Category Archives: Some of Mine

Journals from some of my past mission trips.

Ghana 11.10

Three of us (Michelle, Mary, and myself), all attendees of Ginghamsburg Church, traveled to a small village in Ghana, West Africa called Noka.  This was the year that the CHE* program would officially begin, under the leadership of fellow Ghanaians.  Here’s our story of those seven days.  Italics are personal commentary – just for a little flavor.

Friday 26 November & Saturday 27 November – After passing through four airports in about twenty hours, we stood outside the Accra airport.  From there we rode to Ocheman Palace Hotel where we’d eat and sleep the next several days.  It sure wasn’t a palace, but it was clean, had running water, and on the occasions when electricity was working we even had AC, TV, and lights.  At lunch time, we met with Dai Hwan, Ema, and Reverend Gibson to discuss the schedule for the week.  All lived in Ghana, and they were the people I prayed would take the reins of directing CHE in the village of Noka.  Dai Hwan is in charge of developing a CHE internship in Ghana, Ema is the CHE director for all of Ghana, and Reverend Gibson is the pastor of the church in Noka.  Reverend Gibson had a well prepared schedule for the week so there was little to discuss.  They knew we were sleepy, so they left us early in the afternoon.   I fought the sandman until 4pm.  I woke up at 10pm, worked on my talk for church tomorrow, read, and then went back to sleep.

Sunday 28 November – Lots of children, several women, but not one man from the village attended church service.  We sang, prayed, and danced (not me) before I gave the sermon.  The ladies each gave a lesson to the children, and I talked about Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the Jerusalem walls.  At eleven, we took a short taxi ride to Reverend Gibson’s village to visit the church there.  The church was having a fund raising effort, and they pulled us into the program.   They invited us to pop a couple balloons, after which they explained we needed to give a donation for popping them.  I wasn’t real keen on that approach.  That evening the three of us debriefed on the past couple days.  The CHE concept was new to both ladies, so the concept of development versus relief was a primary discussion item.  All of us had inclinations to “fix” things for the people in Noka, an action that would have negative impact on the long-term progress of the village.

Monday 29 November – After breakfast and group devotions, we headed to Noka.  We immediately went to the home of the chief to request a meeting with the village council.  The chief wasn’t feeling well.  He said that he had “the fever”, malaria, but he would still try to gather the council members that afternoon.  From there we walked through the village to invite people to the village meeting tomorrow.  In our walk, we observed, asked questions, and basically tried to learn about the people of Noka.  We also met a man who made baskets, and we placed an order for seven.  Additionally, we placed an order for some wooden spoons from the village spoon maker.  After a lunch of bread, we met with the council regarding CHE.  Development, helping yourself, is a hard sell after people become used to handouts.  Several comments in the meeting insinuated that someone would have to give the village money in order for them to make any improvements.  We were back at the “palace” in time to have our debrief session before dinner.  One of the discussion points was the village’s great need for fresh water.  It is a hard thing to not “fix” what seems so obviously broken, but development emphasizes the development of people more than real estate.  We needed to let them take ownership for what they wanted to improve and how they would accomplish that improvement.

Tuesday 30 November – Today was the village meeting for Noka.  We planned to be there by 9:30am and start the meeting by 10:00am.  We didn’t get there until 9:50am and the meeting didn’t start until 11am!  About thirty people attended, plus most of the council including the Councilman – the person who represents Noka at the district council.  It was an excellent mix – men & women, young & old, well-dressed & not so well-dressed.  They formed a circle for better discussion.  The ladies entertained the children under a couple trees a short distance away.  I sat on the outside of the circle.  All discussion was in their tribal language, Twi, so I tried to stay alert by watching nonverbal language.  Ema led the discussion, using questions, skits and diagrams, keeping everyone involved.  He focused on two main topics: relief versus development and identification of the main problems in the village.  Out of several possible problems, the overwhelming favorite was to reopen the primary school.  It had been closed because the people in Noka had stopped paying the teacher’s salary.  The council confessed their poor leadership, and promised to improve.  One man voiced that he had moved into the village years ago, and was disappointed by the disconnection of the people from each other.  Those listening responded with concern and consideration.  Ema was encouraged by the honesty and humility shown by all the participants, especially the leaders.  Reverend Gibson was relieved.  He was concerned that people would label him as a failure if CHE did not go well, and he felt it was a great success today.  Back at the hotel, we had our debrief time.  Both ladies sensed great accomplishment in the meeting.  Out of habit, we lapsed into attitudes of “what they need to do is…”.  However, we at least caught ourselves doing it.

Wednesday 1 December – Isaac, a young man from Noka, joined us for breakfast this morning.  I asked him to pray for our meal.  His prayer was not what I expected, and it reminded me of the difference between our two worlds.  Isaac prayed that Jesus’ blood would purify the food from all harmful things and bring good health to our bodies – not disease.  I’ve never even thought of praying like that for any meal – ever.  I asked him what his mother had to say about the village meeting yesterday, and he replied, “She said that if a good thing comes to your house why would you not invite it in?”  After breakfast, we headed to three villages in the north.  They have been exposed to CHE for some time, and we wanted to see what those villages looked like.  The first village was like a poster child for the potential of CHE.  When CHE was started the school was a bunch of kids sitting under a tree.  They now have a cement block building with a metal roof.  Members of the village built thatch-roofed building first.  Then a church paid for bags of cement to be used for construction of the school building.  The village made all the blocks and built the school building.  Before CHE, students did not eat during school.  Now each child receives a free lunch.  The village rented a portion of farm land and planted a community farm.  Members of the village sow, cultivate, and harvest the crops.  The proceeds are used to pay for the children’s lunch.  Students are taught the basics as well as three languages: their tribal language, English, and French.  The second village had no school.  They did have a still to make palm wine.  The chief of this village is not ready to support CHE.  He is waiting for someone to give them money to start their development.  The third village is a bit separated from the road.  We had a thirty minute hike through the brush.  We had a warm welcome, and we were amazed at the quiet, attentive conduct of the children.  This is the school where I had my CTC/NHS photo taken.  We had a long bumpy ride home, but it was an excellent, educational day.  In our debrief time, we realized that we saw the results to accepting or rejecting CHE.  We also gave high praises to Dai Hwan and Ema for their dedication and wisdom.

Thursday 2 December – The head pastor, Apostle Odai, came to the hotel this morning.  Four others were with him, one of them being a girl from the UK.  She was going to give a lesson to the children in the village where we were going this morning.  Reverend Gibson wanted us to have a CHE meeting in a village near Noka.  He felt they would be an excellent match for CHE.  On the way to the village, Gibson, Ema, Dai Hwan and I discussed what the next step should be for Noka.  Gibson felt we should get money donated and build a school building.  Ema and I encouraged him to develop the people before developing the real estate.  The “gotta have money” mindset is tough to change.  We see that in the USA!  The meeting had several people in attendance and went well.  We drove back to Accra from there and stayed in the guest house of the church.  We ate supper at a resort on the ocean beach.  It makes the best pizza!  I think it’s because the chef makes the crust fresh for each pizza.  At our debrief it became apparent that the CHE concept was taking hold in our minds even though our hearts still wanted to “fix” stuff for them.  The disparity between the village and the city of Accra (just two hours drive) was enormous!  Each of us wondered what impact this trip would have on us once we returned to our normal routine in the USA.

Friday 3 December – Today we drove to the market.  Actually, I drove part way.  The clutch was giving Valerie, the Apostle’s wife, some trouble.  I was looking forward to meeting some of the people in the market that I had come to know over the years.  However, I was very disappointed with one of them, he calls himself Colin Powell.  He was different – rude, pushy, and wanting money.  The ladies surprised me by how quickly they finished their shopping.  We headed back to the guest house, but had more car trouble.  Valerie got so frustrated that she just turned off the car right in the road.  I jumped out and pushed her off to the side.  Odai took me to meet a missionary who is connected with the United Methodist Church.  On the way, he voiced his opinion about CHE and the need for money to have development.  I agreed, but I felt the money should follow action by the community, not precede it.  The missionary and her husband were wonderful to meet.  They were quite familiar with CHE, and even gave me contact in the USA that can help me find my way in the UM Church foreign missions hierarchy.  We headed back to the guest house where we showered, packed, and headed to the airport.  Our flight departed at 12:30am Saturday 4 December, and we arrived in Dayton at 12:30pm of that same day.  We crossed five time zones to accomplish that feat!

I consider this a near-perfect mission trip.  I am so elated to see the CHE process in excellent hands – Ghanaian hands.  Ema and Dai Hwan can visit Noka easily, offer insights, and be excellent resources.  I am eager to return next year and see the progress.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Some of Mine

Haiti 10.10

I went to Haiti to share the CHE concept with a couple communities.  (CHE focuses on enabling local communities to use local resources to solve current problems.)  We were located in a rural area among the mountains north of Port au Prince.  About a dozen people attended the “vision seminar”, and I felt the people had mixed responses.  Some were attentive, inquisitive, and engaged.  On the other extreme, one man fell asleep.  They were to respond to the local contact by February if they felt this process could be right for their communities and they wanted further information and help; I fully expect two or three people to respond.  My plans to present the material in another area of Haiti did not materialize because the pending hurricane prompted us to leave early.  I felt like the trip was worth the investment of time, energy, and money.

Those who suffer from insomnia or curiosity may want to keep reading for a more detailed account of the adventure.  I will attempt to report just facts.  But I added commentary in italics for just a little flavor.

Saturday 30 October – Departing Dayton’s airport at 3am and arriving at the Port au Prince (PaP) airport after dark made for a long day.  Collecting bags and getting through Haiti customs went surprisingly well, and we were quickly on our way to our “home” for the next several days.  We stayed in the guest house of an orphanage called “All God’s Children”.   Some of us rode there in the back of a truck which allowed us to experience the wonderful breeze as well as the not-so-wonderful rain.  The entrance into the orphanage required us to ascend an incline comparable to Mount Everest.  Maybe a little less.  The truck took two tries to reach the “summit”.  We quickly claimed our sleeping spots for a good night’s rest.  It was a nice place.  We had bunk beds, electric, and intermittent running water.  Some of the ladies had further amenities, but I’ll withhold my comments.  And as far as a good night’s rest, Haitian roosters do not wait for dawn to start crowing.

Sunday 31 October – The group went to two different places for church services.  I attended a church on the far side of a major river.  This was my first experience riding in a dugout canoe.  The river was filthy; our hosts warned us not to not touch the water.  However, it appeared that some of the local people did not seem as bothered about the water purity.  They were swimming, washing, and playing in the water.  I learned that the church building also served as a school building, thus allowing the children to attend a school without needing to cross the river.  We used the afternoon to relax, get to know each other, and even take a walk.  We had a wonderful meal, and finished the night with some entertainment.  The meal included meat, rice, and plenty of it.  That night we had fireworks.  I’m talking industrial-size stuff.  The highlight came when one misfired, made a u-turn back to earth, and crashed into the roof of the dorm.  Sparks landed around my feet.  It was awesome.

Monday 1 November – This was our first work day, so everybody had a specialized job.  I already explained what I did.  Others worked with the children, health care, construction, or running errands.  The evening offered more opportunity for getting to know each other.  One team member told several stories from their days as a student in my classroom and as an athlete when I was their coach.  Their memory recalled specifics that I could not recall…or didn’t want to recall.

Tuesday 2 November – Our team devotion time included a prayer request regarding the approaching hurricane.  If we planned to leave before the hurricane, it would have to be in the next day or two.  If we stayed, we may not get out of Haiti until next week.  Most of us had mixed feelings.  Factors we had to consider was safety, the completion of our mission, responsibilities at home, etc.  Most of us thought an early departure was the best action.  After breakfast, I gave another CHE training.  One young man thought the training was scheduled for Tuesday – a day late.  I was able to complete that training by noon.  I spent the afternoon basically looking for work to do.  I took some pictures, too.  That evening we went to visit a nearby community.  The group went in two cars, and our car didn’t depart in time to reach the community until after dark.  We never got out of the car.  However, the trip leader made sure we got to visit the community;  we went Wednesday afternoon.  It was an incredible visit.  The center of the community was an abandoned piece of equipment used in construction of a nearby dam.  It was kind of like walking on the set of the movie Mad Max.  I found it so interesting that the children seemed to be natural photo models.  Point a camera at them and they suddenly posed for you.  Of course they loved to see their picture afterward.

Wednesday 3 November – Several of us worked together on the same project.  We prepared and applied cement to some interior walls for a stucco look.  It was hot, dirty, and tiring.  And I was absolutely no good at applying the material to the wall.  Actually, I was pathetic.  I admire the ability of the Haitians to do hard physical labor in such conditions.  By lunch time, I was tired.  I took a little siesta during the heat of the day.  During the afternoon, we learned that our flights were changed to a Thursday morning departure in an effort to miss the hurricane.  The evening was spent getting packed and organized for the trip home.

Thursday 4 November – Actually, the departure from Haiti was pretty good.  We made all our connections and arrived home safely.  It was a short trip but a good experience.

Post Trip – We are still making efforts to follow-up on the training.  It has been difficult to communicate with those in Haiti, but we have no plans to give up.

Leave a comment

Filed under Some of Mine

Dominican Republic 05.10

I joined a student Task Force from my alma mater, Bethel College, on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic (DR).  I was a guinea pig.  This was a test to assess the possibility of adding alumni participants to future Task Forces.  Keep in mind that I’m 55 years old.  The next oldest person on the trip was 30.  Yeah, that’s what I said, too. 

Here’s the crew.

Our host, Students International (SI), was an organized, loving, flexible, and dedicated group.  Every Bethel student was assigned their own specific ministry site.  Each site had one to three Bethel students working there.  These sites included dentistry, art, medical assisting, pre-school, physical therapy, special education, and more.  The students spent each weekday at the same site working with an SI staff person who has been there for months, if not years.  This staff person considers this site as their portal into the “mission field” of that community.    Bethel’s students assisted with the work at that site.  They were challenged, encouraged, loved, and changed.  It was a good trip. 

Those who suffer from insomnia or curiosity that would kill a cat, may want to keep reading for below is a more detailed account from notes I recorded during the adventure.  I will attempt to report just facts.  But commentary will be shown in italics to add some flavor.

 

Monday 3 May

We traveled to O’Hare by bus, a ride that actually took longer than our first flight segment to Miami.  On the bus I met a young man who was part of another team heading to Africa.  We discovered that I knew his parents, and our mutual interest in missions launched a great discussion that allowed time to pass quickly.  I used the uneventful flights, O’Hare to Miami to DR, to learn the names of the team, read, and catch a nap.  At the Miami airport, we met a group from Grand Canyon University who would be with us at the same mission camp.   We quickly passed customs, were greeted by our hosts – Students International (SI), loaded our baggage, and traveled about forty-five minutes to where we would be staying for the next two weeks.  On the nighttime ride I was impressed with the DR’s great roads, availability of electricity, and clean roadsides.  It was clearly not like its neighbor, Haiti.  Guys and gals headed to separate bunkhouses, and we were quickly asleep.  Accommodations were awesome: hot & cold running water, bottles of water for drinking, and bunk beds with mattresses!  I was elated to get a bottom bunk allowing me easier mobility for the numerous toilet pilgrimages common among the elderly. 

Tuesday 4 May

With few exceptions, today being one of them, every weekday had a standard schedule:

  • 6:45 meet for a morning praise chorus  This was usually in Spanish.  There never seemed to be enough notes to accommodate all the words!
  • 6:50 read, meditate, and journal on a specific Bible reading  I found this time to be reflective, challenging and a great way to start the day.  The readings were well-selected; they threw some radical truth into my spiritual rut.
  • 7:30 reassemble for more singing
  • 7:45 a member of the SI team would present a teaching on the Bible reading we just studied on our own
  • 8:15 breakfast  Let me say that the meals were incredible.  The food was a good mix of US staples and DR traditional foods.  I liked some items better than others, but that’s true wherever I eat.  I never went hungry, and I was always delighted to see fresh fruit for every meal.  Delicious.   Oh.  Each day we packed our own lunches – sandwiches, fruit, cookies, and chips.
  • 8:55 leave camp for the work sites
  • 4:00 return to camp  I used this time for showers, hiking, naps, cleaning clothes, reading, etc. 
  • 6:00 dinner  The time after dinner was unique by the day, sometimes even starting before dinner.  I really liked how the variety of activities seemed to energize me in different ways.  Here’s a list of things we did – Bible study, eat with a local family, concert, learning DR dances, shopping and dinner in town, the story of SI in the DR, feet washing, team meetings, prayer walks, community evangelistic activities, “free” time than I often used for table games with some of the others, and a banquet on our last night in the DR.
  • 10:00 lights out  With only a couple of exceptions, the guys embraced this “curfew”.  Probably because we were all tired and the morning came pretty early.

Anyhow, today’s morning included orientation time, goal setting, and some team interaction.  We had a “picnic-style” lunch of hot dogs, potato salad, and jello in the dining hall.  (I loved the potato salad.  I didn’t find out until later that the diced “peppers” were really beets.  I thought I hated beets.)  Then each of us went to the site where we would be working for the next two weeks.  I was able to visit a different site each day allowing me to see the broad scope of work done by SI.  Today I went to the “social work” site.  This social work site focuses on the needs of women and children in a specific community, a community of squatters.  I had a stereotypical attitude that squatters were “bad” and needed to be removed from the land they “stole”.  Fortunately the owner of this land has a more Jesus-like attitude allowing them to stay, work, and raise families here.  It is a small community with chickens, children, and music easily moving across property lines.  I was so impressed by the SI staff that worked at the site.  We could hardly walk a dozen steps before we were stopped by yet another child or adult wanting to talk with them.  I felt a sense a community that I don’t notice in my town.  One lady invited us to visit with her while she killed, plucked, and cut-up a chicken.  Some in our group enjoyed this experience more than others.  It seemed so natural for this woman to invite strangers into her home as she prepared her evening meal.  But it was natural because of the relationship created by the SI staff over a period of months, perhaps years.  We returned to camp for dinner, some DR dance lessons, table games, and a good night’s sleep.  It rained, too.  It was rainy season, and the rains come often.  And they can come hard.  Unlike the storms in Ohio, these rains seldom contained wind.  They were just downpours that fell straight down sounding like thousands of BB’s attacking the metal roof of our bunk house.

Wednesday 5 May

 We left the camp at exactly 8:55am to go to our work sites.  Today I worked at the Special Education school – Genesis.  These students receive a wonderful mix of education, fun, and love.  Placed in classes according to ability and age, the students receive group as well as individual attention.  Classes had already started when I walked into my assigned classroom.  Even through the closed door I could hear the singing and joyful noise.  One smiling boy beat a toy xylophone without worrying about rhythm or notes, and a girl on the front row shook a tambourine for all she was worth.  The teacher didn’t start class until after some singing, a Bible story, and prayer.  She moved through the room talking to the students as she presented each one something appropriate to their ability and interest.  I joined a young man in building towers, ships, and houses with building blocks.  He was eager to teach me the Spanish words for the colors of the blocks, and together we counted how many high we could stack them.  Some could work on counting and making letters while others developed motor skills using play dough, blocks, or a ball.  As the morning advanced, the metal roof became a radiant heater as the clear sky gave free access to the tropical sun.  I was glad for lunch time so I could exit the oven.  However, everyone’s motor skills came to good use when classes were released to recess.  The school’s yard is a child’s dream.  Well-shaded swings, slides, and a climbing area were swarmed with laughing, yelling children.  Others kicked or threw balls in a large grassy area.  I quickly learned that if I stood still too long I became another object to be climbed.  I found kicking a ball or pushing a swing much less punishing.  Lunch time brought everyone together around some tables under the tree.  Of course the students were eager to return to the playground equipment, and teachers relaxed during the siesta time.  In the DR, noon to two was the unofficial time for lunch and relaxing – siesta.  I became quite the fan of siesta time, finding an afternoon nap quite refreshing.  However, the children were called back to the area where we ate lunch as siesta time came to an end.  Suddenly the whole school was gathered together singing songs, clapping, and laughing.  This sight was one of my favorite memories of the trip.  The afternoon passed quickly as the class worked on drawing letters, numbers, shapes, or whatever was appropriate for the child.  Soon the bus came to take us back to the camp.  One of our team leaders challenged us to be willing to receive from those who we came to serve.  I  needed to hear that challenge.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to receive, but that only denies others the joy of giving.

Thursday 6 May

Today I was off to the men’s sports site, which, when translated means baseball – the DR passion.  I was concerned with two things.  First, the blazing sun could cook me like a piece of bacon.  Second, I never played baseball, and my shoulder wouldn’t let me throw a ball even if I wanted to.  We arrived at a nice ball diamond in the city, and young boys were already waiting for us.  Quickly we were on the field doing stretching exercising.  But first I slathered large quantities of sun block all over my exposed body.  Then I explained to Raul, the site leader, that I would be taking photos instead of playing.  All was right with the world.  After a thorough warm up and some skill building drills, they played a practice game.  We broke for a quick lunch (no siesta!) then hiked to a river for some swimming.  The kids had a great time, we learned a great game called blocko, and Raul called everyone together and had one of the Bethel students share a spiritual lesson.  I was extremely impressed with Raul’s passion for the spiritual growth of the boys.  It seemed that at every opportunity he was sharing about being a follower of Jesus.  We ate dinner as the guests of a family in the community.  The food was awesome.  One guy had four plates of food.  Then Raul taught us the DR’s #1 table game – dominos.  We rode back to camp and called it a day.

Friday 7 May

I went back to the community of squatters and spent the day at a pre-school for children who lived there.  I’m not wired for elementary-aged children, so this was a stretch.  Friday’s are half days, and the morning went quickly – filled with the review of numbers, alphabet, and the calendar.  Then small groups of students worked together on jigsaw puzzles.  “Worked together” might be a little misleading.  Let’s just say that some of the children showed an assertive quality.  For example I was helping a group with their puzzle and, even though my Spanish isn’t very good, I’m pretty sure a four-year-old told me to get lost.  The children left about noon, and the teachers prepared a “yard sale” for the ladies of the community.  When the sale was open for customers, the women literally ran and grabbed whatever they could get their hands on.  It reminded me of Black Friday at Best Buy.  Oh, yeah.  Out of respect for the culture, I had a siesta.  On the way back to camp, we stopped at the dental site and observed them in action.  They spent the week at one elementary school checking teeth, teaching children how and why to brush, and pulling teeth when necessary.  After dinner we had a concert by the worship leader of a local church.  I’m not real demonstrative, but I kind of got caught up in the experience.  I think I actually raised my hands above my shoulders!

Saturday 8 May

This morning we left for an excursion.  We hiked down a pretty steep path into a large canyon complete with a sizable waterfall.  It was a nice time to relax, talk, swim, climb some rocks, and catch some sun.  Some of the girls had a harrowing incident with a menacing two-inch crab.  Since the hike in was downhill, getting out took some effort.  It was good to reach the top.  We then went into town for some souvenir shopping.  We had a couple hardcore shoppers in the group; I don’t have their stamina.  My favorite store was the grocery.  Then we went to a local restaurant for dinner with ice cream for dessert.  Delicious.   We got back to camp well after dark, and retired for the evening.

Sunday 9 May

I went to the shower and found that the hot water wasn’t working.  It was an exhilarating experience.  We went to a local church and enjoyed passionate singing followed by a good sermon titled “Kill Sin Or It Will Kill You”.  There were several missionaries in attendance at this church.  One of them translated the sermon into English.  Very helpful for me.  People played cards, slept, read, or talked after we had a light lunch at the camp.  I played cards and lost every game.  The group met to pray for the city, after which we had a team meeting to renew our spirit, encourage each other, and review our purpose.  We met in groups of two or three for prayer.  After dinner we heard the camp director tell the story of how SI developed to its current status in the DR.

Monday 10 May

The group from Grand Canyon University has several members who became sick.  It seems to be a stomach virus.  The clinic (hospital) is checking them over.  Today one of the staff members is going to drive the two leaders of the Bethel team and myself to visit several different sites: the construction team was building a composting latrine, two pre-schools, two social work sites, physical therapy, and the art leader who gives individual instruction.  Each was unique and impressive in what is being accomplished.  In our travel, we stopped at a roadside stand where the staff member bought us some “homemade” juice.  The lady who ran the stand got her start through a small-business loan from SI.  I told God that I was drinking it in faith that I wouldn’t get seriously ill.  We returned to camp, I took a hike up the mountain behind the camp.  I also had some evidence of potential intestinal trouble.  After dinner SI had a “servant challenge”.  We were given twenty minutes to meet with God one-on-one about whatever we needed discuss.  I was impressed that I needed to do two things:  1) live up to my “redeemed” value, and 2) see other’s “redeemed” value and not their “cash value”.  This comes from a coupon’s fine-print “cash value”.  Then we were to get in groups of two or three and wash each others’ feet.  Some of the students had never done anything like this.  It was an extremely moving experience.  My fears came true.  During the night I had the toilet trots.  I’m hoping it is just a brief episode.

Tuesday 11 May

I found out that three students from GCU were admitted to the hospital with at least one student on an IV.  They all had a virus that attacked the digestive tract.  I didn’t need to go to the hospital, but I did start taking Cipro.  I went back to the men’s sports site.  It had rained through the night, so the infield had pools of water.  The kids rooted through the trash for plastic cups so we could remove the water one cup at a time.  This was a good lesson for me.  Little things done over time can have big results.  We had a brief game, a quick lunch, and headed off to a game against another community’s ball team.  The game wasn’t close, but it was played with good sportsmanship.  At dinner that night I learned that the GCU students were going to be released soon.   I asked about the costs.  The total costs for meds, doctors, nursing care, hospital stay, and etc. was under $700 for all three.  Think that one over.  We had a team meeting.  It was to discuss what was grabbing our attention on the trip.  It was a good processing time.  I was struck by the fact that the USA is blessed by having options and cursed by the options we choose.  Also, I miss conversation with people my age.

Wednesday 12 May

The speaker for devotions was not able to come this morning so the staff member declared it “brag on God” morning.  People could stand up and give a few words of praise for God.  It bothered me that so few spoke up.  Why do we rationalize reasons to not publicly “brag on God”?  This morning I went to the art site.  They set up a table under a tree, and children showed up to do crafts and art.  The response was great.  The kids were real serious and proud about their work.  In the afternoon I rode along with the micro-loan director.  He had to run to his apartment and invited me in.  It was an awesome second floor apartment in town.  I attended his weekly meeting with the ladies who are repaying loans.  I didn’t understand everything, but I was really impressed with what I understood.  He collects money on a weekly basis.  This allows him to have a weekly spiritual lesson and give encouragement.  One of the ladies is an artist.  I bought one of her paintings for my “souvenir” of the trip.  The GCU and Bethel groups were encouraged to sign up for one of two outreach groups: volleyball or prayer walk.  I was on the prayer walk, and walked with two other people from Bethel.  It was a deeply moving time, and I enjoyed talking about it with one guy after we got back to the camp.  Pretty much everyone turned in early.

Thursday 13 May

I went to a pre-school in a different community.  This school had fewer students but more space than the school I visited Friday, so it had some different dynamics.  I was still impressed with what is being taught.  One teacher had us hide the children’s homework out on the playground.  I never saw kids so excited about getting homework!  What a great idea.  We had the beloved siesta from 12:45 to about 2pm then finished the afternoon with class work.  After dinner the Bethel group had their final team debrief.  It was good to hear people share about their experiences during the past two weeks.  There are some really good team members in this group.  It makes me feel good about the future.

Friday 14 May

The morning started with a shower followed by a double rainbow.  Awesome!  I returned to the same school as I visited yesterday.  I had planned to go to the medical assisting site, but they were doing PAP smears all day.  I thought I’d opt out.  Being Friday, school was only a half day.  The format was different, too.  Singing, exercises, recess, and then a craft, we made puppets, and the day was over.  We ate at the one teacher’s house then drove into town for ice cream.  We returned to the camp and prepared for a banquet scheduled for that evening.  We ate a great meal then moved to another shelter.  There the site leaders said something about each student who worked at their site.  It was a great evening.  We returned to the camp and some of the Dominicans came to play basketball.   I had the good sense to play euchre.  My basketball days are gone.

Saturday 15 May

Up at 4:45am, and lifting off DR soil at a little after 8am.  The transfer at Miami was a little cumbersome.  We were all on an elevator and it froze.  We were probably only stuck a few minutes, but it sure seemed longer.  Arrival at Chicago was on time, and we had all of our luggage!  The bus ride back to Bethel seemed long, but that’s probably because we were eager to get home.  And home we arrived – safe and sound, but hopefully not the same.

1 Comment

Filed under Some of Mine

Ghana 11.09

This journal describes a trip to Noka, a village in Ghana, West Africa from November 6 – 15, 2009.  For a background on the history with Noka, click on “Changed For The World” tab at the top of this blog.  To see pictures related to Noka, click on “David Phipps photos” at the top of the right margin.  Print like this is general descriptions.  Print like this indicates my personal views and feelings.

 

Friday 6 November – Saturday 7 November

Eight of us were leaving Dayton airport for a seven-day mission trip in Ghana.  We were to have nine people, but one member contracted pneumonia which was immediately was followed by pleurisy.  That left myself and seven ladies.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I was nervous to say the least.  We only had one suitcase with a weight issue, and that was quickly remedied by moving some items to an underweight bag.  Our flights all went very smoothly.  We had a good flight schedule with plenty of time for transfers.  Personally, I can’t remember starting a trip so tired.  I was asleep before the plane from of Detroit left the ground.  We breezed through customs after some delay in getting all our bags.  Someone had removed them from the pick-up location.  One member of our group found them stacked on the other side of the room.  We were greeted outside the Accra airport by some young girls from the hosting church who were dressed up in native apparel.  We drove straight to the church’s very nice guesthouse where we immediately went to bed.  I had never been to the guesthouse, and I was pleasantly surprised.  It had individual bathrooms, a fan, tiled floor, and even A/C!   Another group from Greenville, Ohio was there at the same time, so I briefly visited with them.  I laid awake about an hour then fell asleep.

 

Sunday 8 November

We planned to skip the 6am service but would attend both the 8:30am and 10:30am services.  That meant a 7am breakfast where we ate with the Greenville group.  The Greenville group was doing some medical and construction projects in locations different from Noka.  However I learned that they would be staying in the same “hotel” as us later in the week.  In fact, I would be sharing a room with one of the men on the team.  Between services, everyone was involved in some type of teaching: children, youth, or adults.  Church services were unusual and challenging experiences for some of the team.  This congregation is much more demonstrative than what we were used to at our church.  And there was an attention to appearances that was greatly different than our church.  Everyone, both groups, traveled to “Pizza Hut” for some of the best pizza I have ever eaten.  The pizza is literally made in a hut.  And I think it is the dough that I love.  It is all handmade – none of that premade cardboard-like stuff at the pizza chains!  Delicious.    We made the journey to our “hotel” over some rugged roads.  The roads have been under construction for three years.  Progress is so slow.  We grouped by roommates and went to our rooms to unpack.  We were dropped off at the hotel, and our transportation returned to the capital city, Accra.  Our team was alone.  I kind of felt abandoned.  I was pretty concerned about what tomorrow held.  How do we get to Noka?  Are they prepared for us?  What about food?  I met with all the team to explain that I planned to travel to Noka by myself to see if our arrival was expected and preparations made.  I slept pretty well considering the jet lag, heat, and unknowns.

 

Monday 9 November

After a light breakfast, I asked the cook to use her phone to call our host pastor, Apostle Odai.  He assured me that the local pastor would greet us at our hotel and two cars would arrive to take us to Noka.  It all happened as he said.  I was so relieved to see the local pastor, Reverend Gibson.  He is a great guy and great to work with.  Our project for this trip was to give a physical exam to all the children in Noka.  The results of these exams would be used to accomplish our trip purpose on our last day in Noka.  I’ll explain that in full in my Friday 13 November journal entry.  Children were waiting when we arrived so we quickly set up and began the medical exams.  We were extremely busy through 2pm.  The count for that day exceeded 150 children.  It was a long day.  I was really impressed by how the team worked together and maintained positive attitudes in spite of the heat and hard work.  We had a team debrief after we cleaned up and ate.  Topics of concern ranged from how well the day went to whether they should buy local attire “off the rack” or have it tailor-made.  Personally, I was not accustomed to the quantity of words spoken. 

 

Tuesday 10 November

Breakfast was good, and it was followed by a good time of team devotions.  Each member shared their insights on some verses about “faith”.  The feelings shared reached into hearts and there was open, personal sharing with tears.  Each morning we used the same format for devotions but with a different theme.  We asked the cars to drop us off at the edge of Noka so we could walk through the village and interact with the people.  This walk took longer than I expected, but I’m glad we did it.  The team really seemed interested in the people and the village.  Children and parents were waiting on us so we continued with the exams as soon as everyone was ready.  Today we added another item to our schedule.  Two of the nurses began teaching a couple villager members how to wash and bandage wounds.  It seemed that most of the team understood and accepted the concept of CHE and how CHE impacted what we did.  We did not want to do anything to or for the members of the village.  We wanted to work with them so they could continue the work after we left.  We were back to the hotel by 3pm so we could clean up and rest.  We were to go to a revival service tonight!  The revival service wasn’t like the ones I grew up attending.  The music was loud – like hurt your ears and shake the ground loud.  There was dancing, demon deliverance, and screaming preachers.  Each night two people from our team spoke.  Some gave a testimony and some gave a “sermon”.  The Greenville group joined us tonight, and my roomie moved in.  Both of us slept like rocks.

Wednesday 11 November

After breakfast and team devotions we headed back to Noka.  While the ladies gave a clinic to the children about brushing their teeth, I met with ten members of the local church.  We had a discussion/Bible study on the importance of discipleship.  As with last year’s study, they were great students.  They really enjoyed discussion and responded to what scripture taught.  That afternoon we walked through the village to meet more people and invite them to the revival service.  Almost everyone we met said that they were coming to the service that evening.  But they didn’t.  They were being polite by saying what they thought we wanted to hear.  I was able to talk with a man who made spoons to sell in the market.  I order one from him.  And I played a quick game of TT (table tennis).  I lost.  Our car driver took us to an area where bamboo was growing.  One member of the team is in love with bamboo; she was smiling ear-to-ear.  We prepared gift bags for the village council and the church leadership, ate dinner, and headed off the revival again.  Apostle Odai insisted that we attend the revival services, but I only agreed to attend two of the four evenings.  They are a great experience, but they are also very exhausting. 

Thursday 12 November

After breakfast and team devotions we headed back to Noka.  Again children were waiting on us, so the ladies began right away.  I had been asked to repeat yesterday’s lesson for people who did not attend Wednesday.  I had picked up a head cold so I had a really sore throat and was tired.  The lesson went okay, but I did not add much enthusiasm to our time.  Lunch allowed me to try a meat pie, pear “beer”, and a fresh-picked orange.  All of them were great!  The spoon maker that I met yesterday brought me a spoon with his name burned into it.  I paid his standard price, about seventy-five cents.  We walked the village for a short time and then went back to the hotel to shower and relax before dinner.  Except for just a couple times, we always had electric and running water in the hotel.  This has not been the experience in the past.  It was a blessing.  In fact, the village of Noka now has electricity.  Progress is coming…slowly!  We were not attending a revival service tonight so we had a team debrief.  Most of the talk turned to critiquing the habits, customs, and actions of the local people.  As I listened, I found myself being judgmental of the others’ comments.  Talk about a hypocrite!  I shared with the team on the first night that this has been the most difficult trip I have ever led.  Yet I believe I’m better for it.  I’m glad for the lessons learned, and I pray that I won’t need to relearn them.  Being judgmental is one of them.

 

Friday 13 November  (Yikes!)

Today is the day.  We meet with the village council this morning.  The whole purpose of the trip occurs today.  Taking the information gathered from the physical exams, the nurses on the team determined three health problems that occurred in numerous children.  We intend to present these findings to the village council and propose possible solutions.  The mission trip will be a success if they respond positively and accept responsibility for implementing the solutions.  But before this meeting, we need to go to the market to buy head scarves.  The ladies wanted to have the local women show them how to tie the scarves.  Then the ladies would wear the scarves to the revival services tonight.  I underestimated the importance of shopping on this trip.  Eleven members of the council were there as well as a number of people from Noka.  One of the nurses shared three positive things seen in the children: respectful, well nourished, and happy & secure.  Then she shared three things that caused concern: wounds on the feet, infected skin wounds, and breathing difficulties.  We paused here to allow the council to respond.  They asked great questions, requested further explanation, and were very engaged.  Things were going great.  But the village chief could not attend.  I was concerned if any kind of decisions or commitment could be reached.  The nurse then did a great job explaining three things that could be done to help prevent these conditions.  As she spoke, another nurse wrote bullet points on poster-size paper for all to see.  We left all our information with them.  Some of the council members can speak English, and finding someone in the village to read English would not be a problem.  Again, there was great interaction and focus.  One of the methods of prevention was to have the children wear shoes.  A father who lived in the village stood and explained that he was barely able to earn enough money to provide food for his family.  He could not afford shoes.  Several people nodded their heads in agreement.  I assumed that getting shoes for the children would not be something the village would try to do.  A rather long discussion followed, in their tribal language.  Bits and pieces were interpreted for us.  The summary is this – A council member said that the village should start a shoe fund to help buy shoes for children.  Many agreed.  Another man stood and said that he did not want this to be just talk.  He pulled five Cedis (about $3.50 – a little over a day’s wage) from his pocket and said he was making the first contribution to the fund.  A basket was passed around, a treasurer and overseer appointed, and the fund was instantly operational.  I was ecstatic!  This response exceeded my dreams.  Truly Noka showed us that they were a village of action.  A council member said that they would do the things needed to help their children.  “When you return, we will show you healthier children.”  I then showed the council a world map and then a map of Ghana.  They seemed fascinated by both.  I then explained that I am asking the members of the church in Noka to make a map of their village.  The map will be very useful as the village plans their development and as the church plans their CHE program of visiting families in the village.  A long discussion followed, it was good as far as I could tell, and we concluded the meeting by presenting gifts to the leaders of the church and village.  The gifts were mainly personal hygiene items like soap, toothpaste, lotions, etc.  We went back to the hotel for lunch and packing.  Four ladies went back to Noka to visit and look around some more.  Immediately after the revival we drove back to the capital of Ghana, Accra.  We went to the guest house and went to sleep.   I don’t think I set my alarm!

 

Saturday 14 November

We went to the market from 11:30am to 4:00pm.  The market is quite an experience.  The vendors are quite aggressive, and can be irritating after a couple hours of tugging, yelling, and shoving things in your face.  It was kind of like a feeding frenzy.  One lady ran out of money and ended up trading her watch for something.  There was a lot of money spent.  On the way back to the guesthouse, we stopped at a hardware store to buy machetes and at a snack stand to buy crackers.  The crackers were packaged in red, white, and blue wrapping with a picture of President Obama on the front.  They were called “Obama Biscuits”.    We had a smooth check-in and departure at the airport.

Sunday 15 November

The flights all went without a hitch.  The team arrived in what seemed to be good spirits; it’s always good to get home.  And I headed to Bob Evans for my traditional re-entry meal of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and ice-cold water.

4 Comments

Filed under Some of Mine

Ethiopia 07.09

Friday and Saturday, July 24 & 25

Three ladies and two men.  Four middle-aged and a twenty-something.  Two were from families of ten children.  Three grew up on farms.  One was married.  Two had never been married.  What a mix!  This group of five was bound for Ethiopia.

The purpose of our trip was to visit, investigate, and evaluate the efforts of Life In Abundance (LIA) projects that needed ongoing funding.  We wanted to see what needs were present and how well those needs are being met.  Personally, I was eager to discover how LIA conducted their program.  How do they recruit churches, train locals, practice accountability, and enable locals to be self-sustaining?

We departed on Friday afternoon 24 July from Dayton, Ohio.  Our connections through Detroit and Amsterdam were tight.  I told to the team to pray for our transfers because our alternative wasn’t good.  Flights to Ethiopia only occurred every other day.  Missing a flight would make us forty-eight hours late and add the expense of two nights’ lodging.  I love prayer.  We made all our connections! 

I met some people of special interest on the plane.  Bill and Missy worked for Campus Crusade for Christ, and were good friends with one of my former students, Chris Sarver.   I also met Matt.  He and his wife had started an orphanage in Ethiopia that was operated by locals.  They visited the facility around four times a year.  On this trip, however, they had a special interest.  They were picking up two boys to adopt as their own sons.

Sunday 26 July

Our jet lag was minimal after a pretty good night’s sleep at the LIA guest house in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.  I was awakened by the Muslim early-morning call to prayer.  Which I wouldn’t mind so much if they would just let it go after a call or two, but it seems that a broadcast of the entire prayer service over the public addresP1010664s system is deemed necessary.  We attended a protestant service at Covenant Life, a church of over 500.  I was amazed by the devotion of the people to God, the great interaction between the pastor and his people, and how quickly the two and a half hours went by.  After a great lunch at the guest house, we had a riding tour of the town.  The National Cathedral was nice, but also disappointing.  The atmosphere seemed religious but not necessarily spiritual.  In facP1010688t, buried there was Haile Selassie, who is revered by the Rastafarians as a messiah.  Africa’s largest open-air market is in Ghana.  I was interested in walking through the market, but wasn’t allowed.  I was told that it was too dangerous.  I didn’t push the issue.  At one point we paused during the tour for a traditional coffee ceremony.  I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but I participated.  The coffee was strong and bitter; actually I only drank a couple swallows.  At the ceremony a young man, Daveet, told how, as a young man, he had stolen a box of New Testaments to sell.  He kept one, and years later that New Testament was how he learned about Jesus and being his disciple.  The last place we stopped was a modern shopping area.  It was much like a USA shopping center except it was more compact and was almost entirely constructed of stone.  From there we walked back to the guest house, about a forty-five minute walk.  It was fun to have small children run up to us and want to shake our hands.  However, they seemed to ignore one member of our group.  She finally figured out why.  She is African-American!  Us white people were the peculiar ones.

We had the country director join us for dinner, after which he gave his spiritual story and gave an account of his journey with LIA.

Monday 27 July

We joined the LIA staff this morning.  They fast and pray every Monday morning from 9am to 1pm.  We stayed for about thirty minutes and then left for Debrebrhan.  It was a three-hour drive through the country.  It was beautiful.  The landscape was green and rolling.  Scattered on the hill sides were men plowing with teams of oxen, shepherds with their flocks, and fields of crops.  The road was good and bad, and we had to share it with cattle, sheep, donkeys, and goats.  Our final destination was a very undeveloped town.  But our hotel was nice – hot running water, sometimes electric, a TV (that didn’t work), and rubber slippers.  Pretty much the entire country of Ethiopia is on an electric sharing plan.  Half of an area has electricity for about a day while the other segment has no electricity.  The next day they switch.  People just take it as normal.  Kind of like we accept the fact that gas prices fly around multiple times a day.  The hotel’s restaurant was the only place we ate.  The first meal I ordered was hamburgers – I was curious how they treated American food.  The burgers were nearly burned, but at least I knew they were cooked through!

We visited a church that has several holistic programs and dreams of new programs.  for example, girls’ soccer has no teams even though there is interest by some girls in the town.  So the church plans to start a league.   The church was started by a dozen people under the age of thirty-five.  Attendance has greatly grown, yet still eighty percent of the people are under age thirty-five.  Less than three percent of the people in the town are Protestant believers.  Most are Orthodox, and most Orthodox members are old – like me.  I had a fun ride in a horse-drawn cart, and I stopped at a group of boys to watch them play marbles.  They invited me to join, and they promptly beat me.

Tuesday 28 July

The leadership from yesterday’s church, Full Gospel Church (FGC), took us visit the homes of people who are receiving assistance from the church.  They included:

  • a mother who was loaned some money to prepare food for people to “take out” at lunch.P1010780
  • a mother with two children who needed some child support.  She asked Jesus to accept her as his disciple while we were there.
  • a mother of five children who asked us not to publically pray for her because her landlord was from the Ethiopian Orthodox church.  She was afraid he would hear about the Protestant Christians praying for her and throw her out of the house.
  • a mother who took in her adult daughter who had a child.  This house was the only one we visited with a cement floor.  I believe all other houses had a dirt floor.  Some homes and churches laid pieces of linoleum on the dirt to lessen the dust.
  • a blind boy who was being raised by his mentally ill mother.  The mother locked the boy in the house while she was gone all day.  He was severely delayed in both his intellectual and physical abilities.  I stepped away from the group and asked God, “I am overwhelmed, Lord.  And I am only seeing a few of the needy people in this country, let alone this world.  What do you want from me?  How do we fix this?”  And I sensed a quick, personal reply, “One person at a time.”
  • a lame girl who is staying with a kind neighbor.  The girl is twenty-five years old and will be entering grade three.  She was unable to attend school until recently because her lack of mobility kept her from reaching the building.  Oh how I wanted to have the faith to let God heal her.  But I’m afraid my ego would become too inflated if God used in me in such a way.

We traveled back to the hotel for lunch, passing a construction crew literally building a road by hand.  Using sledges, wedges, and human strength they were breaking and removing solid rock that was about ten feet deep. 

After lunch, we then visited five HIV-positive shut-ins:

  • a twenty-something girl whose husband left her, her baby died, and she is partially paralyzed.  She was the most hopeless and resentful of all we visited.
  • a lady who was a member of FGC.  She was bedfast because she was too weak to move.
  • a single mother of one who lived in a building of which one room was used to house sheep.  Actually the mother had other children, but she knew she could not take care of them so she gave them away.  Such giving away of children is common in Ethiopia.
  • and two other ladies who are regularly cared for by this church.

After today I was overwhelmed with the idea of needing to do something.

Wednesday 29 July

P1010851We started the day’s activities by traveling to a market area.  The leadership of FGC wanted to purchase some supplies.  I got out of the van to stretch and was approached by a lady who asked me to marry her.  I declined.  FGC purchased sheets, blankets, and flooring for some of the people we visited yesterday.  The flooring is very thin linoleum that is unrolled onto the dirt floor.   While walking between houses, we met a young blind boy who sang us a song.  His strong and melodious voice seemed out of place in the midst of the poverty.  Out of place but uplifting.  Today was the first day that I noticed how Ethiopians said their version of “Yeah”.  They would take an audible, brief, strong inhale.  It forms no word or utterance, but it carries the same meaning throughout the country – “Yeah”,  “Yes”, or “I understand”.

We briefly painted some of a church building.  It was cut short because FGC wanted us to visit a church that is active in relationships with Compassion International’s child sponsorship program as well as CHE’s holistic service.  As I reflect, it seems as if the painting project was manufactured for us.   We worked while the FGC people watched, the time slot wasn’t nearly long enough to complete the project, and the actual project seemed unnecessary.  I wonder if this was an example of locals trying to give the foreigners what they think we want – a sense of accomplishment.

In the evening we went to someone’s home for a traditional coffee ceremony.  Their daughter sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with great flair and pride.  She was wonderfully funny and lady-like.  We wanted to teach her a song, but her English was limited.  I thought of a song from my childhood days in Sunday School.  It only had a few words that we just would repeat.  Plus it was designed to sing in rounds while using motions.  We stood and sat and sang and laughed and clapped.  Everybody was a good sport, and we had a good time.  However, this was the first day that I sensed some group tension.  Some of our politeness wasn’t coming as easily.  Nothing serious, we were just getting tired, some were sick, and all the adjustments of living conditions combined to make us a little irritable.

Thursday 30 July

We were on the road by eight in the morning.  Our group was joined by five other people on our journey back to Addis Ababa.  The five were composed of our driver, two LIA representatives, and two pastors from FGC in Debrebrhan.  It was crowded!  We had to lash our luggage to the top of the vehicle, but the driver wrapped everything in a tarp and it stayed dry.  I had wanted to get some pictures of men plowing by oxen in the countryside.  However, it was a nationally-recognized day-of-rest from physical labor so no one was in the field.  We arrived back at the guest house for a wonderful meal that included vegetables and salad.  It was interesting to me that the restaurant in Debrebrhan had no fresh vegetables, or fruit, on the menu.  The team missed their fruits and veggies!  We used the afternoon for rest, walks, reading and even some table games.  Someone in the group said that the slower pace allowed them to think and gave them time to breathe.  I liked that imagery.  My neighbors in Ohio are from Ethiopia, so before I left on this trip I asked them if they wanted to send anything to, or receive anything from, family in Ethiopia.  They did.  They sent some pictures and notes and were to receive some spices.  Well, this was the day that my neighbor’s family came to the guest house to exchange items.  We offered them some coffee and cake, and we had a nice visit.  I must say that the spices were different than I expected.  I was given almost twenty pounds of spices!  I thought US customs might have a problem with it, but they didn’t.  That evening the LIA staff for Ethiopia stopped by to thank us for coming.  They presented gifts then took us to dinner at a restaurant where traditional dances and songs were performed as authentic Ethiopian meals were served.  The dances were incredible!  The dances were the hardest cardio workout ever.  It bothered me that they paid for these things; they have so little money.  It was just another example of over-the-top hospitality to keep the USA people happy.

Friday 31 July

The city of Addis Ababa is home to six million people.  Fifty thousand of those people are homeless P1010916children.  We visited an organization that is trying to make a dent in this tragedy.  The office of the organization, Mercado, was well off the main street.  I would not have even considered walking there by myself.  People who have nothing, have nothing to lose.  The Mercado project is approved by the government.  It doesn’t receive any government money, but the government approval helps trim some red tape.  They work with around fifty young men age sixteen and older who were living on the street.  The boys earn increasing privileges by showing responsibility and maturity.  The goal is for them to have a place to live and a job to earn enough money to pay for rent, food, clothing, and maybe a little extra.  We talked with several young men and then went to see a couple of their homes.  Their home is called a peer house.  Four boys live in a ten-by-ten room.  The boys were proud of their little room with a dirt floor and no window.  It wasn’t much, but it was theirs.  Again I saw that the world is changed one person at a time.

After a couple hours of relaxation, we visited a little church called Antioch Church.  They started with just a vision of a pre-school for children three to six years of age who could not afford to attend public school.  They now have two small metal buildings with dirt floors and no windows.  Volunteers usually teach the children, but on the day of our visit the children were teaching each other.  The church built two outside shower stalls for the children, P1010952but they learned that renting the stalls for the public to bath generates a little income.

Next we went to ALERT, a hospital that specializes in helping those with leprosy.  It offers long-term care for those in advanced stages of the disease.  Those with leprosy spin their own thread, loom their own cloth, and do hand-stitched embroidery.  We went to the gift shop.  Their work was incredible, beautiful, and inexpensive.  We all said that we wanted to return the next day for a final shopping fling.

Saturday 1 August

I started the morning with a wonderfully hot shower.  The electric was on so the water could heat.  We returned to ALERT for some final shopping.  We also visited some tourist areas looking for bargains.  Near the tourist area is a place sponsored by HOPE International that is dedicated to providing meals for those who need such help.  HOPE serves around one thousand meals per day, six days a week.  I really enjoyed seeing the joy on the faces of the people who were serving.  We continued to stroll the tourist traps.  In one area a lady “patrolled” around us.  She carried long tube which she used to hit the children who would come up begging.

Back at the guest house I rested, walked through some of the town, read, packed, and took another hot shower.  It was wonderful.  We made it through the airport pretty well and boarded the plane on time – 11:00pm.

Sunday 2 August

The team was in good spirits.  I think we were all ready to be home.  All of us agreed that it was a great experience, but so is returning home.  Our departure from Ethiopia’s airport was delayed because the one lady was too ill to travel.  That gave us one hour between landing in Amsterdam and taking off for Detroit.  It was very close, but we walked up to the door of the ramp with a couple minutes to spare.  God made that happen.  Again we had a delayed departure due to a sick passenger.  I never really thought about that until typing this right now.  What are the chances of that?  The sky cleared as we flew over Greenland.  It was incredibly beautiful!  It was mountain peak after mountain peak of shining white snow.  I sat beside Paula.  She was a medical missionary in Tanzania for years.  She was going to see one of her grandchildren for the first time.  She talked pretty much nonstop.  I finally pulled out my headphones.  We had about one hour from the time we landed to the time we were to be at the gate of our next flight.  We had to find our baggage, get through customs, and find our gate.  Impossible.  Once again, it happened.  We were all safe and sound in Dayton Ohio.  One of our bags didn’t arrive, but that was a minor issue.  We were all safe and sound, and all the richer for the experience.

Leave a comment

Filed under Some of Mine