What is Project Ethiopia?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Faithful friends welcome us back!

When we returned to our home in Arba Minch, we were overwhelmed by the faithfulness of some of our friends in our absence.
One of them is a young man named Kibru. We had asked Kibru to kind of keep an eye out and watch our house and property while we were gone. But we did not know the extent to which he did this job. Every night he slept on a mattress on our front porch so he could hear if anyone was trying to steal anything. During the daytime, he carried that mattress out to the back yard along the thorn hedge so he could keep watch during the heat of the day. This he did for over three months. He also kept everything in the garden watered-even though it was the dry season. He hand carried buckets of water to all the mango trees and my flower beds. He planted half of the garden in sweet potatoes. He also walked several miles out of town to pick ripe mangos from our trees on Mello Farms and then sold them in the market. He gave us all the money he earned.(196 birr) He proudly told us not one person came on our property-all was safe because he watched over it.

Rebekah is our housekeeper. She is a quiet woman, but has a great faith in God. While we were gone for three months, she faithfully came and kept our house clean. She was harassed at the entrance to our compound by the guards who were trying to prevent her from coming in and doing her job. They expected her to cower down and go back to her house- leaving our house uncared for. But Rebekah drew herself up to her full height of 5'2" and marched down to the local police station and lodged a complaint. The police came out to the compound and reprimanded the guards and told them NOT to prevent her any longer!
She beamed when she told me all this--and said "Teresa, you know I am not a bold woman" And I said, "yes- but with Gods help you are a very brave and bold woman!"  She also had a wonderful welcome home gift for us: 2 cokes, 2 bottles of water, 4 fresh eggs and some bread. Also she and Kibru had made some stew for us to eat.  It maybe doesnt sound like a lot to some of you back home, but for them this was an amazing sacrifice of their precious and few birr. We were humbled by their kindness.

Another amazing friend is named Melkias.  He had heard we were back in Arba Minch, and so he tried calling us several times. Finally, we talked with him on the phone and made plans to go to his house the following day to meet his new baby son who had been born while we were in America. A few hours later there was a knock on our front door. We had just settled down to eat popcorn and watch a DVD.
We both were a little annoyed that someone was knocking on our door at that late hour-it was already dark. There stood Melkias. We asked him why he was here when we were going to see him tomorrow. He said "once I hear your voice I cannot wait."  He was covered in dirt, tired and sweaty from working all day. He must have walked several miles from across town, past his own house to come see us. How is it we can have such friends?

Our first day back home and already I am 'pressed into service'. I went to check on a friend who lives down the street from us. He has tongue cancer and is dying. There is no treatment available for him, and so he is slowly starving to death while the cancer eats away at his tongue and jaw. We give him medicine to try and ease the pain somewhat. He has 5 children under the age of 10. They live in a one room mud house. I had left money in an envelope for the family in case he died while we were in America. It was to pay his burial costs. But- he was still alive. However, his wife was in great pain from an infected leg! Apparently a piece of wood got jammed into her leg several  weeks ago. Now it was so swollen she could not walk. She had no money to go see a doctor, and as is the case for many of these poor families-she simply suffered with it. I immediately took her to a clinic where she now has to go twice a day to receive injections to combat the infection. Of course, I will be the one to take her each time. This is my privilege- its not a burden. To share the pain of another human being and then to receive their heartfelt thanks- for them to look me in the eye and know there is absolutely NOTHING they can give me in return other than their prayers of thanks- what more could I want? I go to bed at night tired but happy. What I did today mattered. My Savior is pleased and that is enough.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Zaks story...continued

Update to Zaks story:  ( I wrote his story from the beginning in an earlier post which you can still read )
As you know, Zak has been walking to my house daily now for 2 years where he would sit on a bucket in my bathtub while I poured water over his wound and changed the bandages. We both came to enjoy our ‘bucket talks’ as we discussed a variety of subjects over the years--from homework to his education dreams of the future, GIRLS, and of course, God’s love and care for Zak. We have forged a close friendship.
The plan was to seek skin graft surgery in July when Dr. V, a foreign plastic surgeon, volunteers at Soddo Hospital in another town about 4 hours drive from Arba Minch.
So all year we waited and looked forward for July to come. Then I got an email that Dr. V would not be coming this year. What was I going to tell Zak? He would be crushed! I prayed that God would send someone else to help Zak. Sure enough, God had Plan A ready. (I’m sure that what I thought MY plan was, was actually plan B.....) 
Our friend and surgeon, Dr. Barry had gone home to Austrailia to get a double knee and hip replacement last winter. We assumed he would stay there and retire for good this time (he is 80-something years old!). But no way can you keep this old warhouse down!
He returned (to our surprise) in July to Arba Minch-one week after I got the disappointing email from Dr. V.
So- Dr. Barry calls up an old friend in Addis who now works at Korean Hospital.
Dr S personally meets with Zak and I and refers us to Dr. Y who is a plastic surgeon at Korean Hospital. Zak was admitted to Korean Hosp and after 4 days was prepped for skin graft surgery. 
Dr. Y looked at Zaks wound and decided NOT to do surgery and instead he recommended a consultation by a dermatologist at Alert Hospital. He wanted to get another opinion on the best course of action. He actually went even farther by telephoning this Dermatology doctor and getting us an appointment the next day.( Later we were told that it takes months to get an appointment with him.) And then several days later, he called us just to see how Zak was doing! How many doctors who are no longer taking care of you will call to see how you are??
Then, Dr. D  the derm doc was late for our appointment, but he sent a nurse ahead of him to personally walk us through the whole registering process. The nurse was named “Captain” and he had worked there for over 30 years. He knew EVERYBODY.
He marched us right to the head of the line (we tried not to look at the many people we past in front off) and got us checked in and then left us sitting inside the docs office waiting. Out in the hallway were at least 30 people waiting to see him too........
The doctor decided to admit Zak for 2 months for treatment. But when Captain and I went to admit him, there were no beds available. We would have to return home and come back in 3 weeks. 
So after I pleaded with ‘the Captain’ and asked isn’t there anywhere he can stay-maybe even the pediatric ward???  he winked at me and went to work. We went to the Pediatric ward and spoke to the doctor there. Dr M  did not want to admit a 17 yr old boy into a Pediatric ward--but after some very smooth manuevering by Captain, she finally agreed. When we both closed the door to her office I hugged Captain and we both did the happy dance!!
I was so happy to get Zak admitted, I didnt care where he went. But Zak did.
He was not very thrilled about the idea of sharing a room with a bunch of little children and babies. And he DEFINATELY wasn’t going to wear the snoopy pajama tops.
So we all compromised and he wore his own tshirts, but the hospital jammie pants.
After a couple days Zak admitted that he really did like being in the babies ward-’no bad smells’ he said. But the foam earplugs I offered him did come in handy!!

What I see is that God is ALWAYS out in front of us-preparing the way. We never have to fear the future or what will happen because if we are living within His will, we are never alone. God puts certain people in our path (Dr. V and Dr. Barry) and that connection leads to another person (Dr. S and Dr. Y) and another connection (Dr. D, Dr. M and ‘Captain”) ---and before we know it the solution presents itself.
My friend LeAnn calls them ‘God winks’ and I know they are true. Sometimes I feel that God is ‘winking’ at me all day long! What a great way to live-with the eye of the Father continually on you. 

Today is Friday and I was astonished to see the progress that Zaks’ wound has made in one week!
I am so thrilled. The combination of drugs and medicines are working.
I have to leave him here in the hospital and return home to Arba Minch and my sweet husband Tom for a few weeks. Then I will return back to stay with Zak- I can’t wait to see his progress then!! Keep this guy in your prayers, please! 

Zak outside Korean Hospital in Addis.
This is Ashu. He was the taxi driver that picked us up at the airport and
and drove us around Addis a few days. He became friends with Zak
and has visited him at both hospitals. He even brought his wife and child to
meet Zak. The kindness of 'strangers'.........
Zak did NOT want to wear the Snoopy jammies!

Monument outside Korean Hospital.

Teenage boy complaining about the small size of his dinner plate!

Zaks veins are very small and difficult to find. He endured numerous stickings
 by several nurses trying to get in his IV.

Zak and his smile of triumph! He gets to wear his own shirts.
You better behave, boy!!  (yeah, he is really scared..)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bearing Basha's Burden

Basha Banto is a man who suffered from osteoporosis for many years. For me and most women, osteoporosis is only a condition that doctors scare us about so we take our Boniva pills. At least for me, it was.....
I didn’t know men could get it. And I sure didn’t know the devastation it could wreck in a body.

Basha’s friends told me that he used to be quite tall- almost 6 feet. This is considered very unusual for Ethiopians. He was a by all accounts a good father (6 children) and husband-a regular church goer.
For the past year, he has been confined to a hospital bed. His body had wasted down over the years from this disease until he was a twisted torso with bent and crippled hands. His once long legs were now almost childlike in size. He was on oxygen 24/7 His faithful wife and family came every day and stayed throughout the day to help take care of him.

He was dying, the family knew that. There was nothing the hospital could do for him as far as treatment goes. But the problem is that morally, the hospital could not release him to his home because of the almost daily power outages in our town. There is no way to predict when the electricity will go out- no pattern at all. Without the oxygen on, Basha would only live 12-15 mins.
Now here is where Tom and I come into the story. While I was visiting a friend who was in the hospital, Bashas’ wife also visits my friend. They have gone to church together for many years.
She asked me if I would come meet her husband and pray with him.

Of course I went and my buddy Liul, (my 15 yr old sunday morning Bible story translator) came with me. I was moved by the cheerful personality of this woman who was named Mestewat-and this poor little man who was determined to live ‘ for his children to have a father’
Later when we were driving home, Liul remarked that the family wanted Basha to be able to come home and live the remainder of his days in his own bed surrounded by family and neighbors and friends. But they have no generator-and without that- no mahbrat (electricity) I talked to Tom about maybe buying a generator to give them and he immediately said “lets give him ours.” (What a sweet guy, huh?) Our generator was a super duper industrial strength gas generator and would be more than enough to power the oxygen machine when the power goes out. So we talked to the doctor and nurses to make sure Basha could take the oxygen machine home with him. They immediately said yes and rejoiced! Some of the nurses even cried at this good news.
We then told Basha and his wife and you can imagine the joy that beamed across their faces! Basha was finally going home!!! wow- you wouldn’t believe all the hugs and kisses and “Hallelujahs” we got then! But then the hospital financial dept. started to hit them with the bill-a whole year of hospital residence. This would have crushed them- they could never hope to pay for all that. Through the efforts of Dr. Yappo, we convinced the administration to waive the charges-since we were ‘relieving them of a moral quandry’. The next day Tom and some family members loaded up the generator and took it to Bashas house to make sure it would work there. We even made several trial
runs of how to start it up quickly while one of us pretended to be Basha gasping for air when the mahbrat goes out. Everyone was laughing good naturedly and joking while the eldest son who had the responsibility of starting the generator, paid close attention to Toms’ instructions.
The whole family was so happy. We were too. They planned the next day to invite us for a special coffee ceremony after Basha was brought home- it would be a real celebration!
Tom and I went to bed excited at being a part of something special.

Mestewat grieving over the sudden change in events.
The next morning around 11:00am Tom and I arrived at the hospital to bring Basha home. Tom had put a mattress in the back of the truck and brought along a small battery and converter to power the oxygen during transport.
When we got to the hospital and went to Bashas room-it was empty.
Basha had died that morning only a few hours earlier. We stood there in shock.
The doctor was tearing up as he told us the news. The body had already been taken home and the funeral was being held at 2:00 that afternoon.
There are no refrigeration morgue facilities, so this is the necessary way things are done here. I don’t know how the word gets around so quickly- I really don’t. But by the time we arrived at the home, a tent had been erected in the road beside their tiny house. Mourners had already filled up the yard and tent with an overflow crowd along the road.
One of the unusual customs (at least to us) is that everyone openly weeps-even the men. As they wait in line to give their condolences they are straight faced but as soon as they start touching the widow they break down crying. I had seen this behavior once before in our first year in Ethiopia when a man was murdered. Tom and I knew his father and he called us when he first discovered the body of his son. We got there before the police- but when they arrived, the first thing the policemen did was look into the room at the crime scene and then they all started weeping. It was startling to see professional policemen show emotion like that.  Back to Bashas funeral....... So many people came, bearing the grief of the family with them.Dr. Yappo and some of the nurses even came, weeping.....
I sat and watched the faces of the people- the widow who was completely devastated by this sudden reversal of events. I just couldn’t grasp it- this was supposed to be a day of rejoicing! Instead, we had a funeral.
When it was over, several men made their way through the crowd toward me. I knew what was coming. They wanted me to drive my truck with the coffin in the back to the cemetery. It was several miles away and although the mourners would walk it was a long way to carry the body.....and so I became the hearse driver.

Basha’s mother was frail and was wearing no shoes-she could barely walk- and so she rode in the cab with me-her son in a wooden box covered in a flowered sheet from a bed.
Several hundred mourners walked behind me as we slowly made our way to the cemetery-just a patch of raw, wild land. The hole had already been dug. The coffin was lowered into the ground. It was quickly covered over with cement. This was done while the crowd and family stood off a ways and listened to a preacher. Then the mourning really got intense. The widow began wailing and slapping her face. She threw herself backwards relying on friends to catch her before she hit the ground.The eldest son tore

Basha's mother
off his shirt and fell to the ground weeping as his friends consoled him. This is their traditional way of mourning but it really made me so sad. They mourned as if they had no hope.
I’m not really sure why Tom and I played a part in all this. Maybe to give a family hope- short- lived as it was. Maybe to show that we really are all brothers in this life together. Jesus taught that we should each bear one anothers’ burdens......and for a short time, Tom and I were privileged to be a part of the burden-bearing process.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Prisoners and a Pregnant lady

typical house of the highland people
This is the view of the prison.
A few weeks ago, Tom and I drove up the mountain with Father Philippe-a brother from the local Catholic mission near us. We went to a village high up in the mountains near us called Chencha. It was a welcome relief from the heat we are now experiencing in Arba Minch-so the invitation to go up to the cool mountain air of Chencha was appealing! Also, Chencha is known for their apple trees. Many years ago, missionaries from England and Scotland brought apple seedlings from their home countries and planted them in Chencha. A very successful fruit growing industry resulted from the early missionaries (thank you Malcolm Hunter, among others.)
While there, it was decided to go visit the local prison. This is a prison unlike any I have ever seen. It looked more like a wilderness campground-no barbed wire or guard towers, only a sheet metal fence all around the compound. The whole area was no larger than a football field, and over 700 prisoners live there. It was a strange feeling to walk among the inmates- only one guard giving us the tour. (no gun either.) Everyone smiled and welcomed us to their prison! No angry, scary looking guys at all. No shaved heads or tattoos---definitely not a “ dead man walking” type of atmosphere.
There were several dormitory rooms with 50 bunk beds to each room. The beds are all around the perimeter of the room. In the center area is a floormatt where the men can sit and play checkers, cards, etc.. There are 2 churches that all are welcomed to attend. A small schoolroom where grades 1-4 are taught. Many of these men have never had an opportunity to attend school. There are several old foosball tables, a couple of handmade pingpong tables and a tattered old volleyball net. The prison has a woodworking shop to teach men some skills that they can use when they finish up their sentence. Also, a small electronic shop.
Very intricate designs must be carefully threaded into the gabi.
A lot of the men are busily at work in a weaving textile shop that is being successfully run on prison ground. They make all kinds of beautiful, intricately woven cotton blankets called gabi. They are then able to sell these gabi in the local market and with the money they earn they can deposit into their own bank account kept at the prison. Many of these men then are able to send some money home to their families. The prison also grows many fresh vegetables. It was quite impressive.
inside one of the weaving buildings.

Then we came to the small area where the women are kept. There are 23 women serving prison terms-some for as long as 10 years.
But what shocked me was that there are 15 children living in the prison with their mothers. Because no one else would take them in, the mothers were forced to bring their children to prison with them. Whew. That stunned me. Fifteen children under the age of 5. There are 5 newborn babies.......

I immediately decided that this would be a new area of ministry for Project Ethiopia!
So 2 weeks later, I returned to the prison with my friend Rebekah. She is not only my best friend here, but she is also a wonderful translator for me. We brought some small toys-wooden blocks for the toddlers, jump ropes, playground ball, tetherball, color books and crayons, etc... The excitement on the faces of all of them-moms included-was priceless. We had also brought some onesies, receiving blankets and hats and booties
my mom and her friends knitted (thanks Laura Ingalls and friends) The moms were ecstatic! They were dancing and laughing and holding their babies up to show them off! Such a wonderful time for us all. I took pictures of each woman (and her children, if she had any) and wrote down ages and sizes of the children. I promised that next month when I come I would bring new clothes for each child. One little boy was completely naked except for a shirt and rubber boots. Another child was “very poor” (in the words of the guard--and I’m thinking, aren’t they ALL poor???) Anyway, he had no clothes at all so one of the other children loaned him a shirt.
There will be celebrating BIG TIME when they get their new clothes! I cant wait!
We also brought some practice hoops and embroidery thread for the women to practice edj sera (handiwork) on. My idea is to give them some kind of a craft that they can make money at. Then they could pool their money together and maybe have enough to pay the salary of a schoolteacher for the children! There is no school for these children who are growing up in prison. No playground. No library. Nothing. No hope for their future........
I am hoping that some of you reading this blog will want to help out in this special ministry to the women and children of Chencha prison.
The immediate need is donations of money with which I will be able to purchase locally some basic clothing and shoes for the children.
When I return to USA in Sept- I will be wanting to collect some of the following items: Jumbo crayons (thanks Lyndie Rogers, but they are all gone now!)
Rubber playground balls, pumps and needles
Children sizes rubber boots (they live in a sea of mud during rainy season)
Warm Hooded sweatshirts- they all have coughs and runny noses from the cold air
If you want to help, please send your check made out to:

Overseas Christian Ministries
(be sure and write Project Ethiopia on memo line)
Mail your tax-deductible gift to: Overseas Christian Ministries
1504 Flowers Dr. Carrollton Texas 75007 USA
but WAIT! There’s more!! (remember all those TV infomercials with the ‘special offers’???
more of the story, that is. When we were leaving the prison to go home (about a one hour drive down the mountain) the Commander (warden) asked us to stay and have some bread and sodas with him. He expressed his deep amazement and appreciation that we wanted to return to help the women and children. He gave us a parting gift of two red, ripe apples grown there. It was a real treat to get those.
But the Commanders visit delayed us and now it was getting late and we really needed to get going.
Rebekah and I were smiling and talking about what a wonderful time we had with the women. Suddenly, as we rounded a curve, there was a crowd of people standing in the road waving us down. They were pointing to a VERY PREGNANT woman who was by the look on her face obviously in labor! They had been carrying her down on a homemade stretcher but obviously weren’t going to make it to the hospital in time!

So they loaded her up in the back of the truck (we have a bench seat there) and away we all went down the mountain. To make this even more of an adventure, at the next curve of the road I felt the brakes going out. I pumped them and pumped them and still my foot went almost all the way to the floor. Yikes!! Not a good sign......
But the Lord obviously had set up that ‘divine appointment’ (by delaying our departure with the bread and cokes) and so I was pretty sure He intended us to get safely to the hospital with my special passenger.
An hour and many bumps later we reached the asphalt and sped away to the hospital. I had one little baby onesie left with a blanket and hat and socks which I quickly shoved in her hands as she waddled away. Now THATS special delivery service, I think!!! haha What a wonderful day that was! 

This soldier was trying to help this girl try her first jumprope.

She could jump like nobody's business!
one of two churches on prison grounds.

This little guy wasn't sure what to do-first time for him too!

The 23 women live in this dorm room with 12 beds in each room.

These were some happy moms with new clothes for their babies!

Looking out at the prison yard.

My best friend and translator, Rebekah.

laundry day in prison

I hope this cow didnt fall in......

one of the many textile shops along the road down the mountain

A beautiful view of Lake Chamo in the background.

our special delivery!!!

Looks like we made it just in time!
I went back a day later to find this woman but she had already left the hospital. I hope all went well with her and baby........

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The 'Hebrew Hostel'- shalom and sabbaba

Tsofia- the first of many Israelis to visit us.

About three years ago, we picked up an Israeli girl who was hitchhiking her way around Ethiopia. Her name was Tsofia, and we had such a nice drive together that we invited her to stay with us in Turmi for a few days.
She was visiting the southern tribes before she went back to northern Ethiopia to teach Hebrew at a settlement of Jewish Ethiopians. They are called the ‘fallujah’- a remnant of Jews who migrated from Israel long ago in ancient times.

We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Then a week later she came to our town of Arba Minch. Wanting to contact us and come to our house to say hello, she went into an internet cafe. As she was typing an email (the only contact info she had)

This is peanut butter tea. It tastes as bad as it looks. Supposedly it gives you energy when hiking but seems like a waste of good peanut butter, to me!

Shakshuka did'nt last long!

Hadas and Shachar

and looking out the window, outside on the sidewalk Tom walked by! So we had another few days together at our house. Tsofia told all her friends if they are ever in Ethiopia they should call Tom and Teresa. And they did! Then thanks to Facebook, it seems we become the unofficial ‘Hebrew Hostel‘.
Miriam was quite the artist and left me a chalk drawing of a Mursi woman complete with lip plate and ear gages!
Now we have had at least 6 different groups of Israelis visit us since then.
It has been a wonderful experience-learning some of their cultural ways and we have had many interesting talks about God AND Jesus. We have had some guests that kept a
kosher diet. The hebrew word ‘kosher’ means ‘fit’ or ‘appropriate’. That means they only eat certain foods, and when preparing those foods they must bring their own pans and utensils to use. My pots and pans are ‘unclean’ by their religious views because I have cooked meat, pork, eggs and milk products in the same pans.
Many of our jewish guests simply follow a vegetarian diet in this modern world today.
In supermarkets, foods that are deemed kosher have a symbol on the package Ou (Orthodox Union). Examples of kosher foods are meat from animals with cloven hooves that chew their cud. (No pork) Fish must have scales and gills (no crab or lobster)
In the Bible New Testament (Acts 10:9-33) the ban on pork and shellfish was released as was the separation of Jews and Gentiles- all were now deemed to be acceptable and good and there was to be no more distinction between people groups.
However, since our Jewish friends don’t believe the New Testament-this restriction still stands.
Some are orthodox and follow their traditions even when they travel. We have been privileged to watch a few of them celebrate
shabbat--their holy day of the week
with candles and singing. Shabbat is from sundown on friday until sundown on saturday. It is a reminder of the culmination of Gods creative work done in Genesis-the day He rested from His labors. Also, its a reminder to the Jews how God long ago rescued them from their harsh lives of slavery in Egypt, by setting aside a day of personal freedom from the harsh demands of their labor. So the same for todays Jews- they work during the week, but then on sat. they rest and reflect on Gods goodness. Since there is a ban on travel-they can only walk. They often share the shabbat meal with family and friends. Lighting candles, eating a wonderful meal, laughing and singing--this is a precious part of their lives according to some of our guests. Then since there is also a ban on electronic devices, they pass the day reading, playing board games, taking walks, visiting shut-ins, etc...

And then, some of our guests have been atheists-agnostic-not sure what they believe about this whole God thing. It must be very confusing living in a country like Israel.
Crowded with so many religions-all laying claim to the same small piece of land. (only 8,000 sq miles-about same size as New Jersey-takes less than an hour to drive across the whole country!) We have learned that there are Jewish citizens by nationality, and Jews by religious convictions.
One group I met for the first time at night at the bus station. They had been hitchhiking near Addis and our friend Ben picked them up. When he found out they were headed south to see the tribes, he said “Call Tom and Teresa”--and they did! So I go to the bus station where some pretty sketchy looking guys hang out--and picked up 4 pretty scruffy looking kids with huge backpacks. They were a laughing, good-natured bunch and even cooked a couple of traditional Israeli meals like shakshuba (eggs pouched in tomato sauce) They were only going to stay overnight with us, but we kind of begged them to stay with us a few more days! (we like english speaking company any way we can get it!) They went with us to see the zebras and crocs by the lake near our house.
One of the guys was an excellent guitar player and one night when we had no electricity, we lit a bunch of candles and sang around the ‘campfire’. Hearing those rich, haunting melodies of their traditional music was such a treat-it was a night we will never forget.
So--our lives are the better for opening our house to scruffy strangers who then become friends. And we have a standing invitation to come to Israel and visit them. Maybe someday we will !! Yala bye ! Shalom. 
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