Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ethiopia - Last Day

The pain is too much to bear. My heart aches as I say goodbye to my new Ethiopian friends and my old one, Temesgen. My heart is also aching for this country. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined wanting to stay when it was time to go. When I asked God to break my heart for what breaks His, I didn't think it would hurt this much.

I can hardly get on the plane knowing that I can leave this poverty stricken country yet I leave behind our sponsor family and the hungry, sick and hurting people.

I'm feeling like I didn't make enough of a difference. That I didn't change anyhting. I need more time. I want more time.

I will board this plane in 2 hours, but 1/2 of my heart remains in Ethiopia. Until next time...

These are the scriptures that are written on my heart forevermore...

Psalm 146:9 - The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.

1 John 3:17 - If anyone has material possessions, but sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in them?

Isaiah 1:17 - Learn to do good, seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless, please the case of the widow.

Ethiopia - Day 8

Today we went to church! What a refreshment for my soul. Beza Inernational. We only were able to stay for the worship part of service which was about an hour or so long but I was refilled by the Spirit of the Lord nonetheless and left recharged and ready to go. There was so much joy in the music. The singing, dancing, lifting of hands, dancing, and true singing to our Lord and Savior was refreshing to see. So many times in our North American churches we get caught up in worrying about what our pew or seat neighbors will think if we raise our hands, we are more focused on getting our coffee drank during the worship part of service before it gets cold, or we show up late because "it's just the singing." Ugh!!! This frustrated me before, but now, well, now it frustrates me to no end.
I've seen the Spirit of the Lord come upon the poorest of the poor and bless them beyond what any financial blessing could. I've seen the joy of the Lord be their strength. I've seen it and I want it now more than ever. I have always loved singing and worshipping Jesus in that way during our church service, but now I know I will do so even more as I think I will always think back to Beza and remember the Ethiopians and just how much they were able to praise Him despite their circumstances and how joyful they were to do so.

After church we left and went to the Hope for the Hopeless in Soluta - their countryside location. H4H is an organization that takes kids off the streets and basically raises them until they are 18-20 years of age. They have "dorms" for the kids to live in and they are given an education. Our goal today was to distribute blessing bags to the kiddos who live their and also the countryside kids who don't and to run a dental and medical clinic.

A few days prior, a team of 3 ER doctors from Cleveland came to our guesthouse to stay and they agreed to come to H4H with us to check out the kids and treat any infections that they might have. I talked with them and told them of my Pediatric ICU background and they quickly asked me to see patients with them as they don't really see a lot of pediatric patients since there is a Children's Hospital in Cleveland. I was thrilled!

We set up clinic in the meal house and the kids came pouring in. My first patient was a 2 year old little boy from the countryside who was not a resident at H4H. His daddy had heard that the Americans were there and he wanted us to see what was wrong with his son. He had an open wound under his nose that wouldn't heal. He also had a rash all over his head and face. He nor the dad spoke any English so I had my friend Temesgen translating for me. After looking him over from head to toe, I presented his case to the doctor. Diagnosis: Impetigo, staph infection and fungus. Treatment - antibiotic and fungal cream.

Next patient was a sweet little girl who was 4 years old and I immediately noticed she had been given a pair of Brody's old shoes. My heart swelled! Her eye was bright red, draining, and itching. She also had an earache and a rash all over her belly. Quite easy to diagnose this kid. We gave her antibiotics for her ear infection and the rash was just from fever. No eye antibiotics for the pink eye, but instructed how to clean it and hopefully the antibiotics she was given to take for her ear will help that too. She was told to follow up in 3 days when they came back.

The other cases we saw were a broken arm  - a child had fallen 3 days prior playing soccer and had broken his radial bone. It was such an obvious break. NOTHING had been done for it. So the doctors made a splint and sling and gave him some Advil to help with the pain and were going to see him again as well. There was also a girl who had a gash on the bottom of her foot that the hospital in town had tried to stitch up. It was a both job and had become infected. Those stitches had to be removed and new ones put in. She was a champion!!!

Things that we take for granted because we can go to our primary care or ER or even a walk in clinic for, these kids suffer with because they have no access to basic medical care. It's incredibly sad. But honestly, my heart was filled so very much this day. I felt fulfilled in the medical work that I was able to do today. I never thought I missed my work as a nurse, and honestly, I don't miss nursing in North America. But loving on these sick kids who are so happy to just get a dose of Tylenol or even just have someone listen to their complaints is amazing. I felt like I made a difference on this day. I felt like I may have been more than just a drop in the ocean on this day.

This is the little girl who got Brody's shoes

happy beyond belief

At the same time that I was doing the medical clinic, David was assisting in the dental clinic. We had a dentist and his wife on our team who brought their equipment and "set up shop" at the H4H homes. These children do not have basics such as toothbrushes, and if they do have them by chance, they don't really know how to use them. And dental floss? Well, they have never seen it. So needless to say there were lots of teeth that needed extracting. There were lots of abscesses, and infections that were so bad that they were nearly into the sinus cavities which can be life threatening if untreated. These kids have no access to dental care as most Ethiopians don't have access to it. 

So, there was no time for cleanings after all of the dental work was done on all of the kids, but they all got a class on taking care of their teeth and they all got toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss. 

The kids after they got their dental lesson on how to brush their teeth

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ethiopia - Days 6 and 7

July 5, 2013

Entoto Mountain, Ethiopia - the place that has stolen my heart forever and ever. My heart will never be whole again until I can get back there and see those children's faces again. Even then, it will only be whole for the time that I am there.
The mountain is a small, remote area where a very poor population of Ethiopians call home. Many of these beautiful people are HIV positive and most of them are hungry and desperate for basic needs to be met.

Today (day 6) we take the trip up Entoto Mountain where there are mountain women who carry loads of eucalyptus branches down the mountain to be sold for firewood. The loads are 180 pounds and take 3-5 of our men to lift whereas 1 woman carries it herself - hunched over and weighed down. The looks on their faces tell a story though of being more than physically weighed down. They are tired. They are aged well beyond their years. They are worn and heavy burdened in their souls. I instantly think of Jesus telling us to come to Him and give Him our burdens as His load is light and He will give us rest.

We meet three of the women on their way down the mountain and stop them, offering to put their branches on our van and give them a ride to where they drop them off. They immediately smile and look as though we are offering to carry the weight of the world for them - and maybe we were for that day. During the ride, we give them food, toiletries, and some money (they make the equivalent of $1/day) while trying to get to know a little of their stories.

not an unusual sight to see along the side of the roads

these are the eucalyptus branch bundles carried 

these hats are donkey hair hats sold on the mountain

wow...there are NO words... words...

precious women getting their loads lifted

While up on the mountain, we are surrounded by kids. They see our vans pulling up and come barreling towards us as they know they are about to be loved on and cared for. Immediately when we get out, 4 girls come up to me and start doing the hand games and rhymes with me. I learn a few new games and then teach them mine. We are full of laughter and silliness. Next come the group games. I have NEVER in my life enjoyed duck duck goose, and their version of something similar to London Bridges the way I did today. We danced, sang (I even learned the words to their song) at the top of our lungs, laughed, and played for a long time. 

When it was time to go and I found out we would be returning tomorrow my heart swelled. I couldn't wait to get back and see these kids again. Sleep well little ones - see you SOON!

here we here they come - JOY!!!

it's tackle Ryan time!!!


duck duck goose - Ethiopian Style

JULY 6, 2013

I experienced the cliche' of "starving children in Africa" today and it became very personal. Tears welled in my eyes as we began passing food to starving children.

Again we were on Entoto Mountain where a brand new ministry has been started by a local man. He feeds the children, using his own extra money, every Saturday until the food is all gone. Today, it took about 10 minutes before each bag of food was inhaled - by only about 1/3 of the children there. The other 2/3s didn't get any food as there just wasn't enough.

Almost all of the lucky ones who got a bag did not want to share. They didn't know where their next meal would be from so they hoarded it and devoured it. The unlucky, left starving, began crying. It was too much to bear. Several times I heard fellow team members mention Jesus feeding the 5000 and how we needed this food to stretch. One child in particular near and dear to my heart was around 18 months old. When she saw the bags of food being passed out, she instantly started crying and reaching her little hand out. Luckily, she was handed a bag of food and her mother instantly got it and took her aside to let her eat.

After the feeding program was done, all of the children lined up and were brought into a room for a new pair of shoes, a sucker and a book or toy. We were able to give every single child something...but not every child got a pair of shoes as we ran out. As the kids were waiting in line, I locked eyes with a sweet girl who was worried that we would run out before it was her turn. I learned how to tell her "it's okay" in Ahmeric and just kept holding her hand. As she inched closer and closer to the door she laid her head on my chest and I could feel her release a sigh of relief.

We spent 4 hours here today and it flew by incredibly fast. However, as I sit now with my thoughts it seems like we were there 8 hours because of how emotionally exhausted I am.

I will NEVER again say that I am starving as I have NO IDEA what it feels like to be starving. No, I may be hungry but never have I been starving to the point of crying as these precious children have.

God please please take care of these precious children of yours. We did what we could today and it doesn't seem like it was enough. I am trusting you to feed them physically and spiritually.

reaching for the food 

waiting patiently while Mesfin speaks

so many hands - so little food 

lining up for shoes and goodies

this precious little one got no food and was terribly sad, but I think Colleen was maybe just as, if not more, heartbroken than her.

thumbs up because they are getting some new shoes!!!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ethiopia - Day Five

July 4, 2013

Korah - a place also known as the trash dump community - is home to some 120,000 people. A place that is so littered with poverty that without seeing it with your own eyes you could never fully grasp it. Yet it is also a place that is riddled with love, hope and joy over the promise of a new day. The people are overjoyed to see Americans come because they know they will get fed today.

Children line the mud/dirt roads, grab my hand without hesitation and then shoot me a huge grin when I look to see who's hand is in mine. They want to have their picture taken and then giggle hysterically when I show it to them. They pose endlessly for their photo ops. They are excited to lead me through their corridor alleys and into the homes we are visiting. They wait patiently as we go in to minister to, pray for, and form relationships with the locals.

They wear sandals and flip flops and act like it's nothing as their feet sink in the mud. I, on the other hand, cringe as my shoe goes all the way down. I avoid the puddles that the down pours have left while they walk - almost skillfully - through them. They take great care to help me avoid the puddles and mud-holes as they escort me through Korah and I feel ashamed of myself for not carrying them. They feel pride though to show me around.

One family in particular stole my and David's hearts. A young mom with three children; two boys and one girl. She showed us her mud-hut - literally the only thing in it was a "mattress" that was a little shorter than a twin size and maybe slightly wider. It was for the WHOLE family to sleep on. There was also a small bench maybe one foot wide. A single lightbulb hung in the back of the room. The whole room/house was 8'x12'...smaller than my children's bedrooms.

I saw no blankets, no toys, no sink, no food, no nothing! My heart cringed. We gave the kids a few granola bars, 3 tootsie pops and 2 matchbox cars. You would have thought we had just handed them a million bucks. We also committed right then to becoming their sponsors. For $50/month we will be able to send the kids to school, pay their rent, and ensure they are fed. This is truly life changing. The mother was overjoyed and kept hugging and kissing me as did the 10 year old girl. I was humbled as joy flooded my soul.

We made several other home visits and heard stories that would break your heart. Leprosy, blindness and people relying on the trash dump as their food source. There were several families who were not sponsored while we were there and desperately need one. If you are interested, please know that your donation of $50/month will go towards that particular family's most pressing needs - usually rent, medication, and food. All of the money goes through the local church in Korah so that there is accountability with it. You can be sure that your money is going to what it is supposed to. Please check out in a few weeks to see who needs sponsorship and see a little of their stories.

Precious boys inside the church in Korah

Our friend, Lincoln loving on a Korah kid

Ryan playing with this little one

Gathering outside to share stories and show love

Inside the church in Korah

Kelly (founder of OH) with Pastor Tesfaye

Our sweet Temesgen with Bira and Teddy who were amazing translators for us!

Aaaaah!!!! Our amazing sponsor family. Look at the beauty in 
their faces. I'm so blessed to be part of their lives!

LOVE - Mesrtbekla, Negst, Yohannes, Pedros - our new family

Teaching Yohannes how to play "fives"

Oh sweet boy! Through sponsorship this boy is now another son of mine. Love him.

Sweet girl. Can't wait until the day she and Chloe can play together.

From one mom to another.... no words are even needed.

Our boys Yohannes and Pedros playing with their new matchbox
cars on their bed. PRESH!!!

Another hug

Our friend Skylar hanging with these awesome boys. 

A typical looking home. The sticks are one home and the mud wall is another.

Darling little one who asked to have her picture made and
 then gave me those precious puppy dog eyes.

Besties! Love how the little girl in the Hello Kitty nightgown can hardly
stifle her giggle long enough for the picture to take.

David with Teddy - this young man is going to make a 
huge difference in the world. Just watch!!!

This precious lady needs a sponsor! She has leprosy and was crying because of the pain she was experiencing. She has a 20 year old and a 12 year old and can't afford her medicine, can't walk because of her disease, and has no money for food. As we were leaving her house, she was the one blessing us and telling us that God is faithful. 
Please consider helping her out through sponsorship.

My girl, Negst (which means king) with her little friend.

Beverly with these adorable Korah kiddos

After leaving Korah, we went to the post office for shopping. This is the touristy type souvenir section of Addis. We found soccer balls for the kids and that was about it. We also did spring for a pack of gum from a street kid just so she would stop asking us. That was one thing that is very interesting about the post office...there were children everywhere going up to adults and asking us to buy their products. Clearly the shop owners don't appreciate this as it takes away from their businesses, but my gracious I have never seen anything like what I am about to describe...

The children selling things were chased away from us by two security guards who walked around carrying big sticks. These sticks were used to hit the kids without hesitation if they didn't get away fast enough. I even saw the female security guard hit a woman carrying a child!!! I was livid and it made me sick to see this. For the most part, these kids are living on the streets, have no family and are just trying to get enough money to eat. As we were driving off, several people in our van handed out some money and food to the kids and while it won't last long, at least it was something. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ethiopia - Day Four

July 3, 2013

This is yet another day where I am blown away. Today we spent time at No Ordinary Love - an organization that rescues children from slave labor and sex trafficking. The children range in age from 7-19 years old with most being in the younger range. Instantly my thoughts go to Chloe. They also minister to mother's who have HIV and small children to care for. They come during the day and have a safe place to stay.

The couple who started this ministry is from Texas yet sold everything and moved their family of 6 to Addis Ababa in direct obedience to God. They left everything comfortable and familiar for broken and unpredictable. They didn't speak the language - and still don't. The communicate via translators.

I try to picture their story as was easy to do as I can so see my family living here for at least part of each year. But what if God really did call us to be full time missionaries? Would we so willingly give everything that we know and love up to follow God's calling for our lives? I would hope so, and I would like to think that I would immediately say "yes, Lord" but I don't know. However, I see this family and see their faith being lived out and I can only pray that I would say "yes."

Back to the house though.... The girls were awesome! Again today I played "nail salon" and painted 20 girls' nails. They were crowded around so tightly that I had to have a translator tell them to form a line and then I promised that I would get to everyone. SO FUN! It's amazing how much these kids simply want love and attention. They are so loving and want to see that love returned. I am so lucky to be here!

Other than that, we served the kids lunch - injera (the local staple), sheep and bread, The sheep were donated through a friend of ours and is a rare commodity for these little ones. It was devoured quickly!

when we first arrived they were playing their version of "duck duck goose"

next came a Bible lesson

the sheep being cooked up

one of the boys of the women allowed in during the day

Beverly - my sweet new friend with 2 of the lovely little girls at No Ordinary Love

David helping get lunch prepared

The founder with a little guy who came back to visit with his mom

Lined up and ready to chow down!


David giving refills - that 2nd mile service that Chick-fil-A preaches

Nail Salon time

Temesgen - our precious friend who was also a GREAT translator for us!

Michelle with her baby standing alongside the founders with their baby

Next we visited a place called Fashionable. It is an organization started by another American couple who moved to Addis one year ago to help women get out of prostitution. Many many women become prostitutes in the city in order to be able to feed their children. It is a legal "job" but clearly very dangerous as HIV is prevalent here. Once the women come into the Fashionable program, they are given jobs making scarves or jewelry or cleaning homes. Today we were at the place where the women make the scarves. They hand make it all - right down to dying the fabric threads. They are paid for their work hence eliminating the desperation and prostitution.
One thing I noticed while there was that my thoughts were constantly on the prostitution for food aspect. It was so hard to see these beautiful women and not think of the life that they used to order to live. Then out of the blue, I saw the most beautiful bright pink flower - the only one on the whole property growing in the middle of tree. God instantly brought to mind the scripture that says He can make beauty from ashes. What a glorious reminder!

The dyed threads at Fashionable which will be turned into scarves

To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:3

I ended my day by being fully inducted into the Ethiopian culture. Our mission team challenged the local kids to a soccer match this evening. The only issue is that we are right in the middle of the rainy season in Ethiopia. Why is that an issue? Well you see, rain makes things really really soggy, soft, and muddy here. About 1/8 of a mile from the "field" we were going to play on, I fell into a sinkhole of sorts - as in I fell all the way in to the top of my thighs! I was covered in mud and probably some cow manure as well. Soaking wet and nasty! I tried to climb out and slipped even further down - all I could think of was quicksand and that I was destined to sink to my death. Really - I thought that. Thankfully David and our friend Galilah pulled me out and we finished our trek to the field...after snapping a few photos of my debacle.
David joined to soccer game and I was a spectator, trying to dry off somewhat, take photos and avoid the mounds of cow poop everywhere. The highlight of the game was when David was nailed in the head with the muddy ball and it left an imprint on his bald head! Awesome... And another highlight was the 8 or 9 year old Ethiopian kid who fell in the mud and decided to just take his pants off and finish the game in his boxer shorts. OMGeeee! He was serious about the game.

Sink hole experience...

Soccer in the mud

And this is what their rivers look like...all of them. 

The heroes who kept going in the muddy river to retrieve the ball. 

That's my man!!! Go David!!!

Team USA and Team Ethiopia

And the ball imprint on David's head.