Our African hump day sure did start out with a hump...in the form of about 50 camels crossing the street on our way to a children's sponsorship house. When we walked into the children's building, 100 kids were waiting on us with songs, chants and clapping. It was a jaw-dropping entrance to say the least. The smiles on the kids' faces reached from ear to ear. They did not want anything from us, but just to be in our presence and feel loved. We played soccer, jumped rope, danced and sang with the kids. After playing and spending time with the children we were able to give them snacks of avocado juice and morinda leaves. Along with some candy.
After we left the children's sponsorship house, we visited a local jail. The jails in Ethiopia are much, much different than those in the U.S. Instead of big cement walls topped with razor sharp barbed wire, the Ethiopian prisoners were only held captive by a wood fence and three lines of farming barbed wire. The offenses of the prisoners in the jail ranged from petty crimes to murder. They did not wear the typical orange jump suits like in the U.S. either. They were dressed in normal street clothes and could easily be mistaken for innocent pedestrians to the untrained eye.
After the jail visit is when the day really became special for me. We delivered bags of flour, macaroni, rice, spices and kits to allow a group of women to start their own coffee business. We delivered these goods to six different families in various villages. The women who received these gifts have basically nothing to their name but a very small square hut. These women have not received any support from the fathers and must provide for their children by themselves.
One experience, in particular, from today really stuck out to me. We were invited into one woman's very small hut after giving her the supplies. While in the hut we prayed with the woman and were able to communicate through a translator. The woman explained to us that she has never met her mother OR father. She was abandoned as an infant and is now raising two kids with no father figure. She told Mark (who is basically our tour guide for the trip), "I see you as a father figure now, I would not have been able to provide for my kids without the help of your supplies." These words were spoken with such deep passion and honesty that it touched me deeply. Being able to help someone that is so grateful and deserving made my heart feel full. The joy and happiness we were able to bring these women is unmatched by anything I have previously experienced in my life.
I've come to realize on this trip that there is so much more to life than material goods. Ethiopia has taught me not to form opinions about a person by the clothes they wear, but by the fullness and love in their heart. It is very hard to put into words how little these people really have, yet they do not let their situation in life get them down. The smiles on their faces give me hope. I really just feel blessed to be invited on this trip. The opportunity to serve others instead of being served has opened my eyes in a way they've never been open before. I am really looking forward to these next few days here in Africa.