Monday, August 18, 2008

Who needs Beijing? The Olympics are in Mekelle!

Hello All!!!

A lot has been going on here in Mekelle, Ethiopia. Life at the youth center has been fantastic. Last week we organized the one, the only Mekelle Youth Center Olympics, whooo! We had them in the morning for younger kids and in the afternoon for older kids. We included events such as short and long distance races, sack races, boot toss, shot put, wheel barrel race (the kids haven't stopped since we taught them this), and team sports such as basketball, volleyball, and handball. We finished last Friday and had a big closing ceremony where we handed out scarves, hats and wristbands to winners of the events. Our ceremony even had fireworks! We thought it was quite comparable to the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, haha, which were happening at the same time. The Olympics were a huge success and the kids really loved it, there was smiling on both sides all week!

The guys have been meeting weekly for Bible study with the men of the youth center staff. The girls have also been meeting weekly for Bible study with local female missionaries. They all feel they have been pumped full of wisdom at these meetings, luckily they're past their know-it-all teenage years so don't worry J. The girls also meet on Saturdays with some girls from the youth center for Bible studies. Our team is continuing to meet weekly on Wednesday night's to pray together. The Bible clubs for the little kids meet weekly and include a Bible story followed by coloring pictures relating to the story, sadly we do have to search the hems of their clothes before they leave due to their habit of stealing the crayons. We are really hoping to have more God-talk times with those we have made relationships with on this trip, a prayer for that would be great. Most people here are very familiar with Christianity as they practice it but are more focused on traditions of the Ethiopian Orthodoxy than having a close friendship or relationship with Jesus. Our goal here has always been and still is to show them that God wants to be in a relationship with them.

There have been a lot of positive things happening here but as always the devil is at work. For example…it seems that everyday there is another fight at MYC. There are power struggles between kids and they handle it through hitting, kicking, and yelling at one another. Some fights get pretty bad…yesterday one of our favorite kids got in a fight with an older teenager which involved rocks being thrown and punches being landed. Luckily, Matt and Joey were close by when it happened and were able to break it up before there was any more blood. So please pray for the kids here...and that we would have wisdom in how to deal with them, that a more peaceful environment would come to MYC (sadly they get enough of the other environment at home). Also don't worry, there are many great kids here that have endless amounts of affection, and thus we get more hand shakes and kisses than we could ever need!

Our team has been through a lot on this trip so far whether it be stretching ourselves to give attention to the kids, tiredness, sickness or stress. We have also had our problems with one another but we have been able to talk them through and by God's grace are still working well together and have been able to open up more with each other as we have grown closer through them. We would appreciate prayer that this growth would continue. We wrote each other love notes last week and have started intentionally learning about each other's lives at dinner. The Irish guys left yesterday so now our team is down to us four Americans. They were super fun and we will miss them and their accents (only Joey successfully learned how to say "how, now, brown cow" like them, the rest of us failed miserably, especially Matt who always ended up talking like a pirate).

Bret the goat was killed on Tuesday of last week. The deed had to be that day because the next day was the beginning of a 15 day fast from any animal products; we didn't realize that until the day before, oops. Matt had a difficult time eating something that was his best friend that morning; the rest of us quite enjoyed it.

Our team went to a Tigray rock church two Sundays ago called Mariam Korkor, which is a two and a half hour drive from Mekelle. So…on the way there our driver decided to run over a rock, which in turn popped our tire. Luckily we were in the city of Wukro when it happened so we were able to get it fixed in about 30 minutes. The hike up to the church was absolutely beautiful! (We took fifty million pictures) It was strenuous with lots of rock climbing and cliffs, Annalise had a moment in which she almost slid off the side of the mountain, but no worries she is alive and well and only ended up with a few scrapes. There were amazing views from the top and some cliffs with about a 2,000 foot drop off, our bus looked like a little pebble. When we got back down our trouble with the bus continued when it wouldn't start. So the guys jumped out to compression start it, thankfully it worked. Then…about an hour into the drive we hit some 2 inch thick mud on the dirt road (from the rain earlier, the problem was it looked fine because no cars had driven on the road since the rain). The driver lost control, we spun 180 degrees off the side of the road, and our lives flashed before our eyes. Miraculously, it was the side without the 10 foot embankment. So thank you for your prayers regarding safety no matter how casual they were because, as we've learned, safety is very important! All in all we had a day full of fun.

Last Sunday, Annalise and Matt went to the Romanat waterfall just outside of town with some friends from the youth center. The waterfall was a fun place to relax and enjoy the day off. Ethiopia has a vast landscape and is a beautiful country! The waterfall was dirtier than one you would see in the US, at one point we saw half a leg floating in the water, which turned out to be just prosthetic, but we were worried for a while though. Unfortunately, Annalise is no longer on the elite list of those who have not gotten sick here, as the minibus had to make an emergency stop on the way home. She was the last one on the team to be taken off the list, so that deserves some congratulations within itself. She is all better now, but currently Joey, Matt and Mikayla are battling colds. Prayer for good health would be much appreciated.

Mikayla and Annalise just began playing volleyball this week with some deaf girls at a nearby church twice weekly. They are a lot of fun, and full of laughter. It was hard to say yes to the request for them to come play, because it cuts into our much needed lunchtime, and we are already pretty busy at MYC and Operation Rescue Ethiopia (ORE). On top of that, they could only go four times, in our last couple of weeks in Mekelle, and they weren't sure if hanging out with them would measure up to anything of importance. But after a couple discussions, they decided that just coming and playing would be fun, and hopefully they can share a little of Christ's love through their time together. Please pray that they do see Christ through them, and that the time together is beneficial for everyone.

We just wanted to update you on the 8 year old, HIV positive girl named Yordanos. Our prayers have been answered and her new living situation with a believer named Leti is working out amazingly. She's even put on 2 kilos this month!!! We couldn't be happier with how God's working everything out. Thank you for all your prayers!

So as you can see a lot has been going on since we last sent an update. We just want to make it clear that we are enjoying our time here, and are very busy, and that's why we struggle to find time to write these! Like everyone we have had our ups and downs but with God we have persevered through it all. We are praying that the other teams begin arriving back safely and we are looking forward to seeing you on the other side of the world! We hope everyone is doing well!

With lots of Love,
Annalise, Joey, Matt, Mikayla
(AKA Team Beyonce)

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