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Day 20 June 11, 2013

Posted by Marnie Williams in Travel Log.

The Sanctuary team just left after an awesome 4 days in Ambo (another city outside of Addis)!  The team was great – when they first got here, Brittany and I had no idea what our role would be for the week.  The team was made up of 2 high schoolers, 4 college students, and 3 adults.  They were all from the same church and had gone through some pre-trip training together, so we wanted to be careful not to interfere with team chemistry.  Everyone turned out to be INCREDIBLY welcoming, and they did an amazing job at taking us in as their own (We got team t-shirts and everything).  It was really fun getting to know a group of people in Ethiopia who I can still maintain a relationship with when I go home.  It was also cool to see the impact that short term mission teams can have. Lately, I’ve developed the opinion that short term mission trips do more harm on the country than good.  I made a point to talk to some Ethiopians (students, teachers, and pastors) about what they thought of Americans coming in for a short time, and I was surprised to hear that they LOVED it.  The teachers learn a new style of teaching, the pastors learn a new style of preaching, the kids get to be loved like CRAZY for a week, and everyone gets to experience what it actually means to be brothers and sisters in Christ.  I’m interested to see how the after-math plays out, but I was really surprised (in a good way) with the impact that one group could have in a week.

Anywho… here’s a summary of the past couple days!

Thursday/Friday: No one was excited to be in Ambo.  Burayu is “home” for a lot of the team (most of the people on the team had come at least once, and each of them had some connection to a sponsored family in Burayu).  Because Ambo was started a year after Burayu, we haven’t had as much time to invest there.  So naturally, the team wanted to stay with Burayu for the week because that’s where they were most connected.  So Thursday was tough for them.

BUT the guardian meetings on both Thursday and Friday were INCREDIBLE.  In both meetings, when we asked for feedback, at least 4 guardians stood up and shared their stories of victories and frustrations with the program.  The coolest part was on Friday – one of the women stood up and expressed concern that the program wasn’t providing a valuable education for the kids (there’s been some trouble with the government getting the school workbooks).  Before Rudy (Dr. Gleason) could respond, another woman stood up and said that her daughter had been to a different government school.  She switched schools so that she could participate in the program and her daughter was very challenged in the new school.  A year later, her daughter was at the top of her class, and it was because her mom had supported her and played a part in her education outside the classroom.  It was just really cool to hear the women encouraging each other with their success stories – it was incredible evidence of the transformation that the program is having on entire families.  One of our biggest challenges has been getting the guardians to open up, so the sheer fact that they would stand up and voice their opinion, let alone encourage each other, was awesome to see.

We also got to go on a couple home visits.  For the most part, the houses in Ambo are smaller and more crowded than the ones in Burayu.  One lady who we visited paid 100 burr/month for rent… that’s a little more than $5/month for a 1 room house made of mud.  She started crying when she told us what a struggle it was to pay rent – she sells injera (traditional “bread”) and weaves baskets, but she still struggles to pay each month.  When we asked her what she thought about the program, her attitude changed from desperation to hope.  She talked about what an incredible community she had gained, the skills she was learning from the training, and how hopeful she was that she would be able to transform her life through the business she would start with the other guardians.  It was REALLY neat to see.

Favorite Story:  On Thursday when we took out the toys to play with (soccer balls, beach balls, and jump ropes) the kids BOMBARDED us.  I’m talking kids pushing each other down to get balls and practically strangling one another to try to get their hands on a jump rope.  On Friday we decided we were going to organize the kids into groups before we passed out toys in an effort to preserve some lives.  We had done a decent job, but we started passing out jump ropes we realized they were all tangled.  The kids were getting anxious, and as we got the ropes untangled one by one, it was impossible to hand them out in an organized fashion.  Case Chimdil came over (the Youth Pastor) and offered to help.  He shooed all the kids away into a big circle and just chucked the jump rope into the middle of the mob.  So much for trying to preserve lives. BUT he was having the time of his and HE was the pastor, so I just kept untangling. 


Saturday morning we had Saturday School with the kids, and then it was a tourist day! It was really nice to get to know the team better and to take a break for a bit.  Even though for the 5 hour trip we were probably only out of the bus for 45 minutes, I loved getting to see more of the country.  We drove up to Lake Wenchie – apparently it’s a popular tourist location: it’s about a 30 km drive from Ambo, 27 of which are on dirt roads going about 20 miles per hour.  Not what I expected from a popular tourist site, but hey… it’s Africa.  The drive was amazing – we got to see the typical grass huts, the lion king trees, and people pre-technologically farming (they were using plows pulled by mules).  AND one of the girls on the team let me listen to her music with her, which was nice because I forgot to load my iPod before I came.  I never thought I’d be so excited to hear Katy Perry’s “Firework”, but I guess your music taste changes when you haven’t been able to sing along to songs for 3 weeks.  I felt bad for the rest of the bus.


We went to another Ethiopian church in the morning, but the highlight of the day was getting to eat the 12th meal at the hotel we’d been staying at.  Apparently Ambo’s food is slightly sketchy, so it’s the only restaurant we eat at when we come. Normally, I would take advantage of eating at the same restaurant 12 times in a row.  But since there are a limited number of foods to trust here, I decided to stick to the staple diet of Corn Flakes, Omelets, stealing people’s fries, and the occasional Chicken Hawaiian (which was slightly different every time you ordered it).

All in all, it was a solid week with the team.   I loved getting to spend time with other Americans and figure out what a connection you could establish with people you’ve never met in a week.  It was sad when they left (especially when they all talked about what they were excited to do when they got home… i.e. eat Chik fil A), but it also signaled the start of what we’ve been preparing for for the last 4 months.  The next 6 weeks will now be completely devoted to guardian training, teaching English, getting involved in the Youth program, figuring out what college ministry looks like, getting to know the SVO staff, getting to know each other, and whatever else gets thrown in our path.  Les go


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