I’m up early this morning. Last night there was a little bit of a meltdown with a few of the girls. Not sure exactly what went down but there’s some people who are struggling with the stress of the trip. This is not unexpected. The hardest part of being here is being completely out of touch. No phone calls, almost no internet access. So there’s just no connection to home. Everything we have to comfort us is right here, and that’s hard.
So as I’ve been thinking about this, it strikes me that this is a real test of our strength in God. This is where the rubber hits the road in terms of finding comfort in the Lord. But that’s a huge reason why we’re here, right? To be pushed, to be stripped of all American comforts, to live with those who’s daily lives are steeped in poverty, and let God be the only thing to lift us up. That’s something that’s so foreign to me. When I’m bummed back in the states I can always grab a beer and flick on the tube for comfort. I can hop on the bike and head to the hills. I can confide in my wife. But none of that is here. There’s nowhere to turn but back to God.
On another level, I feel embarrassed for even showing the slightest bit of homesickness here. Yes we are deprived of the things we are used to, but still, we’re living like relative kings here. So I feel compelled to set an example and not let our hosts see me waver. If I truly believe in a loving, caring God, then now is the time to turn to Him and let him comfort me.
When I boil it down, this whole trip is really a set of faith exercises. I love the analogy of growing as a musician. If you want to be good at guitar, or drums, or anything in life really, how do you do that? You practice. Practice, practice, practice and then when you are sick and tired you practice some more. This is how we learn what it feels like to do something. Us drummers call it muscle memory. You can actually feel when you are playing correctly.
So too must we “practice” being faithful. We must learn what it feels like to trust God to work things out for us. And more often than not, that doesn’t mean he’s going to straighten the path for us. I’m amused at how much we pray for “comfort”, when what we should be praying for is the ability to deal with our discomfort. It’s through learning to deal with hardship that our faith is strengthened. I heard a worship song the other day that asked God not to move the mountain, but instead show us how to climb it. That was powerful to me.
So this trip has been one exercise in faith after another. Each day I’ve had something else stripped from me, been asked to do something I didn’t think I could do, and everyday I feel a little stronger.
January 23, Wednesday, 4:45PM Ethiopian Time
This morning we finished up at Destiny school and it was heartbreaking. The kids were awesome and we took pictures with as many as we could. I gave Gutu a photo of me and my family. I hope he shares it with the other kids. The principal gave us all really cool t-shirts that say Habesha (Ethiopian) on them, and the vice principle gave us postcards. It was kind of funny because somebody handed me my postcard with the backside up. I read the back and then turned it over to find a picture of a tribal woman with no shirt on. It caught me by surprise and my first inclination was to hide the photo from the kids surrounding me. Then I realized…. I’m in freaking Africa! I had to laugh at myself for being a retarded American. The staff at the school then performed a coffee ceremony for us. I’m really going to miss these coffee ceremonies. I’m really going to miss these kids.
Now we’re in a town called Budijira. It’s a small town about an hour outside of Addis. We stopped on the way at a place called Devil’s Lake, which is a huge crater almost 900 meters across that has filled with water. It’s quite amazing and just across it we can see the Rift Valley. All of this area is farmland. The people live in mud huts, literally. They are made of “poles” driven into the ground then covered with a mud mixture. The roofs are topped with grass. It’s almost unreal and I feel like I’ve just stepped back a thousand years into the past.
As soon as we got out of the car a crowd of kids started to appear to check out the foreigners. They were really fun kids, all muslim, and told us about the area we were in. There were several older kids who are studying farming and agriculture at the nearby school. One of them wanted to race me up to the top of a hill and so I took him on. I’m quite proud to say that this 40 year old California boy outran an African kid on his own turf. Yeah baby! I thought my lungs where going to be forcefully expelled from my body when I reached the top, they burned so bad from the dust and lack of oxygen at 8500 feet, but I managed to hold my game face. Ha! From the top we got a great view of the valley and the kids pointed out the grade school (which is a tin sided shack) that they attend. From there we headed into Budijira and got our rooms at a local hotel.
I gotta say I’m quite impressed with our accommodations. Hot water and a TV in every room. Of course we only get one channel. But it’s the BBC and so we’re getting a little home style entertainment. All this for the grand total of $4 a night. Yeah, things are cheap here. Let’s talk about that a little.
The average dinner at a NICE restaurant in Ethiopia, which is pretty close to American standards, runs from 35 to 45 birr. That’s about $4 to $5. Crazy. At Merkato I bought a really nice African necklace for Deanna for $6. A bracelet for $2.50. A set of hand carved candlesticks were all of $7. Here in Budijira, 13 or so of us just had dinner and coffee and the grand total was $25. Yes twenty five. It’s quite amazing and an American could really live well here, as long as he had a source of income. There are no jobs here. I was speaking to the math teacher at Destiny and though he has degrees in Math and Computer Science, he’s a grade school teacher because that’s all he can get. He doesn’t have his own computer so he can’t pursue a career in computers. The guy practices his programming by writing his programs on paper! Amazing.
Anyway, I had some time to talk to Mica and get to know her a bit. What an amazing person. For somebody so young to be so focused is inspiring.