As the wind howls and the snow swirls, I'm sitting here with my bags packed, a ticket purchased and an anxious heart. Tomorrow, I am heading back to Ethiopia on my second trip with a team of volunteers skilled in construction. Though I know what Ethiopia looks and sounds and feels like, for the most part, my anxious heart is always in anticipation of what God will do in the lives of those we meet and in ourselves as we serve in really impoverished communities.
This trip, we will be finishing up an outdoor kitchen area at one of the life centres where children in Canadian Humanitarian's programs come to receive meals, get help with homework and get health checkups.
The outdoor kitchen is a place where the care givers at the centre cook for the children - it's a place where love looks like a group of women cooking and serving children what may be their only hot meal that day. In addition to the outdoor kitchen, which will be quite simply a raised area off the play area so that children don't run in and around the cook fires and soccer balls don't interfere with washed vegetables.
We also have received permission from the local governments to go into the areas where the children live, pretty crowded shantytowns, and make repairs and improvements to the safety and stability of their homes.
Last year, one of the most extraordinary days came when we met a grandmother, raising a granddaughter on her own, who asked if we could look at her door. We did, and it was a metal door that had been bent to the point where it would not lock any longer, leaving the grandmother no choice but to sleep on a chair to keep it closed. The perpetrator of the damage? Hyenas. HYENAS. WHAT!?! This grandmother had two goats that she bred and used for milk, and at night, she brought them into the home so that the hyenas would not carry them off, but in doing so, had invited them to try to get in through her door.
We spent a long day, walking a few kilometres carrying a large metal door to be welded and straightened, and then returning, carrying a large metal door, to be reattached and secured on the grandmother's house. In the end, it was an all day affair but it was absolutely life changing. For a grandmother who now had a secure and locking door, to protect herself and her granddaughter and their goats. For a grandmother who could now sleep in her bed, instead of on a chair, propped against the door with a large stick, in the event that the hyenas returned. And most of all, for us...a small group of volunteers who came across an ocean, to detach a door that was hanging on its hinges, to carry it for kilometres and to wait for hours to find a welder...because that night, we knew we weren't the only ones sleeping well.
I ask that you think of us over the next ten days. Our team consists of myself, Keith Pankratz, Henry Hamm, Franz Penner, Murray Tiegen and Peter Friesen. We'll be meeting up with a few others in Ethiopia and travel together when we arrive. Keep us in mind, when you open your door and particularly when you lock it at night...send up a prayer on our behalf...for those who are volunteering and for those who we are learning from.
Thanks so much, we'll see you on the 15th!