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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.

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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.

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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.

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Israel 06.09

This is my account of my trip to Israel.  Standard type is my attempt to just report what happened.  Print like this, italic, is my personal reflections.  Enjoy.

Sunday 7 June     The pre-trip preparation meetings started tonight and concluded Thursday night.  I arrived at the office of Life In Messiah about 2pm – plenty early.  There were no official greeters so I just kind of nosed around until I found a bunk bed that I would use the next five nights.  I thought that would give us all some time to know each other before we really got to know each other.

After the team of eight gathered, I realized that of the five males, I was the ancient one by ten to thirty years.  I wondered how we would gel.  The three ladies were closer to me in age, but there was that Mars-Venus thing to contend with.  But at least I didn’t read any red flags on anyone.

After a great meal, we did a team evaluation/building event and then called it a night.  I was tired.

Monday 8 June   After an “on your own” breakfast, we gathered for our daily “focus meeting”.  This meeting time was to be implemented every day we were together over the next month.  It consisted mainly of the trip leader sharing how some selection of the Bible impressed him.  However, once the trip began, we used a booklet prepared for teams doing exactly what we were doing – traveling to a foreign country as ambassadors of Jesus.  It gave some guided reading and discussion questions.  I really liked the discussions – to a point.  But more on that later.

The rest of the day consisted of experts explaining how to share our beliefs, speak Hebrew, and apply portions of scripture in light of our trip.  At the end of the day I was tired and stiff.  I had a fairly good run Sunday, and I had sit about all of Monday.  My body wanted some movement.

Tuesday 9 June   Today went much the same as Monday.  However, we took a field trip to Chicago where we visited a Jewish bookstore and a school for boys created by a specific Jewish sect.  Both were pretty interesting.  Later I worked on how I could communicate my beliefs to a Jewish person in an understandable and inoffensive way.

Wednesday 10 June   During our morning language lessons, we learned that “Doo Doo”, pronounced like what a dog does by the curb, was a common nickname for “David”.  That seemed to please everyone more than me.  There was a lot of “Doo Doo” thrown around for the next few weeks.  Our afternoon field trip took us to a Hillel house.  It’s kind of like an oasis for Jewish college students.  We were warmly welcomed, and the man in charge was candid with his believes and feelings.

We then walked on the University of Chicago campus.  Each of us was to engage a person in conversation and look for an opportunity to appropriately share about our faith in Jesus.  I met Mitch.  He was really cordial, and, as conversation continued, became more open about his faith and frustrations with how he lived out his faith.  We parted on a mutually appreciative note.

Thursday 11 June   Today ended our lectures.  I cannot express how antsy, sleepy, and overwhelmed I became during hour-after-hour of lecture.  It was all good material.  I was just not a good listener.  Also, I have not shared how wonderfully we ate.  The food was good and there was a lot of it!  In any case, we depart tomorrow and the team seemed good: Lin, Cathy (logistics leader), Juanita, Todd, James, Israel (our leader), and me – Doo Doo.

Friday 12 and Saturday 13 June (the separation seems a little blurry)      We flew to NY, and the plane ride from there to Israel was about ten hours long.  I get real restless on long flights so I like get up frequently to stretch.  An aisle seat works best for me.  Six of the eight team members had aisle seats.  Doo Doo was in the center of the plane.  James, nicknamed King James, sat beside me.  He was eager to share his faith in a style he called “the way of the master”.  Its foundational act was to convince the person listening that they were horrible, sinful people who needed God.  He had a basic talk with several tracts and optional analogies to aid him.  I watched him talk to most of the people seated around him.  None of them seemed too interested in professing their wickedness before arriving in Israel.  I admired his zeal yet couldn’t help but wonder what this method did to people’s stereotype of Christians.

We arrived to a nearly vacant airport.  It was Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath; few, if any, Jews were traveling today.  We breezed through customs where they willing avoided stamping my passport due to my potential travel in Muslim countries.  Security was sparse and relaxed compared to what I was expecting.  Maybe I just didn’t see it.  We quickly obtained our rental van and headed to the Messianic Jewish church service in Bersheeva. 

Keep in mind that I had been awake nearly twenty-nine hours.  I saw no way I was going to stay awake.  But I became quite alert when I learned that this congregation had been stormed by over one-hundred Orthodox Jews just a few weeks ago.  The Jews had volleyed curses and spit on the members and thrown the pastor in the baptistery.  Other Jewish Believers across Israel offered concern and support.  The act was reported to the police, but there is little hope anything will be done.  It was a wonderful service, and I especially enjoyed meeting the people after the church service.

The streets of the town reminded me of a B&W western.  The wind blew dust through the deserted streets and made ghostly noises as it passed through the tree branches.  Everyone was indoors; it was Shabbat.  However, when dusk fell, about 9:30pm, the streets, stores, and restaurants were bustling.  We enjoyed a great meal, and I fell asleep just after 11pm on a mat thrown on the floor of the Bersheeva church building.

Sunday 14 June   I slept until 10am – oh blessed rest.  The morning started with a team member being upset and wanting to go home.  I didn’t envy the trip leader as attempts were made to iron things out, which they were. We went grocery shopping because we planned to stay at this location for a few days.  We offered Bibles in various languages to people in a public park as well as on the street.  I was amazed how eagerly they accepted, even asked, for Bibles.  I later discovered that many were displaced Christians from countries in Africa.  That night we ate in a diner that had been bombed by terrorists – twice.  I crashed onto my pad on the floor at 12:30am.

Monday 15 June   I slept until 7:30am, but by 8:30am I had diarrhea. I stayed behind, close to the toilet.  I typed, cleared my e-mail, sent e-mails back home, napped, read, studied some scripture relevant to where I was, and did a little stretching and exercise.  I also purged my body of all offending material.  I felt much better.

Tuesday 16 June   We traveled quite a bit today.  We visited Masada, where the Jewish zealots committed suicide rather than be captured.  We traveled a bit further and tried the buoyancy of the Dead Sea (incredible).  However, the combination of the high concentration of salts in the water and my over-used orifice (remember yesterday’s problem?) caused some very uncomfortable burning that distracted from the pleasure of the experience.  Oh, did I mention that it was 104oF?  Nearby we stopped at the area where David hid in caves as Saul was chasing him.  There were three pools of cool water, each fed by a waterfall.  A young Israeli woman, with a gun, was there to keep a protective eye on the children playing there.  She had served her mandatory years in the military and was now working for a private security firm.  I went to sleep tonight, my birthday, late and tired.

Wednesday 17 June   We left early, packed for a three-day visit to Eilat, the most southern town in Israel, on the Red Sea.  We passed by some remarkable natural wonders.  We also stopped by the barbed wire at the Egyptian border.  The Egyptian guard yelled “How are you?” from his tower.  I replied in kind.  It reminded me that there are good people on both sides of manmade divisions.  We also stopped at David Ben Gurion’s home on a Negev-desert kibbutz.  We arrived at our home, a youth hostel, before dark.

Thursday 18 June   We were on the beach by 9am to hand out literature about a Christian meeting that Friday night.  (They have the Friday night meeting as an introduction to the Saturday morning worship service.)  We spent the remainder of the day working on some leased property that will be used by the Messianic congregation of Eilat.  Late in the day we went to the Red Sea for some snorkeling in the wonderfully clear, cool, fish-filled water.  It was so refreshing.

Friday 19 June   We were working on the property by 9am.  The leader was so pleased with our progress that he paid for our lunch at a steak house!  It started with a vodka starter, went through an appetizer, meat, sides, and finished with dessert.  I was stuffed and happy.  We went back to work and stopped at 7pm, in time for the service at 7:30pm.  There were about one-hundred people there, and the service was translated into five languages.  Sudan refugees were there, and Chinese believers, who work on cruise ships, commonly attend.  After the service there is a lot of interaction along with free food for everyone.   I really enjoyed my time there.

Saturday 20 June   We were on the road by 6:30am because we were to be in Tel Aviv by 10:30am for that congregation’s worship.  We just made it.  Members in attendance were mainly Russian Christians and Jewish believers.  Service ended by 1:30, and we went out to eat with the pastor (ice cream after!), and then drove to a beach on the Mediterranean Sea near the Gaza Strip.  It was after midnight by the time we drove back to Bersheeva, ate, and started some laundry.

Sunday 21 June   After finishing laundry, repacking for a five-day adventure, eating breakfast, and attending to some personal hygiene duties that were overdue, we were on the road for the Galilee area.  On the way, we stopped at Caesarea, the summer retreat of Herod, where Paul gave his defense to King Agrippa, Bernice, and Herod.  It was an impressive place – not so much for what it is but because of what it was.

We then went to Karmiel where we will serve that congregation for two days.  Karmiel is a planned city surrounded by Arab towns.  It has abundant parks, beautifully unique buildings, and financial assistance to Jewish settlers.  The believers there are planting a new congregation in this town, and I again experienced the stealth practices of being a Jewish believer.  Revealing one’s belief in Jesus as Messiah can cause hardship on the person, family, and the entire congregation.  The ladies on our team stayed overnight with members of the congregation while the men slept on the floor in the church building.  (The guys had AC!)

Monday 22 June   The church building is a remodeled car service station, and it looks beautiful.  I sense that Karmiel is a wealthier city.  Expectations of food, dress, and buildings can exceed middleclass Americans.  We continued remodeling work by drywall repair, window work, painting, and cleaning.  That evening we were taken to an overlook area of the city and watched the sunset over the Mediterranean.  On the way home I learned about the differences between Calvinism and Armenian.  I took some ten question test, and I am decidedly one of the two, but I don’t remember which one.

Tuesday 23 June    We finished our construction work about 2:30pm and then had a meal together with the people of the congregation.  What a wonderful thing to have “family” all over the world.  We went to an operational kibbutz, enjoyed the swimming pool, and learned a lot about how a kibbutz works.  The concept of common ownership is quite literal.  Dirty laundry is dropped off and clean laundry is picked up at a central location.  You do not always get the same clothes back that you take in, just the same size.  Purchases are voted on.  If you want a new toaster, then you take it to the group for a vote on whether you get it.  Children did not sleep in their parents’ home; they stayed in group homes assigned by age.  Meals were in a common dining room.  The arrangement allows everyone to know each other quite well.  We had a picnic lunch where I was able to talk to Rebecca, a daughter of the youth pastor.  The family moved there from Brazil, a country she described as unsafe, and all of them learned Hebrew after they moved.  She said not knowing Hebrew made school pretty difficult – academically and socially.

Wednesday 24 June  We left at 7am and traveled to Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.  We settled into a rent-by-the-day apartment with one bathroom.  I slept on a couch in the living room – not the spot for solitude, peace, and rest.  Quickly we took off to see some of the famous spots in this area:  1) the likely location of the Sermon on the Mount, 2) Capernaum – Simon Peter’s home town and its Synagogue where Jesus surely worshiped, and 3) various overlooks around the Sea of Galilee including one by the Syrian border.  (landmine signs and all)  Back at the apartment, we took some time to rest, read, and talk.  The talk turned to whether babies and mentally handicapped people can go to heaven.  A couple of the young men were firm that those groups were hell-bound.  Grace wasn’t their strength.  It was interesting how some people get all excited about arguing over things that are not our decision.  Tonight we walked and prayed through the neighborhood where we will be distributing literature.

Thursday 25 June   This morning we again walked the neighborhood where we will distribute literature in order to count mailboxes thus allowing us to know the number of handouts to prepare.  After lunch we distributed material and talked to people who were interested in conversation.  I fell asleep when I got back- slept until 7pm.  We went to the city center where we put literature on cars, magnets on posts, and tried conversations with people.  I talked with a Jewish believer from Canada who was looking for a congregation.  He commented, “The Orthodox don’t much like me being Christian.”  I got back to my living room sofa about midnight.

Friday 26 June   We were up at 3:45am.  Yep.  We drove to Hyppos, in the Golan Heights, that had been a town of Decapolis.  Situated on top of a mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee, it was destroyed by an earthquake and never rebuilt.  It is currently having an “open excavation” which allows the public access to the site during the process.  As the sun rose, we sat on the foundation of the original temple praying and singing.  Then we strolled the ruins, experiencing the mosaic tile, cisterns, a marble alter, columns standing and fallen, a stone chair, and more.  We had a picnic breakfast then headed back – for a nap!  I awoke for lunch, then wrote in my journal, read, and gave a guy a haircut.  After another awesome meal, we went out for dessert and got back about 1am.

Saturday 27 June   We joined the congregation in Tiberius.  I met Mrs. Leedy, who had hosted the congregation in her home when it first started.  I met Ron & Edi who, each evening before they go to sleep, recall the people they met that day and pray for them.  This is also the congregation where the pastor called Obama a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  After lunch, we went to a busy intersection and handed out literature.  I had a wonderful encounter with an Arab man, but it’s too long to recount.

Sunday 28 June   After door-to-door distribution in a kibbutz, we spent some time on a beach of the Sea of Galilee.  Of all the beaches, the one on the Mediterranean was the best, but the Red Sea by far had the best water – cool and clear.  After we went back to the apartment, we began a discussion on what a disciple of Jesus looks like.  Interesting.  Then we did another walk through the neighborhood where we distributed literature praying for fruit from the effort.

Monday 29 June   The topic for today’s focus meeting was “complaining”.  It really hit me how wrong it is to complain because I don’t have anything to complain about!  We had a chance to talk to a man working as a missionary in Israel.  He shared his vision, his love for serving God, the lack of congregational support, and his sense of being alone.  It broke my heart.  It was a long ride back to Bersheeva, and it gave me time to think about his situation.  I believe thousands of missionaries all over the world feel the same.  We created mounds of dirty clothes and went to sleep.

Tuesday 30 June   We walked into town today.  It was good to just relax and see what it’s like around town.  We also stopped at the place that some consider being the spot of Abraham’s well.  Then we went to the beach to hand out literature.   I decided to try to have conversations rather than just hand out stuff.  It didn’t go that well, I don’t think.  They were much more secular than I thought.  God just isn’t of interest to them.

Wednesday 1 July   This morning was pretty relaxed.  We packed for our trip to Jerusalem, organized group items, and sent some e-mails.  After a light lunch, I went into town again.  This time I had some guys yell “Goy!” – a term that identifies me as a white person.  I just ignored them because nothing good was going to come from walking over to them.  That evening we drove to Tel Aviv for a Bible study.  On the way we stopped at a BBQ like I’ve never seen before – we didn’t use plates, we ate on the table covering!  I loved it.  The Bible study was mostly Russian-speakers who were trying to escape drug addiction and prostitution.  Pretty impressive.

Thursday 2 July   We arrived at our lodging about 2pm.  It is a hostel just inside the Jappa gate on the west side of Jerusalem near Herod’s palace.  We visited the Israel museum, the Holocaust museum, viewed Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, and walked a Jewish cemetery.  The Holocaust museum was the single most-moving event on my trip. I was entranced by videos showing the treatment of the Jewish people by Christians through various time periods.  I was shocked and embarrassed and ashamed.  When I asked a museum guide how she was impacted by working there.  “It bothered me at first,” she said, “but unfortunately it doesn’t bother me at all now.”  Then I walked into the room of names.  Volume after volume of papers listing the victims of the Holocaust lined the walls.  It was overwhelming.

Friday 3 July   We walked the streets of the town seeing the excavated, ancient streets, Solomon’s wall, the Western (Wailing) wall, the Garden of Damascus, and the Muslim quarter.  We ate a 4pm lunch at a Lebanese restaurant then wandered in the Jewish quarter.  We went back to the hostel.  Some people went to sleep, but I decided to go see the Western Wall at night.  Awesome.  We ate dinner about 9:30pm then went to bed.

Saturday 4 July   By 9am we were dressed, packed, had breakfast and headed for the airport.  It was unbelievable trying to get out of Israel.  We answered questions and went through an interview with the director of security before we could go to our gate.  It was good to get home.  As soon as I could I went to a pizza place.  It was great!

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