THIS IS A WEEK OLD, BUT INTERNET IS CRAZY. FINALLY A GOOD CONNECTION TO PUT THIS UP. MANY OF YOU HAVE ALREADY GOTTEN THIS ONE...SORRY!!
We feel like we have experienced a lifetime of memories and sensations in rapid succession in less than two weeks here under the African skies of Ethiopia. The girls did so well on the airplane rides – even the 8 hour flight from Chicago to Germany and the 6 hour flight from Germany to Ethiopia – in addition to all the waiting for those flights! They especially liked the international airplanes that had movies and cartoons that they could watch from their seat (they watched Disney cartoons and the movie “UP!” about three times a piece!)
It is staggering to think that we began flying early on Tuesday morning and then arrived in Ethiopia on Wednesday night at 7:10 pm Ethiopia time (I think about 10:30am American time). We went through security and customs with not too much waiting at the airport. The Lord was looking out for us because just after we got through there was at least three hundred people that arrived at the airport after us! Some of the friends that we met on the plane told us later that they had to wait three hours to make it through customs and the baggage area.
All eight pieces of our luggage came, which caused us to feel very loved by the Lord, especially when we saw that other SIM short term missionaries we met went two days without their luggage. A driver met us at the airport and took us to the SIM guesthouse. We stayed there from Wednesday night through Saturday morning. We enjoyed the food that the cook made (most of the time!) and really loved getting to meet the many different missionaries passing through on their way to other destinations from all over the world. For example, we met a group of three missionaries working in Asia who were visiting to see what potential ministry opportunities existed with Chinese unreached people groups living in Ethiopia. One family ministering in Northern Ethiopia had two Ethiopian girls and so the girls made friends with them very quickly. Perhaps the highlight of our time there was the little “playground” with swings and a slide. Daddy gave the girls many “underdogs” during that time and we tried to spot many different kinds of Ethiopian birds flying overhead or perched in the trees.
The hardest adjustment there was trying to adjust to a new sleep schedule. It is no fun waking up at 2am and then arguing with your body to go to sleep. Your mind says you should sleep, but your body disagrees. The loud Disco club that just happened to be near us outside, the early morning Muslim calls to prayer over the loud speakers, and the Ethiopian Orthodox church chanting over the loud speakers at various hours, did not help us sleep either. Allie just told me today again that she is tired of all the “songs” on the loud speakers – they wake her up!
We went to the Hope adoption transition home on Saturday. We really enjoyed playing with the babies and it was great to see how much the workers there cared for the children, but the sour milk smell was strong and almost all of the babies made your leg wet when they sat down on you. It made us very emotional. We briefly spoke to a case worker there, but she was new and didn’t know very much. We left and tried to get some errands done like getting a cell phone and then we moved into the SIM “Press” compound where about ten SIM families stay. By the way, when we say “compound,” we mean a gated area complete with a security guard that opens the gate for people to come in. It has a wall around the complete area with only one way in. Just about every place in Ethiopia is a compound.
The apartments here are very nice. We have two bedrooms (the girls have a bunkbed), a bathroom with a shower, and then a kitchen, dining, and living room area. The best thing about the Press compound is undoubtedly the children from the other SIM families (there is not a rotten one in the whole bunch!) The girls have especially connected with one family that has two girls the same age as ours. The compound is a complete circle with houses on the edges and a large play area in the middle with a soccer field, basketball courts, sandbox, and swings. It is very fun to watch all the kids laughing and playing. The girls have asked us a couple of times if we can live here! They both have adjusted so well (probably better than us). We have to shepherd them through the process of getting settled here because, on the one hand, they enjoy meeting new friends and our partaking in our various “adventures,” but on the other hand, they miss their friends and family. They are sometimes worried that their friends back home will forget all about them.
Monday, we went to the Hope Adoption Transition home and spoke to some case workers who knew our case. We spent a long time there. We got some information on our boys that seemed to make sense. We learned that the boys had a father and a mother. We learned that the father had lied on the files by claiming to be the uncle so that the boys could be adopted, but the courts figured out that he was lying, which had caused all the problems with the paperwork. We didn’t know how much of the information to trust and we have since that time wondered if the information about the boys not even being able to walk when they got there was even true. That is what is hard here – you don’t know what to believe or what to think. After finding out this information and being treated to the coffee ceremony (where they roast the coffee beans right in front of you and then serve you coffee and popcorn), they let us visit all the children in the transition home. We got to see them and sit with them as they sang together. It was such a memorable experience.
We also got to see an amazing parade. Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist is one of the biggest holidays in Ethiopia – rivaling Christmas in terms of the sheer excitement and festivities. We watched the parade and took lots of pictures! Members from the Orthodox church march through the streets with choirs singing and priests carrying copies of the Tabot (ten commandments). Apparently, we were a big attraction as well, because many people pointed and took pictures of us. I don’t think I will ever get used to getting stared at so much as we have the whole time that we have been here!
Thursday, we took a trip to the Southern countryside of Ethiopia in Dilla. I was a little nervous about going because I was still recovering from getting very sick for about 24 hours, but the Lord was very gracious to my body and gave me a full recovery. It is about a seven or eight hour trip depending on traffic. I wish I could describe the change in scenery throughout the trip. Imagine going from a bustling city of four million at about 8000 feet above sea level and then driving through what looks like the desert plains of the Serengeti, complete with termite mounds, Achacia trees, camels, and grass huts. The plains were filled with many Muslim mosques and various nomadic peoples. It was certainly quite a sight as cars swerve everywhere to miss hitting people and animals as they cross the roads at all times with their donkeys and carts or driving their herds of goats, sheep, or cattle. My favorite sight was the four or five times when a large donkey would just sit or stand in the middle of the road with no owners around, seemingly oblivious to the cars driving at breakneck speeds on both sides of them.
Then we arrived in the South in an area that looks like a jungle or a tropical rain forest with banana, mango, avocado, and coffee trees EVERYWHERE. We stayed at an SIM guesthouse and met the SIM missionaries there (Jonathan and Sara Oliver). The SIM compound holds a KHBC (a three year Bible school where students train for ministry at the diploma level). Gracie and Allie were scared of sleeping at first, but I think you will understand why in a second. The missionaries have a little boy, named Edward, who is 4. He started telling them stories that basically amounted to this: the woods are filled with hyenas (he would “howl” to get the point across), the rivers are filled with crocodiles, and the house was filled with termites and rats. It is hard to rattle Gracie’s cage, but he was successful!
I got to preach in their chapel on Friday morning and we fellowshipped with the missionary family throughout the day. They had kids about the same ages as our girls. We saw them throughout the day stockpiling avocados and mangos in their tree house, so I finally asked them what they were doing – and they said they were getting supplies so that they could withstand the invasion of the pirates. The family had an eye patch and some plastic swords laying around, so Daddy became the pirate and they fought against me until they tired me out. You should have seen how dirty and happy the kids were. We almost got stuck one time and I helped push the truck out of the mud and away from a very large sinkhole – then you should have seen how dirty I was (I was still happy too). Can you imagine how much we got stared at when we went to a restaurant? They acted like they had never seen Americans covered with mud!
Allie had her birthday while we were in Dilla. We put candles on strawberry wafers that Cara brought along. When it was all said and done, she told us it was her best birthday ever. It made sense, I never had a jungle birthday growing up! She was a dirty and happy five-year old girl.
Our driver and friend, Yosi, was able to meet the boys and their parents and hear their story. The father is a guard for the local MOWA compound and is also a coffee farmer. The family seemed to be in good financial circumstances as the father had two jobs and coffee farmers do very well in the South. The boys were in “ok” condition, but they were scared by visitors. Yosi thought that they were probably scared because they thought they were going to get taken away again). We decided not to see the boys and the parents and make the situation worse, because the father was fishing for money throughout the conversation with Yosi and we didn’t want to encourage him or others into thinking that they would be rewarded for giving their children up temporarily. We have a hard time understanding people giving up their boys like that when they could totally provide for them. We are certainly not happy with the father for putting them (and us) through that whole ordeal.
One of the missionaries here said that some families will give up their children for adoption so that they will have a chance to make it big and then they think that their children will take care of them afterwards. We thought about setting up an account with Compassion international for the boys, but after seeing the situation and doing a little research, we learned that the boys would only partially benefit from it. Again the father was fishing for money the whole time that our driver was talking to him and thus we thought it would not be best to reward the father for his actions and perpetuate what seems to be a shared mentality throughout that region. Yosi told us that many parents would try to give us their children if we came along with him. We still do not have a category in our minds or hearts for the situation or the shared mentality there, especially after seeing the situation for ourselves.
We drove back to Addis on Saturday. Some of the highlights of the trip were going to lake Awassa and feeding the monkeys there (very carefully!). The girls loved how they would come up and take pieces of bananas right out of their hands. You should have heard them giggle and squeal. We also enjoyed buying mangoes, pineapples, and strawberries from local farmers along the roadside. Every farmer sells their produce along the roads and they hold it out to you as you drive by. In the South, they were selling drinks, produce, baskets, lottery tickets, and even a legal mind-altering drug called Chad or Cat. On the desert plains they were selling charcoal, wood, onions, potatoes, and we even saw a someone selling a very large python skin.
Sunday, we went to church at the International Evangelical Church. It was a taste of heaven to see a truly international group of believers from every tribe and tongue from India, Australia, Africa, different parts of Europe and America worshipping together. People from Australia, England, S. Korea, India, America and Ethiopians etc, all worshipping together!
Tomorrow I start teaching at the college. I am truly looking forward to getting to know the students.
Note from Cara:
Where do I start? As Jason described, so much has happened so quickly. You see pictures in a book or newsletter, but you never truly understand missionary work or living in a different culture until you can see, feel and smell the difference. You also get stared at a lot. My feisty side has been tempted to occasionally make funny faces at them to see what they would do! The culture is very warm and they love to see “white” children. Their staring is not considered rude, just curious. My biggest stress has been providing meals for my family. Imagine trying to shop here and not getting what you need. My skills for throwing things together, has been put to the max and trying to be creative with my ingredients. I miss my kitchen and the spices most of all. I feel like the Lord is using this time in our lives to strip us down of all our comforts and find our true identity and comfort in HIM ALONE. I am independent and you can’t be that way here. You have to ask for help. Since we don’t have a vehicle I ask for rides a lot to grocery stores and “tag along”. I have had to work through some expectations and put them before the Lord’s feet and know He is perfect and good in ALL things.
The Lord has helped us get through the disappointment of the boys. My heart is heavy and sad, but I trust in Him. It has helped to talk to fellow missionaries around here about the culture and the state of poverty here. One lady said that 90% of the children should be adopted here because of their poverty. That is hard to swallow. We were quickly reminded though that the Lord loves Ethiopia too and has great plans for her country. We revisited our reasons for adopting again. Even though Teketel and Mussie’s situation was not good, it wasn’t as bad as other children. Other children don’t have parents and don’t have food for their mouths. We want to meet a need, not take away children from their parents.
This week we are hoping to get in a “routine”…if you can call living here our normal routine!! J I will start the girl’s school, Jason will start at ETC and we are hoping to meet with the workers and attorneys at the transition home to communicate our disappointment for the lack of truth and wanting to start over with a clean slate and work with them in regards to being matched with new children. Even some of the details they gave us last week were false (like that the boys couldn’t walk when they came to the transition home). They also said if we were willing to wait, that the adoption could still be possible. I am not sure what kind of methods they were looking into, but legally if they have two parents they can’t be adopted. I am slowly realizing the gift of being able to find out the truth about the boys. We would have always wondered and now we have a peace of mind knowing we did everything humanly possible for them. I am trusting that the Lord will heal our broken hearts over Teketel and Mussie and enlarge our hearts for new children. I know He will. When you can physically see them and touch them, it will be easy. That is my prayer. We are still hoping to bring home children in June. We will see if that is possible.
Please continue to pray for our time here. Thank you to many of you that made it possible for us financially to come here. I never cease to give God thanks for that gift and for your prayers too…we feel them. I am still curious how the Lord will use us here. I know I have learned many valuable lessons already. How important it is to pray for the missionaries. They are not super humans and need specific and intentional prayers. Since we are “temporarily missionaries”, I will be able to understand at a deeper level what they are going through (at least the initial adjustments). It is hard. I didn’t know how hard, but the Lord’s strength is endless and His love secure.
Sorry for such a long update. We tried to give details so you could slightly see through our eyes what it’s like here. FYI, we have wireless internet, but the connection is so problematic……soooo frustrating. I see some of you on Skype, but haven’t figured out that connection either. So we gave a long update, because we don’t know when the access will be up again. TIE or TIA is what you say when things are so foreign and frustrating as internet. TIE= “this is Ethiopia” and TIA= “this is Africa.” And then you try to laugh, because if you don’t learn that lesson, you will always cry. What a great opportunity to see the creativity of God’s creation and his love for the nations. Believe me, the “American way” is not the only way. Just one more thing, one of the missionaries was telling us that one of the “down country” stores had started carrying Mars choc. bars. Then after about a month, they were gone. When she asked where they were, the storeowner complained that he could never keep them in stock and people were always buying them up, so he quit selling them…TIA!! Food is like that around here. Things come and go and it’s hard to know when they will come back. For example, there used to always be baking soda here for years, now for the last year, it’s been gone….TIA!! Everything is cheaply made down here, so pipes are always breaking and household things falling apart (know from first hand experience)…TIA. And then you laugh…or at least try! J
2 Cor. 2:14-15: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being save and among those who are perishing.” I’ve been reading a helpful book by Karen Pearce (given from Preston to Jason to me…if anyone runs into them, please thank them for me). I especially have appreciated the part of trying not to “do” things for the Lord, but to be so full of Him and spending time in His presence that we will be a sweet aroma of Christ to others around us. A lesson for us all, I believe!
We miss you all and love you deeply,