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

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