alem school (name of this school that’s affiliated with project mercy) are done so based on a lottery system that is long-standing in this community. not only do the students here receive a wonderful education, but they are also provided with breakfast and lunch, blessings that they would not receive at the schools in the surrounding areas. i will do my best to depict this process, although it’s hard putting words with what i saw.

o flyers had been put up announcing that the selection would be thursday, september 30. usually it isn’t announced until the day of, so i’m not entirely sure why it was communicated beforehand this time.

o a few men from project mercy (PM), along with staff from the school and the community elders (representing the three surrounding communities) gathered with parents outside the PM gate and essentially ‘weeded out’ children who appeared to be above the age of 8 or were already enrolled in one of the government schools nearby.

o the gate then opened and these young children began flooding into the compound, walking in neat, orderly rows and not a sound coming out of their mouths.

o elders and teachers alike then separated the children into three sections based on what community they live in.

o more “weeding out” took place, sending students back home who looked too young (they wanted students ranging from ages 6 to 8). very interesting that they kinda guess the ages of these children (majority of the people here don’t have records of the day of their birth).

o the remaining children were then taken into the dining hall and the lottery began. the elders all sat together in the front. the children were still separated into the 3 community regions. men went through and counted the number of children in each region.

o a few men from the school then began putting enough little rolled up squares of paper for each child into a bowl. the size of the region determines how many students will be accepted.

o every child had the opportunity to pick a piece of paper from the bowl. in order to be a selected KG student, the piece of paper had to have the PM stamp on it. if it didn’t have the stamp, it was blank, and that child cannot attend KG here.

o if the paper had the PM stamp, the child then received a blue bracelet (much like a bracelet given at the hospital or the county fair). i had the opportunity to put bracelets on these newly accepted KG students.

o after they had received their bracelet, they then gave their name to one of the ladies who was recording the new students.

o there were about 800 students (smaller turnout this year) at the start, and at the conclusion of the lottery, there were 250 new KG students.

o it was definitely hard watching as their slips of paper were unrolled, revealing whether or not they were going to be a new KG student. yes, the system is fair, but it doesn’t help the hurt i felt for those precious children and the families they represent who were turned away.

o as i reflect on that day, i find comfort knowing that God is in total control of this entire selection process. He knew before the day began who would and would not receive that desired paper with the PM stamp. He has plans for each of the children that stepped into the compound, and plans for those who didn’t.

o His ways are higher than ours. i can cling to that truth.

please pray...

- for the newly accepted KG students and their families, as well as those who were turned away

- as I am challenged yet encouraged by Philippians 4:11-13 which reads, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

- as I continue to learn more about the body of Christ and what that looks like amongst believers of all nations

something to think about...

in Him we are one. “...let all the peoples praise you!” -Psalm 67:3