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.”