Team Ethiopia Update
Well, it’s a good feeling to say this but I think I can speak for our whole team in saying that Ethiopia has finally begun to feel like home. Except for a few things, we have become familiar with the environment and the culture here. Health has not been completely up to par, but so far the death count is at zero and the sickest any of us has gotten has been the common cold. Amazing for being in a place that is so bacteria ridden.
Right now we are waiting on the arrival of six new interns who will be staying with us in Mekelle for 10 days. At the same time, there are three wonderful Canadian team members who we have been working with at the youth center ever since we got here, and two of them leave at the end of this week. People are coming and going so it will be exciting seeing some new faces and gaining new friendships with staff members. So far the people that we have been working with have been awesome, and are a huge help in our ability to get in tune with how everything works over here.
While we have been at the youth center, our daily routine has typically consisted of doing outdoor games/relay races with the younger kids as well as younger kid English classes in the morning, followed by a two hour lunch break, then either song time or health and fitness, followed by outdoor games with the older boys and arts/crafts with the girls until the day ends. Days have been starting at the youth center at about 8 or 830 in the morning and ending at around 6 at night. I would say we are doing well at getting good rests every night and being able to put as much energy as possible for the eight or so hours we are at the youth center.
Unfortunately, life in this culture has been much harder for the girls than for the guys. The man is very dominant in this culture, meaning that there is a lack of respect for girls here. We have been holding a discussion group once a week, and during our last session the girls’ comments received no feedback from any of the guys, and no Ethiopian girls were even there. It is also really hard just being an American in this culture. Everywhere we walk we will be getting remarks from people yelling “Forengi! Forengi! (foreigner)” and recently we have noticed taxi drivers and merchants selling us cheap things at much higher prices, just because they know we are American and they have the perception that we are all filthy rich. As Karla mentioned, “it is really exhausting.” Even so, it has been getting easier than it used to be and we are finally being able to laugh at most of the things that frustrated us before.
Apart from feeling so singled out in this culture, we have been given opportunities to blend in well. Just a few nights ago Daniel and I were given the chance to have four Ethiopians over for dinner, and the next night were able to learn from one of the teenagers from the youth center how to make Shiro, a popular Ethiopian dish. Violet and Karla had a slumber party on the same night with several Ethiopian girls from the youth center. There are so many fascinating things about the Ethiopian culture, such as there being a traditional ceremony whenever you have people over to drink coffee. We’re all coffee lovers so I think that works out pretty well. Alongside of getting more in depth with the culture here, all of us have started to grow deep relationships with multiple teenagers at the youth center.
Last week it was one of the Canadian team member’s birthdays, so we all went to one of the missionary’s house for an American food barbeque. It had been at least two or three weeks since I had seen a hamburger, so it was refreshing to eat one again, even though the food here is amazing.
Oh, and praise Jesus, but our bags finally made it! Thank you for all of your prayers for that, and I am really happy to let you guys know that they are here and they are safe. Keep, however, praying for Karla’s craft bag, for it still has yet to arrive. WE WANT THOSE CRAFTS!
Violet and Karla have been in charge of a girls bible study that is going really well. All of the girls have been asking a lot of good, deep questions, and the two of them are feeling like God’s work is in use.
Even outside of the bible study we have all been seeing God’s work in these children. A valuable lesson we learned is that giving our all at the youth center cannot be measured, and even through just seeing a kid learn how to behave correctly in English class is showing that God is at work here. On top of that it is very, very rare to see a kid without a smile when they are around us. Just holding a child’s hand seems to make their day, and it seems that they will do anything just to get some kind of contact with us. As far as a direct example of this goes, there is a young cross-eyed girl who at any moment when she sees you will open her arms with the biggest smile and run at you expecting to give you the biggest hug ever. I don’t know if I have ever seen a child smile so big, and it happens when she just sees you. No lie, there is a lot of love here at the youth center.
Be praying for perseverance. We came across a verse in 1 Corinthians (15:58) that says “Therefore, my brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Put all of your focus into doing the Lord’s work, for you can then be sure he working in you.” There are many things that have pushed us, and now coming into our last four weeks at the youth center, our main concern is that we keep pushing as hard as we have been.