This is probably the easiest way to document the trip for all of you who supported and prayed for us. I'm finally in a place that I can share freely about the trip, the people, and the work the Lord did on my heart. This trip was tough. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I knew it would be but I knew it would be even harder integrating back into my "comfortable" life here in the states. It was ugly. Ask my poor husband and children.
For now, I'll do my best to take you back to Ethiopia with me. From my perspective. I'm sure Rachael and Sarah felt things similarly but different.
The flight from Phoenix to London where we met up with Sarah was flawless. London to Addis Sarah and I were bumped to business class and we asked if Rachael could join us which worked out beautifully. We all slept. It was great!
1:00AM Sunday morning we arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Made it through getting our visa and off to get our luggage and have it searched. Being questioned about my cameras and all the donations we brought and why we brought them we were finally through. Exhausted and anxious to get to the guest house we looked for someone holding a sign with our names. No one was there.
Foreign country, two friends who'd never been beyond Mexico, alone. I told Sarah and Rachael to stay with the luggage and I was going to try and figure this out. The looks on their faces told me they were sure I was crazy. I walked up to someone with a cell phone and asked if I could use it. I now had a new best friend. He was from AGCI and he made sure I was able to get a hold of someone even talking to them for me. We had been forgotten but someone was coming. Another gal also on the mission arrived and she too was forgotten. We waited. Sweet Hanna and Zeyid came to our rescue! Let the adventure begin!
Out in the pouring rain we had the task of finding a taxi because the drivers who were supposed to get us were home in their beds. Everyone wanted to drive us. Everyone was surrounding us. Everyone wanted to help. Everyone wanted birr. It was still pouring down rain. Cameras, laptops, soaked. Finally Hanna made a decision and our driver was chosen. Sarah, Rachael, and I left with Hanna in her little car while Zeyid and the other Sarah went with our luggage in the van.
Hanna said she hadn't driven at night much. I wondered if she had EVER driven at night as she narrowly missed the median, couldn't get out of the airport parking lot, and struggled to see through the window. Bless her for coming to get us at this ungodly hour. I sat in front to try and be of some help, I thought Sarah and Rachael were going to claw off the seat backs. As the car careened around corners, never slowing, rain pouring, and only the dim light of one headlight I could hear the screams in the girls' heads behind me. I offered to help with the lights making it slightly better. At one point Hanna laughed and said I knew more about her country then she did. I so did not. I simply knew how to get out of the airport parking lot.
After our roller coaster car ride we arrived. In one piece and the girls had been fully immersed in driving school. Ethiopian style.
Our soaked luggage arrived and we discovered our room wasn't ready. We opted to share a room, Sarah and I crashed in the same bed and Rachael opted for a bed on the floor. We were only sleeping for a few hours anyways. It was nearly 4am and we were going to be up at 6:30. The traditional chanting had already started and I was hoping it would lull us to sleep. It worked.
The alarm went off, I was excited for Sarah and Rachael to get their first glimpse of Ethiopia by day. It was rainy and a little foggy. The smell so familiar, it felt like a part of my heart was "home". I longed for my husband to be with me. I dreamed of the day we are able to bring our whole little family over so they can see first hand the country we all love so much. For Silas to visit his birth country once again, to see his friends who helped him through some of the toughest transitions of his little life. It was a bit overwhelming.
Back to reality. We needed to get ready for our first full day in Ethiopia, Ephrim was arriving in less then two hours. We organized our packs, straightened our hair, applied some makeup, and met our new friends who would be on our little trek for the next two days. We were ready to roll! Breakfast and sir Ephrim arrived at about the same time. It was surreal to see him again.
Gathering our stuff, our new friends and we headed out to the church David and I had attended just one year before. A fairly westernized Evangelical international church. There was a baptism this particular Sunday and we learned while sitting in the service that our driver (not to be mistaken with our friend and guide Ephrim) was a Muslim and was asking a bunch of questions about the service. It was incredible to see Ephrim witnessing to him and sharing the love of Christ. What better time then during a baptism. The Lord met us there, our souls were filled and we were ready to pour out the love of Jesus to those we'd meet.
After church we headed for a visit with Giday and Hope For Abandoned Children. Not knowing completely what to expect we committed the day to the Lord and His perfect plan. As we arrived at the quaint orphanage the children surrounded us and begged for attention. We spent time with the kids, held the babies, loved on the toddlers, and held bottles for sweet babes. The kids desperately wanted some attention and ate up anything we would give. Another adoptive family had given the orphanage a slide and merry go round. So sweet. The kids loved being pushed around giggling as we went faster and faster. They blessed me so much just watching them take in every little bit, so thankful, so loving. My heart yearned to take them all home and love on them forever.
We took Giday shopping for supplies, food, and other needs that the orphanage had. This shopping trip was sponsored by ChangeForEthiopia! Such an honor to carry out this mission for them. On our way we saw many lonely faces, kids begging for anything we'd give them. Michelle knelt down with one little boy and cut out snowflakes with him, it was priceless. Time spent was more then anything monetary we could do. Relationships are what was important, even if only a brief encounter.
We passed out granola bars and lollipops. I caught myself staring, caught in the moment of reality that this could be me. Any one of us. They were no different then me. I would do anything for my babies even if that meant begging at every car window for something to eat. I was humbled yet again. As we shopped for Giday her gratitude over things I daily take for granted made me realize how much we have and how much MORE we should give. Watching her carefully choose only the items she felt they truly needed despite my offer to purchase whatever she wanted. Humbled to the core. Blessed beyond measure to be called to minister in this way at that very moment.
Later that afternoon we went to visit some of the street kids near the post office and traditional shops. Two fold purpose. Support the Ethiopian economy and the small shoe shine boys who so faithfully work to support themselves or their families. I had some sweet boys wanting to shine my shoes. Such an incredible experience. They took such care in making sure every spot was shiny and new. I was reminded of Gods refining fire making us more like Him, scrubbing the old out and letting the new shine through. If only we let him. He's not going to leave us where we are, He wants us to be more and more like him. Less of us, more of Him. That is my prayer.
The day was finished with hanging out with our new friends, room mates and much needed sleep to be ready for day two.