Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Box of Beans

I've written before about how the spirit of generosity I've observed in the people around us has so often left me speechless.  Bounty is shared as an expression of shared community.  Last week I was humbled again when our sponsor's child's mother arrived at the door with a box of beans.  It's a long time until her main food crops will be harvested and so for the last little while they've been struggling to feed themselves as they wait for the harvest.  So when I saw her at the door with the beans I hardly knew what to do.  My Ugandan friend who was visiting me at the time quickly came to the rescue.  "She wants to bless you aunt.  She has been blessed with beans and wants to share."  Over a cup of tea we chatted about the family and then away she went unaware that she had blessed me with so much more than beans.  I hope it's a lesson I will never forget.

As a footnote we have be so thankful for the way our local church here has come along side our sponsor child's family.  It is a community based model which is so much more effective in providing long term support. 

Christmas in May?

For many years our children were involved in a program organised by Samaritan's Purse called Operation Christmas Child.  In October or November we would pack a shoebox filled with items that would be shipped to developing countries around the world.  The goal is that as children receive a gift box they will hear the story of God's greatest gift Jesus. As we celebrated Christmas together we often pictured a child opening a box we had sent and wondered what that might look like.
It came as somewhat of a shock a few weeks ago to see a truck on the road loaded down with Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  How funny we thought it's April!  Then a few weeks later I was asked to help with the distribution of boxes that had arrived for our church.
As we planned for the event I learned a few important lessons.
  • All that dollar store junk is still dollar store junk when it reaches its destination
  • When they tell you not to pack soft candy they really mean it.  Sticky caramels melted all over a box of crayons is not a pleasant thing
  • Those small bouncy balls in bright colours can be easily mistaken for gumball candy.  Not a good idea
  • Play dough, while a fabulous educational activity for preschoolers, is likely to be mistaken as a food item for hungry children.  
  • a clothing item (shirt, shorts, dress) is an excellent idea
  • flipflops or sandals are another very practical well received gift
  • a ball is a universal toy everyone enjoys 

For me the most moving part of the experience was listening to one of our staff members hear pray with a grateful heart for the people who had blessed 'our' children.  "Thank you for using those people to give us an opportunity to share about God's love."  The next day Uncle Bosco did indeed use the opportunity to share with over 200 children the story of God's love.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Coming Home

Part 6 of a series of posts about our trip to Ethiopia (see below for the rest of the posts)

In Mekele we were warmly welcomed by Norma and Tony, who had also served with the mission around the same time as Dad.  We were also reunited with an Ethiopian man who had worked with the mission.  So much had changed in forty years and yet we were still able to locate buildings that had been used by the mission and which now house a radio station.  Memories flooded back as old friends reminisced over copious cups of tea.
The highlight though of the whole trip for us was our trip to Sheket. That was the village where David had spent the first couple of years of his life.  As we drove along the paved mountain road we listened to stories of trips to and from Mekele in the early days.
 Many times the road had needed to be rebuilt along the way so that the land rover could carry the supplies needed to feed the thousands of people they sought to help during two years of extreme drought.   Then there was the time the land rover broke down and Tony spent a night out in the mountains trying to reach help.  As our car started the descent into Sheket the excitement mounted.

                                      My favourite picture of the whole trip is this one.

As Tony excitedly pointed out the mission buildings it was as if the years rolled away and I saw the love and commitment that had brought them here so many years ago.

We found the appropriate local officials and requested permission to visit.
 In a few minutes we arrived at the compound and saw with a flood of emotion the house that had until this point only been on one of Dad's slides. David later told me that the words of Psalm 121 flashed into his mind: "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD the maker of heaven and earth."  I wonder how many times those words were read and sung all those years ago.

Dad's slide of the house over 40 years ago.

David and his Dad home again.  The house is now being used as a school as are some of the other mission buildings that were on the compound.

As we lingered in the compound surrounded by local children, a man was ushered into the group with a look of pure astonishment on his face.

The son of the local chief all those years ago could hardly believe his eyes.  There was laughter and smiles all around as he grasped who these people were.  The stories flowed.  Of the clinic, of the trips with Tony over the mountains and the army helicopter which had landed and offered to take David's Mum, about ready to give birth to David's brother, out to Mekele to avoid the bumpy roads.  I hope you can sense the excitement in the pictures.  

Then it was off to a river bed in search of the water pipes which Tony had laid in a effort to bring water to the village.  Leaving the car behind Tony quickly scrambled up the rocks accompanied by a gaggle of children who were splashing and washing clothes in the small trickle of water. We had a hard time keeping up with him as he forged ahead.
  We didn't find any evidence of the old pipes but we certainly found plenty of evidence of the adventurous spirit which brought Tony and Dad to Ethiopia in the first place.

The water tank that those pipes flowed into was still there, dwarfed today by two larger ones, but still an impressive testimony to the work that had been accomplished in Jesus' name.  We pray that the water of life will again flow into Sheket.

Following our time in Sheket we took an incredible 13 hour journey bus journey from Mekele to Addis Ababa seeing outstanding scenery.  At times are hearts were in our throats as we hurtled around hair-pin turns and glanced down huge cliffs.  Our final few days were spent in Addis reliving more history, meeting fascinating people and enjoying fabulous food.  How blessed we were to have had this incredible time.  Thanks for coming along on the journey.