after being away from my students for almost two weeks, i was extremely eager to get back into the classroom and see them all again. i couldn’t help but feel loved and appreciated when i stepped out and saw all my kiddos lined up for the flag raising ceremony—the expressions on their faces radiated with joy—a special moment to say the least ☺ even though i wasn’t away from them that long, i found myself missing them rather frequently, realizing yet again how much i love these kiddos—let’s just say that my last day with them in may will be very emotional.
it was fun coming back and being reminded that i was going to get to experience christmas a second time! here in ethiopia, christmas is celebrated on january 7 so not only did we get that friday off from school, but a half day on thursday as well. having knowledge of all of this, i had my mom bring enough pens with them when they came so that i could give each one of my students a new pen for christmas. although it might seem like a pretty small/boring gift, oh my goodness, these kids were ecstatic! just the simple fact that they were given something to have as their very own meant the world to them and they were super appreciative. after school on thursday, both of my 4th grade classes had christmas parties that i was invited to! basically this is how these parties go down—decorate the classroom with palm branches bordering the chalkboard, grass lines the floor, “Merry Christmas” is written in colored chalk in both amharic and english, and the teacher brings in all these food delicacies such as homemade bread, popcorn, cookies, candy, juice, and coffee (for the other teachers invited to join in the celebration). i had so much fun experiencing this and felt spoiled by my kiddos! when the teacher found out that i had a digital camera, i quickly became the classroom photographer and documented the parties and took pictures of all the students (and am hoping to get prints of the photos in either butajira or addis in the near future).
seventeen students from taylor university, along with two adult sponsors, have been here serving here for the past week (and randall came along as well)! i can’t even begin to describe what an enormous blessing it is having them here. these students are basically doing what i did two years ago, teaching english to 1st-4th graders, playing lots of sports after school, and simply loving on the people here. i am really enjoying interacting with them (i knew a few of them prior to this trip which is exciting), especially sharing in their devotion time every night after dinner. each night a different student or adult leads the devotion and we sing worship songs as well—definitely a highlight for me each day. they are here until january 23 ☺
on christmas eve zondra and i got all the house kids together in the cafeteria, set up the projector, and watched the nativity story! movie night is obviously a big deal around here and it was wonderful seeing how excited the kids were about it. i brought out the mini bags of skittles that my family had sent and gave them a little sugar overload which they thoroughly enjoyed (yay davies family for always knowing how to incorporate some good ol’ sugar!)
on christmas morning there was a worship service held at the church where many of the house kids performed a drama and shared during the service. due to the fact that deme was providing the tu students with a tour of the compound (and zondra and i tagged along), we did not attend the service and i was so sad to hear all that we missed! after they got back from church, we had the opportunity to serve the house kids lunch—injerra and watt, with special potatoes and cheese, and cake for dessert! oh my goodness, they were sooo excited about the cake (i guess i would be too if i ate it like once a year! haha). we had a wonderful day together celebrating our King.
on saturday (jan 8) all twenty-two of us ferenges (aka white people), as well as four awesome house guys, hiked up to the orthodox church and then went a little further to get a better view of the overall area. i had a lot of fun getting to get to know many of the tu students better—such a huge blessing that they are here! along the hike i of course happened to see some of my students and i was blown away to see that one of my little guys lives like 2 hours from school! moments like that put things in perspective for me and remind me how i take soo many things for granted. wow. the descent was really really steep, rocky and narrow, which made for some interesting falls for some people along the way ha.
this past week (jan 10-14) was one full of blessings as well as trials. i gave my 4th graders their 5th test and was extremely excited about the results from one of the classes especially—14 students got 100%!! now that might not seem like a large number of students (14 out of 90 or so kiddos), but for me i’ll take little blessings such as these! i was so proud and made sure to communicate my excitement with them ☺ on tuesday afternoon both of my 3rd grade classes had their belated Christmas parties which again were so much fun to be a part of.
i’m including an excerpt from the song, Praise You in the Storm by Casting Crowns.
“I was sure by now that God you would have reached down and wiped our tears away, stepped in and saved the day but once again I say amen and it’s still raining
As the thunder rolls, I barely hear you whisper through the rain “I’m with you” and as your mercy falls I’ll raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away
I’ll praise you in this storm and I will lift my hands, for you are who you are, no matter where I am and every tear I’ve cried you hold in your hand, you’ve never left my side though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm”
a major ‘storm’ has hit the people here at project mercy. on wednesday, january 12, one of the teachers on staff here at project mercy went home to be with the Lord. schwangzo, a young twenty-seven year old, was the P.E. teacher for grades 5-12 and this was his first year teaching here. during our morning break period, one of the teachers went to check on him because he hadn’t been feeling too well and hadn’t shown up to class and ended up discovering his body (we eventually learned from some of the hospital nurses that they think he passed sometime during the night). i was in my room during this break period and as i was looking out my window i noticed that all of the children began running in the direction of the teacher’s apartments and i heard all these loud noises so i went to check things out. someone shared with me that they thought a teacher had died and this ended up being confirmed. when i saw a few students lower the flag to half mast, it was a really tough moment for me, a strong visual emphasizing something so final. ( we later learned that he died of a ruptured ulcer.) when they brought his body out on the stretcher and lifted him into the truck, the sounds and sights i experienced were unlike anything i’ve ever witnessed. the magnitude of the wailing and tears was heart-wrenching, as so many students and staff followed the vehicle as it left the compound.
please be in prayer for the entire community here—fellow teachers, students, other project mercy workers, and of course, shwangzo’s family. he enjoyed playing a lot of volleyball and was helping coach basketball with some of the students here. i did not know him extremely well, but from the conversations and smiles we shared, it was apparent that he was a very kind and gentle guy who loved the kids well. the good that we can cling to in all this is that he loved Jesus and is now free of all discomfort and pain—praise Jesus! our time here on earth truly is a fragile thing and totally in the Lord’s hands.
i pray that God’s name may be lifted high throughout this, and that people can feel the love and peace that stems from Jesus. thank you for your prayers!
we obviously didn’t have school on thursday, so we spent a lot of time comforting the house kids and just being there for them. we ended up doing a major work project together—moving piles of dirt and rocks from one place to another—and it has easily become one of my fondest memories with some of the kiddos. everybody worked so so hard and had a blast in the process. later that afternoon we walked 2 ½ miles to go check out the progress on the new high school. it is such a beautiful building and so wonderful to see the countless ways in which project mercy is enhancing the overall community. on our way back we took a more scenic route as we walked through yards of the yetebon people. what an experience as we were able to see the lives of the people firsthand as they thresh teff (the grain used to make injerra) and eagerly greet us as we approached their tukuls . the highlight of this whole excursion was seeing seventeen of my students along the way—being able to get a better glimpse of their homes and families was amazing and of course i love seeing them outside the context of school. one of my 3rd grade boys walked with me for a long time and as we passed his home he crawled through some thorn bushes to give me two sticks of sugar cane—so adorable and thoughtful ☺
- for all of those who were close to schwangzo as they seek answers and comfort
- for continued strength, energy, and peace for marta and deme
- for all of the students here as they prepare to take their semester exams
- for my heart as i continue to strive to know Jesus better—may i serve like Christ and live selflessly
- for wisdom and discernment regarding my future after my time here at project mercy—may God show me where He wants me to go