Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A New Perspective - Africa 2012

Many of you have inquired about my recent trip to Africa, and I’ve mainly answered all of you with, “I’m not ready to talk about it.” I realize that may sound silly, but I’m so appreciative of the patience and space you all have allowed me. It’s really a very difficult thing to put into words – more difficult than I ever imagined, especially as much as I like to talk!
The truth is, I’m not ready to talk about it. Writing is somewhat easier, so that’s why I'm choosing to blog.  Some of you are going to know what I’m talking about. Some of you will pretend to know, but my hope is that every single one of you will try to understand and see through my eyes.

All my life I’ve had a passion for Africa. I never knew why, but now I do. This trip completely broke me – of all the worldly material things we all have, of my views of this society, but mainly of my perspective. To try to describe what I saw, heard, felt, and smelled so you can understand my brokenness is a near impossible feat. Each day while there, I didn’t think my heart could break anymore, and each day it was. I was angry, joyful, sad, reflective. We mainly worked with widows and orphans through several different ministries. We spent time loving them, hugging them, telling them they were beautiful, fellowshipping with them, and worshiping with them. I can assure that you have never really been prayed for until you’ve been prayed over by a roomful of Ethiopian women. We couldn’t understand a word they said, but we felt exactly what they were praying. It was incredibly powerful and overwhelmingly humbling.

These people have nothing, and when I say nothing, I mean it. Living in shacks, or mud huts, they sleep on the ground and they eat what they can find. Their clothes and shoes (if they have them) are out of size, torn, filthy, and faded. They go hungry. They drink water that could kill them. They watch their children suffer and die from something as simple as diarrhea. They use “squatty potties”(holes in the ground) for bathrooms. They have HIV. They have diseases that could be easily treated if they had access to medical care. In spite of all of this, they LOVE. And they love big, never complaining. They are the most joyful and happy people I have ever met in my life. For having so little in regards to material things, they have so much in their hearts. They are hospitable, thankful, grateful. They would literally give you the shirt off their back, and be honored to do so. They tell you how much they love you, how much they appreciate you just being there, that you are beautiful. They love you for WHO you are, not what you are. You all know how girlie I am, and I didn’t use a hairbrush once or put on makeup. You think they noticed or criticized? Not a chance.

I feel as though my heart is still there, and it’s been a constant struggle since I’ve returned to go back to my “normal” life. I never want to forget the emotion I feel now. The heartache, joy, and humbling. Holding the hand of a leper, waking up to thousands of mosquitos, hugging and kissing a child on the forehead that has HIV, working with a widowed mother with nothing to feed her children, seeing a 2 month old baby asleep on the ground at home alone because her mother is trying to work in order to care for her, sleeping under a mosquito net – these are all things I never thought I would do or see. But I have. And I love the way it has made me ache. I can’t wait to go back (hopefully next spring or summer), and would love for any/all of you to join me if you want your life to be changed.

I have posted about half of my pictures on Facebook. If you don’t have Facebook, I have all of my pictures on my iPad and you are more than welcome to look at them. While pictures cannot convey the reality of it, they can help. Below is a picture of Karine, a little girl that I met and fell in love with and am now sponsoring so she can have 2 meals a day, medical care, go to school, and more. Please let me know if you would be interested in a sponsorship opportunity. Karine is a very sad child, who kept crying, and who wouldn't look me in the eye. The only smile I was able to get out of her in the hours I spent with her in my arms was when she was given a balloon. I cannot wait to get her full profile and future updates.

Over the next couple of weeks, I promise to blog about all of my adventures, in more detail accompanied by pictures but until then, I hope you all can maybe understand a little of what is going on in my heart right now. I’m still processing exactly where I want to focus my efforts, but I think it will be on a clean water project in Ethiopia, where 250,000 children will die this year from a water-borne illness (completely preventable). Here’s a picture of the water the people in a village we visited are drinking.
Thank you again for your unwavering support, some days you all are the only fuel underneath my fire. I’ll close with a few of my favorite pictures – the children of Chuko Weyama chasing after us as we drove into their remote village (only via Land Cruiser) in Ethiopia, at Royal Hope Academy in Uganda, and Shashamene School in Ethiopia. Remember – we’re all called to give, and whether that be working across the world or in your own backyard, I hope you do it, and do it with an open heart and mind.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Surreal. Amazing. Heartbreaking. Those are the three words that come to my mind when I think of my first few days here. It is wildly different than the world we are accustomed to. After a long 13.5 hour flight, we finally Rrived around 7 am on Friday. After going through customs, getting our visas and grabbing our luggage, our real journey began. We loaded up the vans, with all of our luggage on top secured by ropes. The driving is right up my alley, no one really paying attention, and you just kind of drive wherever you like. The only difference is the constant horn beeping! Perhaps the people, cows, goats and horses in the road is slightly different too. :)

We arrived at the Ethiopian Guest House and settled into our roo s and then headed out to the Fistula Hospital. I feel blessed we were able to visit this place. A hospital that performs surgeries and offers care free of charge, it's an awesome facility. The areas are so remote here and healthcare is not easily accessible, so many women have difficulty giving birth and are in labor for days. Often, their babies end up suffocating and once they finally deliver, the women are left with a fistula, which causes leaking and incontinence. As a result, these women are shunned from their villages, and many times their husbands leaves them. So not only have they lost their baby, they lose their husbands and families too. Once they can save up e money to make the trip to the hospital (sometimes this can take years), they are welcomed with open arms. The grounds are beautiful and it is so peaceful there. We were able to visit the wards and give the women gifts and love on them. I learned that their greeting is cheek to cheek, to cheek to cheek, to cheek to cheek! It's hard to know when it is time to stop. It seemed like some of the women would go on forever. It's incredible to see their smiles, and to be able to tell them that they are beautiful, not an outcast like they have been labeled. We even got a glimpse of Dr. Hamlin, a celebrity of sorts. She started the hospital and still performs surgeries, at 88 years old. Loved meeting these women, holding their babies, and seeing this facility. It was a great privilege and honor. The women are asked of two things once they are healed and leave - to share the news, and when they get pregnant again, that they come back.

We had some down time when we returned and I went outside of the gate to take a picture of where we were staying. There was a group of boys playing and asked me to come play with them. When I said I would, that I just needed to go back inside to do a few things, one of the boys, named Abel, told me that he would miss me. My heart melted. I went back and they wanted to teach me to play marbles, which I was awful at, but they had great patience. They wanted to have me take pieces of them and then wanted to look at them. We had a nice dinner at Kaldi's Coffee, which is similar to our Starbucks.

Today we went to Korah and my heart was broken and filled at the same time if that is even possible. The very moment we stepped off of the vans the children were loving on us and hugging on us. These children are not orphans, they have family or someone who cares for them so I am. It sure if they still craving the attention or Americans are just a novelty but they clung to us like crazy. And pictures - boy do they love the pictures. One little boy. Who was 4, pretty much clung to me the whole time. We played for a few minutes and then began our walk to Alert Hospital, which is where the lepers are. They are outlasted from their communities. Again, I feel like these two days have been a privilege for me to be to these places. We got to do some shopping for items that are not only hand stitched, but hand woven. And they're beautiful.

After the hospital, we helped paint a room for Great Hope Ministry which will be a place for women to work and do beading. They are also in the process of building a feeding hall right outside of this building. Their walls are now blue! After a delicious lunch of pasta and veggies, I went with a team member to do a home visit to the family of her Project 61 sponsored child. Again, what a privilege. A basic, simple house, very primitive, but absolutely filled with love. We were welcomed with open arms and sat and visited with them via a translator. They offered us some food. Which we tried. I have no idea what it was, but it was a pancake like pastry, and then an orange cream like sauce and an oatmeal consistency type food. It wasn't bad, and the sauce was very spicy. Shortly after that we were offered coffee. After we accepted the offer, our translator told us it was an hour long process! I didn't realize that they had to roast the coffee beans, but they were so happy to do it for us. It was my first cup of coffee, and after I finished the translator told me it is custom to have 3 cups. Three! I made it through the second one, but them we had to go meet up with the rest of the group. As we were leaving e woman said she was sorry she didn't have more to offer, but yet she offered us so much and was so accommodating to let these complete strangers into her home.

Apparently they love Britney, there was a faded old poster of her in a storefront! That made me laugh. Today has been a great day.... These kids, their faces are dirty yet they are beautiful; their clothes worn and tattered, yet they are so thankful and happy, they may not have shoes, or shoes that fit, but they have so much joy. They stroke your hair, kiss your cheeks, and put your hands to their faces. The smallest things make them smile. It really brings a new meaning to smile, you never know what a difference it will make to the other person. It's only been two days here but I feel as though my heart is so full it may burst. I already know I will be leaving a part of my heart here...