We started the day driving to AHOPE Orphanage. They have around 50 kids who are HIV Positive. This experience was SO much better than the last HIV orphanage we visited. There were 2 different locations, on for ages 2-8, and the other for ages 9 and up. My group went with the older kids and we played a game with the soccer ball, little Sally Walker, and I used a lot of my fingernail stickers. It was a bit rainy today, so we couldn’t do too much. I did get quite the workout, though, walking from one location to the other, literally uphill both ways…there was some downhill too, but in that altitude it was pretty exhausting!!
It is really cool how God redirected our team over and over again. There were two orphanages that we were supposed to visit, but they didn’t work out. One of those, we arrived at the orphanage, but there were no children there. The gentleman who was there told us they were all in school. We left a few donations, but no cash. We found out later that there were no children and that it was a scam. Wow. God is good!
Last night Kari told us about a big surprise. No, it had nothing to do with slaughtering sheep, but it did have to do with Korah dump. They asked if 6 of our team would like to spend the night at the shelter with the Korah kids. There are 30 in our team, so I didn’t know if I would get to go, or even if I wanted to go. Project 61 is not in the dump, but is close enough to Korah to be able to smell the dump!! I told Kari that I would like to go (even though I was a little bit terrified!!). She really wanted me to go, so that I could bring some donations to Sumer (the American director of Project 61 – a cool story in itself). Kari was only planning to “tuck us in” then head back to the guest house. Well, it turned out we only had 5 of our team volunteer to spend the night there…so I volunteered Kari – ha! She packed really quickly and told me she was pretty scared too!
We grabbed our bags, plus the sheets and pillows from our guest house beds and headed out the door. Our team said goodbye to us (and I asked “Have you ever been going to the dump and you feel like you have forgotten something?!”). When we pulled up to the shelter, the kids were so excited!! There are only around 20 kids who actually live at the shelter. 150 are sponsored, but most of those either still live in the dump, or are living with others in Korah village. As I stepped out of the van, I saw my friend Abenezer from a few days before. He ran at me and gave me a HUGE hug. Then, embarrassed, he stepped back out of the way. We went into the shelter and were met with a warm welcome from the kids and were asked to sit down. They brought us popcorn (the Ethiopian party food) that tasted like kettle corn and had oreo-type cookies mixed in. They also started preparing for the coffee ceremony – which is offered anytime you have an important guest. We watched as the beans were roasted over a fire and ground then made into very strong coffee.
I have had many cups of the thick- espresso type coffee offered in the coffee ceremony this week. IF you know me, you know that I only like coffee if it is half milk/half sugar and just a touch of coffee. When we visited Kids Kare orphanage, I couldn’t even get the tiny cup full down. The coffee the teen girls made at Korah, however, was excellent! Still very strong, but not bitter. The best coffee ceremony coffee I have ever had.
While we were eating, Abenezer kept shyly looking at me. I would smile, he would smile back and look away. Eventually a seat next to him opened up and I sat by him. Now the other day when I was at Korah, he was one of the 3 boys that I befriended. His English was not as good as Binyam’s so we didn’t talk much, when we did, one of the other boys would translate. The other boys weren’t there, so we didn’t talk much at first. He did tell me he was happy to see me. When I told Kari that this was my friend, he corrected me and said “No, brother”. I told him, yes, I was his sister. Later one of his friends asked if I was his sponsor, I told him no, that Abenezer already had a sponsor. Abenezer, leaned over and whispered in my ear “My sponsor has forgotten about me. I want you be my sponsor.” Apparently his sponsor is paying for his schooling, but has not sent letters or been in contact with him like some of his other friends. I told him that being his sister is better than being his sponsor.
About that time, the teen girls came over to me and I knew exactly what they wanted. I had come prepared. I handed them my brush and sat down for over an hour of torture, I mean fun, while they braided my hair. I love to have my hair played with, so it was fun some of the time, but my goodness, they pulled it tight! I had gotten a sunburn on my part a few days earlier, so there were definitely times where I could feel it!!
After the hair party (2 of the other ladies had their hair “fixed” too), I finally had the chance to get back to my brother, Abenezer. By this time my photo album of my family and pics of Fowler was going around the room. Ab had seen it before, but started looking at the pics again. He studied every picture over and over again, memorizing the names and faces of my family. At one point he whispered to me that he wanted to be a pastor. He said he wanted to be a pastor because of me. Wow. I was overwhelmed.
At around 11pm we started the movie “The Wild” (I’m thinking I need to buy them some other movies – not the greatest Disney has ever made, but the kids loved it). Ab sat by me and at one point put his arm through mine and put his head on my shoulder. This boy is broken. He had such a gentle spirit, was so timid, but wanted so much to be loved and cared for. I asked Sammy to tell me his story. Apparently a lady from the US was in the process of adopting a child and was out in the countryside outside of Addis. She saw 5 boys living on the street. She called Sammy to see if he could help them. He said he would and brought them to the shelter at Korah. The shelter/sponsorship program is only 5 months old. Ab is being sponsored so will be going to boarding school in one month. He does have a mother and some sisters back in the countryside, but they cannot afford to keep him or feed him. He does have friends at Korah, but his eyes just told me he was lost.
Everyone kept joking with me, “So are you bringing any kids home from Africa?” I don’t know. I do know I love this 15 year old boy. I know I need to do something, but not sure what I am supposed to do. He is adoptable, but we can’t afford that right now. I know he will be getting an education, but what he needs is love. They say this school is excellent, but it won’t be a family. Sumer said one of the options is to get the kids a Student Visa so they can come to school in the states. They could be here without being adopted, finish school, even go to college, but would eventually have to go back. I think they can even come to the stated on a student visa while you are going through the adoption process.
I’m not saying I am planning to do any of these things. I do know that God connected the two of us. I also know that I will not forget about him. I will send him letters and emails and continue to remind him that God has a plan for his life. That he is never alone. And that someone in America loves him very much.
OK…so back to the sleepover. As the movie finished, we Americans were already nodding off. They brought two foam mattresses into the front room of the shelter, we put our sheets on them, then went to bed, praying that no creepy/crawlies would be joining us. There is no bathroom in the shelter, just an outhouse. Now, there is a western style toilet (like we have in the US) but it didn’t flush and it was S.T.I.N.K.Y. Kari and I went out to do our business and prayed that nothing would happen through the night that would make us have to rush out into the dark to use it again.
We said our goodnights and smiled as we heard the girls giggling in the other room. I was amazed that these 7 girls, who less than 6 months ago, were literally sleeping on trash in the dump praying the hyenas wouldn’t eat them, were now in beds, in a house, laughing like teen girls at a sleepover. Overwhelming. I was feeling a little guilty that I was uncomfortable sleeping on a mattress on the floor when hundreds of kids were sleeping on trash not ½ mile away. Needless to say my perspective has been changed forever.
I want to tell you just one story of a girl at the shelter. She is 17 years old. She was living in the Korah dump and was attacked and raped one night. 9 months later, she gave birth to a baby boy…in the dump. This girl is SO smart. I showed her my photo album when we were there a few days ago. As the photo album went around again that night, I heard her pointing out each of my kids, naming each of them. She carries around her baby boy, who is now 5 months old, and tells everyone about his new family. Her son is in the process of being adopted by an American family. She will be leaving for boarding school in a month. She is so brave. She loves Jesus. And she is willing to give up her son, so he can have a great life. Each of these kids has a story. A story filled with tragedy, abuse, malnutrition and sickness from eating from a garbage dump every day. But Sammy has given these kids a life, a hope, and a Savior. I was afraid to sleep at the Korah shelter. But these kids have faced more than I can imagine, and live with a sparkle in their eyes, and a hope for an Eternal Home that I rarely see in Americans.
I pray I will never forget this night, and I pray I will never forget these precious children of God.