Due to various and sundry computer problems, I am just returning to the internet. It is quite handily coinciding with the startup of school, so everything seems to be returning to normal around home.
The summer was everything I hoped it would be-long lazy days spent by the pool. Lots of sleepovers with friends and a chance to visit with both sides of the family tree.
Obviously, the complete highlight was my trip to Ethiopia. When asked how it was, my stock answer was "Amazing!" Alternating with "Awesome" and "Unforgetable". Mainly because people usually don't have time for the long version. Africa is the stuff of big adjectives, but for me that's not what the big deal was. I weep because I won't experience the people of Ethiopia for a long while, maybe never again. The culture is extremely relationship oriented and being a part of a close-knit camp setting just intensified that effect for me. I happened to injure my knee one of the first days of camp playing Duck Duck Goose with some kids (Yea, I know- I'm not 14 anymore!) and my bunkmate in the cabin asked me morning and night how I was feeling. She also made sure that if I needed anything from my bags to hand it up to me so I wouldn't have to climb down from my bunk to get it- because it hurt!
To really understand this, picture a 15 year old girl with the looks of a supermodel and the personality of Amy Grant offering to look after this middle aged white foreigner just because she wants to. Our drivers, our co-counselors at camp, the cooks; everyone I met went above and beyond to take notice of how each other was doing. When I provided PeptoBismol to an Ethiopian counselor who was having a rough stomach bug, she and all the other girls called blessings down from God for my compassion. I was flummoxed- I was just handing out the quick remedy, not even hardly remembering to ask later if she was better. But she was blessed by what I offered and made sure to speak blessings to me in return. I'm not sure I've ever been blessed by a group before like that. It was great. We've certainly all been cursed verbally and physically here in the states by angry people- take that feeling and just flip it completely around.
My greatest grief is that I will not get to see the kids in my soccer team again. I have a picture on the wall by my bed of us as a group so I can remember to pray for them. There was one girl who completely stole my heart. She was sent by accident with her friend to a boys camp and I think God just wanted to tender my heart and shatter my reserves. She was so quiet but as I showed that she was under my care and that I wanted to know her better, she just blossomed. We explored the delights of swimming in an inflatable tube together-she wasn't at all sure about the idea of going in the lake at first, but I took her hand and off we went. Seeing the radiance of her happy childlike glee was the most awesome thing I've ever experienced. Of course, the rest of the boys were romping and splashing and playing too, just they weren't as nervous at the start. Three days into camp, my whole troop of 5 had figured out that I was thrilled to keep track of their water bottles while they played their soccer matches, that if they got hurt I was the person to come to and that I would hug them whenever I got a chance. We ate together, played together and they taught me what they could of their language. I have never seen bonds as strong as those I developed as a cross cultural soccer mom. I suspect that even though the physical affection at home is strong, leisure time for parents to observe their children playing and cheer them on is probably sparce. I was honored to be given the privilege to meet and love these children. Most people visiting Ethiopia see the poverty, the grandeur of the scenery and miss out on the chance to build relationship with Ethiopians. Which is a tragedy.
It makes me wonder if I'll ever be able to casually visit places again in my life. I'll just want to settle down, hold some babies, macrame some bracelets with some teens and just listen to the stories of how the leaders have come to this place in their walk with Christ.
It was those moments that completely undid me. The stories of miracles in answer to prayer. The warmth of an orphaned AIDS toddler tucked under my chin. The tiniest little baby I've ever held( under 4 pounds) sucking down a bottle for me and then filling his shorts like all good little babes should. The unbelievable human spirit in the face of national famine and destitution. I never heard a baby cry the whole 12 days I was there, and we were around a lot of them. It took returning to civilization where children are spoiled, mismanaged and ignored to hear the wails of unhappiness surrounding me. Personally, this has been an extreme challenge as I balance the misery of those who have everything with the relationships of those who have nearly nothing.
My poor kids. "Well halfway around the world they don't have ANY toys/cereal bars/happy meals/new sneakers etc.!!" I've tried to limit my lament at their ungratefulness to once a week, but I find myself lamenting MY ungratefulness at least hourly. May that never change. It is good and fitting to thank God for what He has given me and to also consider that I probably don't need everything in this life that I lust after.
I shall try to post pictures at some point- they will be mostly of the people- the beautiful Ethiopian people. Their eyes speak volumes to me even now. I hope they will bless you as well.