Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ethiopia - Day 3: The finger of God moving..

First thing this morning (after a Pop Tart breakfast), I randomly opened my Bible up to the following verses:
1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. (Psalm 63: 1-4)

At our first stop, a Child Survival Program (CSP), the sanctuary had the following banner:
In Amharic, it says, "The finger (or hand) of God moves here." That could not be more true.....

At this program, we were greeted with the cutest little smiling faces, all handing us roses. We were also treated to our very first coffee ceremony!!! The first of many, many more but really one of the best. The Ethiopian's are very proud of coffee as one of their biggest imports and also as the birthplace of coffee. In the ceremony, the green coffee beans are roasted, then ground, and then brewed for you. Often, they serve it with a little raw sugar and it was yuuuuuummmy. Now usually my coffee takes on the color of a pale khaki (little coffee with my cream?), but this was awesome. It was most often served with huge, round loaves of bread that sometimes were flavored with herbs and usually a sweetened popcorn.
We were told that at each CSP, they are able to serve 50 mother/child units. At registration, over 1000 show up in hopes of being chosen. The women come to the project once monthly to meet together and share, in addition to a weekly home visit by the project workers. The workers teach the mothers about prenatal health, proper breast feeding, family planning, and the need for frequent feeding, child development and enrichment, and hygiene. Vaccines and supplemental food are also taught about and administered for the babies and their growth is tracked and monitored by the health workers. At this particular project, 8 of the 50 mothers also have HIV.

After babies graduate from the CSP program, they are automatically enrolled in the Child Sponsorship program until they reach college age. So for these babies, they are not only given a strong foundation, but continued care and love throughout their school years! Take a look at these little cutey-pies!!

After a bag lunch at the church, we headed out in different directions to visit the homes of some of the babies in the project. This was our first home visit that I wrote about yesterday.
The family had 3 children and the baby was in the project and was supported by Compassion. It was my first taste of what poverty really is. The home was about 8 X 4 feet with mud walls and a dirt floor covered with a couple empty fertilizer bags. The windows and door were old tin but left holes and openings everywhere for the insects and cold/rain to sneak in. The family had one bench and two dish tubs inside. And while the mother praised Compassion and what it had done for her baby, I couldn't take my eyes off her little boys and their sad little faces. I cannot fathom how the Angels who work in these projects pick which child benefits and which does not. Which child will receive vaccines, which will not. Which baby will one day go to school and which must stay at home. To have seen the healthy little chubby faces just that morning, and then to see a little baby pull itself up to the door of the shack was the most huge parallel yet. This baby had bloody knuckles and no body strength or real mobility at all. I could tell it was obviously delayed, both physically and intellectually. And no mother that I saw. He (or she) just drug himself around to see what the excitement was all about.
I think that is the most impacting photo I took on my trip. God made that child. And why is that baby any less deserving of having their basic needs taken care of then my own three children? Why is that baby any less deserving of early intervention therapy than any of the children I serve? Why? Go back to the 50 accepted / 1000 requested figure. What if that mother had been pregnant, in line, and turned away?? Compassion is able to only help so many, and that is heart-breaking. Yet.... when we asked the mother on our home visit if she had any questions for us, her answer was, "How can I ask anything of them when they assist me so much?" And what have I DONE??? I have sacrificed nothing compared to the mothers of those children.

Another group was impacted even more than I. They returned visibly shaken after a visit to a mother's home who had HIV. She also had 5 children under the age of 12 and refused treatment. In Ethiopia, the medicine must be received in the main city of Addis once monthly. So the mothers often choose not to receive the medication in fear of being ostracized by their neighbors or family. The group said that she also says that, "she knows that God will heal her". When they gathered around her to pray, she just started to sob and the rest of the group joined her. One of them told me that her oldest is a 12 year old daughter who you could just see the depression and sadness on her face. Knowing that one day very soon, she will most likely be left alone to care for her 4 siblings.

Later in the week, a mother at another CSP project told me about her volunteer work with disabled babies in the area. She was excited when she found out that I do the same job (but I get paid for mine). We were even able to compare baby sign language! She lamented since college programs are not available to her, she is unable (but would love to be able) to go to college to be a speech or physical therapist. So instead, she volunteers her time to teach baby signs to deaf children, play with the blind, the delayed, the sick. In her words, "so many, so many disabled children." When I asked her "why so many?" She replied that the mothers work too hard while pregnant with no prenatal care. Then when their babies are born they do not get the adequate nutrition or the needed vaccines to keep them healthy. We learned that 90% of the CSP babies achieve their developmental milestones (walking, sitting up, talking) on time.

So back to my "why?" questions. Because of the children. Because of the ones that DO grow up to be engineers, teachers, doctors, accountants. Because of the ones that ARE able to smile and play as children. Because of the mothers who are able to hold their healthy babies and hear the news that they have a parent who loves them and gave His life for them. So that one day they will no longer have to live in a shack but in His mansion. Because no job done in the name of Christ is too small or too insignificant.
"Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. "

Just to add to my previous post, these were the neighborhood children that I played with at the CSP project. Again, compare them to the Compassion children pictured yesterday and ask yourself if Compassion's work is making a difference for the children ....

To contribute to the Child Survival Program fund.

To search for and sponsor a Compassion child.


Abbie H. said...

You stories of this day, were very touching. It breaks my heart to hear and see the children who strive for something...anything everyday or the little girl that knows she will be taking care of her siblings-something that is so common to them.

When you sent out the pics when you first got back, I cried for the baby with bloody knuckles and my heart sank again when I got to that photo in your post.

On the other hand, it is great to see those smiles on the Compassion assisted children's faces. To see that they have hope is so great.

Now, if only all of them could be assisted.

Juli Jarvis said...

Another excellent post -- so moving and well told. Thank you.