Sunday, June 22, 2014

Stories from summer trips

Summer short term trips are in full swing! We have two teams on the ground right now, with one returning and another leaving in the next few days. It is awesome to see these team members INSPIRED to make a difference in the life of a child in need. And it's amazing to see how they continue to advocate for the children they encounter in Ethiopia when they return home, and then also find opportunities to serve in their own communities here in the U.S.

This summer, Lauren Putty is serving as Ordinary Hero's on the ground representative in Ethiopia. Here are her words…

I’m about six days into my time here in Ethiopia. I’m seeing everything in a different lens, not feeling rushed and beginning to consider this city my home. Back in December when I came on a 10 day trip, it never quite felt right to be hurrying through my experience and only spending spurts of time with so many different people. Now that I’m here for the year doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do, I feel a peace and joy that I don’t know if I’ve ever felt before. I can feel the relationships I already have here growing deeper and new ones being birthed. This, coupled with the overflowing love from all of our Ethiopian family and community here, has me feeling right at home.

Also want to give a shoutout to the North Dakota team that just left to head back to the States. As the first OH summer team you guys rocked, were so loving and encouraging, and I know I’ll see a lot of you again. Keep doing you North Dakota.

The past six days have been full and amazing. I can’t share every story but I will share one from today. It’s not everyday that I get overcome by something that brings me to tears but today was one of those days. One of those “I can’t get my sunglasses on fast enough” cries. 

Three days ago we traveled to Mount Entoto where we learned about a ministry called Endhinew Hope. As we wrapped up the day and the children were performing a goodbye, I found myself sitting between two 10 year old boys. The one on my left named Temesken had a smile and spirit that I absolutely fell in love with, and the one on my right, Buruk, was sinking into my arms and I found myself staring at how small his wrists were. It was essentially just skin wrapped around his wrist bone. I felt such a connection in my brief moments with these two best buds that it left me thinking about them the next couple of days.

Fast forward to today, and we’re headed back to Mount Entoto for their feeding program. I’m shaking lots of little hands as I hear a little squeal, looking up to find Temesken. He leads me to sit and eat with him, where I then find Buruk with the small wrists. I watch them scarf down their injera, we take some selfies, and then we get the cue that our team is beginning home visits. After sneaking the two of them outside the gate so that they can join us, we set out to see the living conditions of the mountain families. We’re walking from hut to hut hearing heart breaking stories, all the while Temesken and Buruk are clinching my arms and fighting kids off from also trying to grab at my hand. Every time I would walk in to visit a small house, they were there waiting for me in the door frame to then squeeze my arm and wrap it around their neck. We walked like this until we came to the last home visit. All of a sudden Temesken perks up and says “Inay Bet”, “My House”. My stomach sank. He walks me into his home, one room, about as big as a walk-in closet, where we find his father sleeping (at 2pm) next to his 1 year old sister on a mattress that fills up the entire floor space. A translator begins telling Temesken’s story: six people sleep on the same mattress, his father HIV positive, unable to work, and his mother a beggar also HIV positive. All of a sudden I can feel the boy, still gripping my hand, taking a deeper place in my heart. Temesken drags me a few yards away to then meet his sister. “Zis is my seester” as I approach a glowing, smiling four year old girl. He gives her a hug and begins to unwrap a cloth around her head. All of a sudden I realize that underneath the cloth is raw, pink and purple, infected skin. His sister had been burnt and the burn was sitting untreated. As I’m taking all of this in, I can hear myself saying, “Oh my gosh. Horrible.. Horrible.. Get the doctor” and the rush of emotions turn to tears that I can’t shut off. I take a few steps back so that I’m not scaring the kids with my scrunched and wet face, and I sit and listen as our team doctor explains to 10 year old Temesken how to clean his sister’s wounds. 

I was looking at this family, and my heart broke. I’ve heard this expression but I don’t know if I’ve felt it in a moment like this before. I felt sick, and sad, and so much love for Temesken and his family. Temesken still smiling grabs my hand, along with Buruk on the other side and we start the trek back to the van. I’m walking back this time squeezing them tighter and picturing a better life for them both. One with fat on their wrists, treated burns, enough beds for everyone and healthy, loving parents. 

The beautiful thing about Endihnew Hope and Ordinary Hero’s partnership is that they are approaching this problem of poverty with both immediate and long-term action. To meet immediate needs, they provide sponsorships so that the children receive three meals a day, an education, and paid off rent so that other sources of income can go towards the livelihood of their families. Also, so that the families aren’t completely dependent on Americans they are developing a number of skills training programs so that the mother’s are able to make a sustainable income. Both approaches are vital to breaking the cycle of poverty. Neither Temesken or Buruk have sponsors at this time. If you feel led to sponsor these sweet boys, or if you have any quesitons, please message me on the contact page or send me a private message on Facebook. 

People who have been on these trips know that out of the hundreds of children we meet, God almost always allows just a few to go beneath the surface and deeply touch our hearts so that we will pursue them in action and prayer. These two have me all sorts of messed up, crying the ugly cry and writing long blog posts. Someone on our team asked the founder of one of the ministries we visited, “So what’s the answer to all of this? You’ve been here a long time, how do we fix it?” His answer was simple… “Just help one at a time, that’s all you can do.” I’m writing on behalf of Temesken and Buruk today. They have such bright, untapped futures in store and I am obligated and committed, we are obligated, to see them through. 

You can follow Lauren's blog here.

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