Impromptu Visits

It is very African to just “drop in” on your neighbors and friends.  The other day our neighbors knocked on our door and asked to come to their daughter’s birthday party…right now…

I do remember our neighbor mentioning her daughter’s birthday before and agreeing to come, but wasn’t sure when it was.  It’s likely she told me, but I probably just nodded as if I understood every word she was saying.  I need to learn that gets me in trouble sometimes!

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Sweet Reunion

I have not been embraced so hard by someone as Mama.  She brought tears to my eyes as she planted kisses on each of my cheeks and poured blessings on me by her words.

I met this sweet family 4 years ago when I was here in the Horn.  Our paths crossed only by the grace of our Father, and He has continued to provide for and bless them.

It started with a curious little girl.  She was abandoned by her mother at Mama’s doorstep when she was only 6 months old.  Despite their poverty and her old age, Mama trusted her Father and took this baby in as her own. When the little girl was old enough to run and climb, she would venture down the dirt road to a foreigner’s house, climb up the mango tree that stood by their gate, and giggle as she peered over the concrete walls.  Unable to resist her charm and personality, the foreign couple welcomed her in and soon fell in love with her and her spirit.  They began paying for her to attend private school and invited her for sleep overs and play dates.  Somewhere along the way, I don’t even remember how the connection happened, but I was asked to tutor this little girl in English.  Fresh out of grad school, I gladly excepted the challenge and was eager to practice my new skills.

After tutoring, I would walk the little girl home.  When we approached the sheep that stood outside of their tin gate, I was warmly welcomed by an old lady.  Her age was unknown, but the years she lived had worn on her skin.  I don’t think a day went by that she didn’t ask me in for tea.

In their small, mud house, lived Mama, her daughter and son-in-law, their two little children, and the girl who they took in 6 years before.  They had no tin on their roof to protect them from the rainy season, and the baby boy was constantly sick.  Running in and out were multiple chickens, sheep, and a few cats.   Often I would watch as the baby boy peed on the dirt floor and then played in the mud it made.  But as poor as they were, they always offered me tea and dry injera with home made spice.  My sweet mother who always wants to help everyone, volunteered to cover their house with tin to keep the rains from coming in.  Mama gave praise to God as it arrived at her door.

3 1/2 years ago

3 1/2 years ago

Seeing evidence that this family was a family of peace, I began going weekly to their house just to visit, bringing my national friend who is a *follower along with me.  As we began telling stories from the *book, they knew what they were hearing was truth and became followers themselves.

The last time I saw them, we both cried as I said goodbye.  She as always, uttered blessings upon me and my family.  I thought about them often while I was in America, and my national friend would sometimes email me to tell me they were doing well.

Seeing her for the first time since being back will always be one of my favorite memories here.  As always, she was giving thanks to our Father and forever grateful for the tin that my mother had put on her house (which kept their house from sweeping away this past year when the rainy season brought floods).  I almost didn’t recognize their house.  The kids were school age now and had their best clothes on, rather than one of their two torn and tattered outfits they owned before.  The only animal that roamed the house was one single chicken and the single small room they gathered in before, now had tile, painted walls, and furniture.  They prepared for us a spread of stews, bread, coffee with sugar, home-brew, and soft drinks.

However, I was missing the little girl who initially stole my heart.  She was adopted a couple of years ago by the foreign couple and now lives in America.  We were blessed as we looked through pictures they had sent and were able to translate some letters for them.  As much as this family loved her, they let her go to have a better life.  But it was evident in their eyes and words how much they missed her and truly thought of her as a member of their family.

I look forward to sharing more stories and photos about this lovely family soon!

The family now...

The family now…

With Esther trying to wiggle her way down
With Esther trying to wiggle her way down

One Thing I Love

One thing (among many) that I love about living in the Horn, is that we are able to provide good employment for many people.  This also means that for us personally, our household has become more than just myself, Carrie, and Esther.  We have 3 guards that work at our house during the night hours.  They are Mr. Z, “Happy”, and “Charlie”.  Happy and Charlie also work as guards for Grace Centre.  It is a blessing to have someone looking after us and our home, but it is also a blessing to build up a relationship with these men.  It is fun to sit out in our yard at night sipping on tea, star gazing, and getting to know each other.  Please pr*y that they will be open to sp*ritual conversations and become followers.

"Z", "Miracle", and Esther reading a book

“Z”, “Miracle”, and Esther reading a book

During the day time, we have two amazing ladies working at our house.  We do not get to see them very much, but we do have lunch with them each day.  “Sunny” has been with us since day one and has worked at Grace Centre for several years.  We just recently hired Ms. A.  Ms. A also has a 5 year old boy, “Miracle”, who spends the day at our house.  Please pray for these ladies and for Miracle.  They will also be looking after Esther during the days.  Sunny is already a believer, but she struggles to connect with others and grow deeper in her sp*ritual life.  We are pr*ying that she will mature and become a great sp*ritual leader among women here.

I do not love seeing the poverty that surrounds us each day, but it amazes me that $50 a month is a decent living for people here.  It amazes me that an average salary is between $50 to $100 a month.  And it amazes me that people live so contently with so little.  All that to say, I love that we can provide a good job and a good salary to so many.

The Grace Centre where we are working employs about 135 people.  I just recently helped with the monthly dispersement of salaries.  For less than $8000 USD a month, we are providing a good job for 135 locals.  Wow!  I found that to be really awesome.

The most amazing part though, is that these workers are doing work that is invaluable.  They are cooking food for about 700 people a day, they are watching over 200 children so that their mothers are able to go out and work because we provide free day care.  They are running a clinic that provides medical care for hundreds, and they care for about 30 kids who have no family.

Ultimately, the whole idea of the Grace Centre is to care for the needs of abandoned women and children in this community.  It has been incredible to see each day, how so many lives are impacted by what happens here.  It is a joy for us to be able to serve alongside of the directors here as we continue to work out kinks in the programs and even establish new ones.  It is a joy to work with the local leaders here and witness their passion for the work they do.  The local leaders at the center all have a passion to put the Word and pr*yer first, and they all have a passion to teach the Word.  Please pray for us as we work to build strong sp*ritual communities, and that we will all proclaim the good news with wisdom in order to see lasting life change in the lives of many.

The Dark Room

As I wrote the other day, I am continuing to come to reality with the hard way of life many people here have, and the darkness around us.  

There was nothing in particularly different about this day.  We woke up as normal, ate breakfast, and set out for Grace for morning fellowship and pr*yer.  As I was comfortably sipping my morning cup of freshly roasted coffee, I had no idea what sp*ritual warfare we would face, even by lunchtime.  

There are many women and children that Grace supports, depending on their individual needs at any given time.  About 2 months ago, a woman came to the door pregnant and in need.  Her baby is now one month old.  During labor, this woman was having seizure after seizure and was struck with severe post-pardom depression, saying she did not want her baby.  The beautiful thing about Grace, is that when a woman says she does not want her child, they do not give up on her being able to care for and love her child.  So the baby went in to temporary care, and when the mother was better she happily took her baby home and has been caring for her since.  Until…the other day when she was very sick again and went back in to the hospital.  Every day has been an up and down.  She wants to see her baby, then she doesn’t.  The past few days she has been feeling better and looking forward to going home soon.  

Feeling compelled by the S*rit on this particular morning following pr*yer, I asked our psychologist/counselor when she was going to the hospital to see this lady, and if I could go with her.  I wasn’t sure what I was planning on saying, but I was sure that the Father was leading me to go with an open heart to be able share and encourage her to embrace her child and to embrace the responsibility of being a mother.  As we walked into the hospital compound, I was asking the Father to help have a willing and open heart, to be obedient and bold, and to be so filled and led by the Sp*rit that it would be impossible to ignore Him.  

I had been to the hospital before, so what I saw on the surface was not shocking.  Rooms crowded with sick people; filthy, drab, concrete walls and floors; few nurses; people being sent home to die.  But what I was about to experience when I entered this lady’s room was far beyond anything I felt prepared for.  Thankfully I felt the Sp*rit strong within me, and was with our dear social worker who has an amazing heart, full of love, patience, and compassion.  

The particular room we were visiting was the “pysch” room, which should have been more than enough clue that this visit would be nothing less than interesting. We had been there only long enough to great the woman and to find a seat, before we were approached another patient sharing the same room.   This man’s eyes were wide and blank.  They reminded me almost of a blind person’s eyes…they are open, but you know they are not seeing anything.  He had a stiff posture and everything about him was monotone.  Looking directly at me, he said we were disturbing him and that we needed to leave.  

After my friend the social worker had a few calm words with him, she decided it best if we left the room.  So we walked around the corner to where we could talk with the woman through the window that was by her bedside.  The man again approached and asked us to leave.  My friend, who’s name means “Life”, was upset that we were unable to pr*y for this lady and visit with her.  I knew immediately that this was warfare and the enemy was getting in the way of what the work of the Sp*rit.  

We decided it would be good for the woman to have some fresh her anyways, and invited her outside to the courtyard with us.  While we were waiting outside, my eye was caught by another patient who, come to find out, was sharing the room.  There was nothing special about him…just a quiet, countryside farmer who had come to town to be treated at the hospital.  With this man, was a priest and another lady who ended up being his brother and sister.    

What was happening to this man did not occur to me right away, as I was trying to process what had just previously happened.  After a few moments, I felt rage well up inside me, sadness and distress overwhelm me, and yet an even stronger burning in my heart (not from the spicy food) to act and do something.  All of these emotions and feelings I believe came out one at a time as I watched this priest hit the man with a stick, kick him, and beat him down with words.  

First, my anger came out.  I stared firmly at the priest (which does not intimidate Esther, so I doubt if it did much to intimidate the priest) and proclaimed in baby Amharic, “What are you doing?  This man is not a horse.  He is a man.  He is a creation of God.  Why are you hitting him?”  The priest backed off for a moment, though I have no recollection of what his face showed.  

As I watched him again hit the man, the Sp*rit overcame me and I stepped over to the man, knelt down, a told the man I wanted to pr*y with him.  Crossing myself, eyes open to know better what to pr*y, and hands held open to the sky, I pr*yed over him.  I don’t even remember what words came out of my mouth.  Maybe some were Amharic, some were English, but I could hear that the crowd around us had silenced until the end, when I heard whispers of “Gobez nat” (She is good).  I knew in my heart that I was incapable of that act a part from being guided by our higher power this day, but was affirmed by the crowds reaction that I had acted out of the Sp*rit rather than sheer impulse.  I pr*yed in my heart that my actions would not make circumstances more harsh for this man.  

Finally, looking around for my friend and the woman we were there to see, I couldn’t find them.  Confused, I walked back in to the room and was embraced by my weeping sister.  We held each other and wept at such appalling treatment.  Being approached again by the previous, seemingly possessed man, we said our quick goodbyes and walked hand in hand, sobbing down the hallway.   

Following the lead of my friend, who I trusted to know what to do next, she approached the nurses and boldly walked back into that dark room to reveal the truth about what no one else dared to report.  Surprisingly, five or so hospital staff entered the room to hear the story, and threatened to have the priest thrown in jail if he beat the man again.  

I knew I would dare go back to visit, as I assumed I would be ran out and was not sure it would be the wisest decision.  Although in my heart I knew it was not us that caused a scene, it was the perspective in my mind that we had stirred up trouble.  However, when my friend, “Life”, asked me to go again with her this morning, I found myself willingly saying, “Of course.”  She was eager to check on the man and see what became of him overnight.  

Today was a different day.  It was quiet and calm.  It felt much more peaceful.  Our friend was awake with a smile on her face and eager to go home.  She was talkative and lucid and recounted details to us of the man being beaten again last night when there were fewer staff.  The priest was gone when we got there.  The man was sitting up in bed and eating a snack.  And the empty-eyed man was apologizing for the previous day.  My sweet friend sat with both of these men, hearing parts of their stories. The man who was beaten said he remembered us, but for the most part did not make sense when he was speaking.  The other man who had urged us to leave, told of how his step-mother beat him and cause him great mental disturbance.  His father who cares for him, he is very close with, and asked my friend the psychologist if she could come back later to meet him.  Without hesitating, she agreed to come back on her own time after work.  

There was no doubt the enemy was at work, but as I asked the Father after we left the hospital the first day, to use the events to his glory and to be every present in that room, and to drive out all evil sp*rits.  It was so dark that day, I wasn’t sure what was going to become of it when we returned.  But the Father is faithful.  He opened hearts, he turned a dark place to a place of peace, and he opened up opportunities for relationships.  As always, it is HE who prevails.  

Reality Check

I have heard the stories of children with special needs and how they are treated and “forgotten” (see link below) in third world countries.  I’ve known it was a reality for a long time, but it hit me when I encountered a mild instance of these children being neglected and forgotten.

I visited one of the few public school for children with special needs the other day.  The bus came at 8:10 to pick up the 6 children, myself, and other caregivers from Grace.  After we had stopped to pick up several other students along the way, there were about 20 of us crammed in to a 10 passenger van.  That’s how we role here.

Esther hanging out with the Grace children who attend the school for special needs. “You Are Lord” is a little boy who is deaf, and getting ready to recieve hearing aids for the first time in a couple of weeks. “My Portion” is a young girl with CP who has been with Grace for more than 5 years now. She is always smiling and lights up when she sees Esther.

Although school starts at 8:30 and ends around 11:30, but we did not arrive until 9:30 due to having to stop and pay school fees and get fingerprinted (really…???) which must be done once a month.  When we arrived, the school compound was what I had expected.  Several, very basic, concrete buildings with old wooden desks and concrete floors.  I could tell a foreigner had probably come and painted some murals on the sides of the buildings to make the school seem very colorful.

About 25 students in all with special needs (completely segregated from the “normal” children), split in to two separate classrooms with no rhyme or reason.  Not according to ability, disability, age, gender, whatever…just right down the middle.  I was actually somewhat surprised at the supplies they did have; colored paper, glitter, markers, glue, crayons, legos, plastic dishes, puzzles, and a few other toys.  I’m sure they were all donated at some point.

"Blessing" (a boy with CP) and his caregiver "Jerusalem"

“Blessing” (a boy with CP) and his caregiver “Jerusalem”

Several times this day, I was hit by the reality that there is no understanding of individualized needs, no understanding that just because you can’t talk doesn’t mean you can’t communicate, no understanding that just because you have some sort of disability, you can’t be functional.

First, I was with a local volunteer who was part of the first class to graduate with a degree in special education.  There had been 57 graduates in all of this country, and few if any can find jobs…because none exist.  Our friends Tim and Cheryl are doing an amazing job advocating for these “forgotten” children and working on having more schools built and training more people and families.

What struck me next was working with a nonverbal student from Grace.  He is not non-verbal for any cognitive or neurological reason (to my knowledge) but has severe apraxia (motor-planning disorder) along with very high tone in much of his face and low tone in his jaw and tongue.  I can’t tell if he doesn’t know basic concepts such as colors and numbers because of cognitive function, or simply because he has never been taught.  Either way, he seems to understand directions and is a very joyful, loving child.  I was helping him copy simple shapes, which had been written on the board for him to copy.  He was writing in notebook that had been used by someone else.  I could tell by the neat handwriting in half of the book.  He had to write on pages that were only half full, or maybe one side only had been used.  This boy could barely draw a straight line, but after about 20 minutes, was able to trace up and down lines and curved lines. When showing the volunteer, the volunteer replied, “Good job.  But this is meaningless.  You need to copy those shapes.”  I promptly explained to the volunteer that what he was asking of this boy at this time was unacceptable and he had to first learn simple lines before he could trace shapes.  “You’re right,” was the unexpected, but hoped for response that I was given.

This little boy is always happy, despite his severe apraxia and oral-motor difficulties which keep him from being able to speak.  Here, he is working hard to even blow a whistle.

This little boy is always happy, despite his severe apraxia and oral-motor difficulties which keep him from being able to speak. Here, he is working hard to even blow a whistle.

After this child had moved on to another activity with most of the other students, I observed two girls who had been given no activity to do.  One girl was wandering around the classroom aimlessly (this girl had an individual caregiver mind you), and another girl was just sitting in a desk above the other children who were huddled around craft supplies, sitting on the floor.  I asked the volunteer why this girl was just sitting with nothing to do.  He asked the teacher and translated back, “Because she doesn’t have a notebook.”    I brought to their attention that the other children were not using their notebooks, so why could she not participate in what they were doing.  I shouldn’t have asked…the response I got was even more ignorant than the first, and quite ironic given that this was a “special needs” program.  “She has a mental disability.”  I had to stop and process what I had actually just heard.  Furious, I said, “Then why is she paying school fees?  She can just sit at home and do the same thing without having to pay!”

This girl was quite a joy to work with.  She had a permanent smile on her face and kept giving me bashful glances as we interacted.  After some time, it was evident that she could learn.  She began to choose from one of two colors, and was able to stack blocks given time to do so.  She seemed quite functional and could wash her hands and feed herself when prompted.  I know this, because the last 45 minutes of their short school day was spent having a snack of shy (spiced tea) and bread.

I was reminded of many things this day.  It’s funny how there can be very obvious reminders all around me, but the Father has to use specific events to get me to notice them.  First, I was reminded that I am living in a third world country, and the standards, education, and awareness of many issues here is not the same as developed worlds.

I was overwhelmed by the reality that the physical and emotional needs are beyond what any single person can meet in a lifetime, but was reminded that helping even just one child for one hour was worth something.  I was reminded that the example we set matters, as I watched the Grace caregivers step up and begin to interact more with our children.  However, as I observed the many amulets meant to ward off evil spirits hanging around the necks of these children, I was reminded at how much greater the spiritual needs of this country are.  I was reminded that this work which is too big for me, is not too big for the Father.  That the Creator, who knit each of these children together, is big enough to penetrate mental and physical disabilities.  He is big enough to speak to their spirits and to save their souls.  I was reminded that when I feel like I can do nothing to help because of language barriers, cognitive barriers, and even physical barriers, I can talk to the Father.  I was reminded of my sinful pride and anger and need of grace and mercy.

***Please visit our friends’ page to read more stories about some of the children I have mentioned and to hear what the Father has led theis family to do.