My thoughts on Africa

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oskar Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don't know. If I'd just... I could have got more.
Itzhak Stern: Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.
Oskar Schindler: If I'd made more money... I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I'd just...
Itzhak Stern: There will be generations because of what you did.
Oskar Schindler: I didn't do enough!
Itzhak Stern: You did so much.
[Schindler looks at his car]
Oskar Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.
[removing Nazi pin from lapel]
Oskar Schindler: This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern. For this.
Oskar Schindler: I could have gotten one more person... and I didn't! And I... I didn't!

Processing through this trip IS a process. I realize it has taken me three weeks to get it all down in words. I plan on finishing documenting the trip and giving a recount of each day, each location, each story saw and heard. But before I do I need a moment to analyze.

This trip was so different from my last trip to Africa. When I went to South Africa it was the culmination of a very selfish dream. I wanted to see the country, meet the people, SAY i had been there. Even though my heart was in a place of compassion, my goal was not to serve the people of South Africa. This time everything was different. I am older, and while I wouldn't necessarily say wiser - I have had some life experiences that give me a different perspective. In 1998 when I arrived in Cape Town I was a single law student who had never really lived on my own. Sure I went off to college but there is such a security net. A 3 hour drive from home and a campus full of people just like me. I was fearless and ready to change the world and to absorb the entire experience. To this day I can't imagine how my parents just happily put their daughter on a plane alone, to live in a place she had never seen half way around the world. They knew it would make me a better person. So off I went, with no cares in the world my perspective then was different, my purpose was different.

In 2010 my life has a few more complications. Maybe complications is not the right word, more like responsibilities. I don't have the luxury of sitting down for 2 or 3 hours and just journaling my thoughts about my trip. For one, I have a full time job that I had to consider being absent from to go on this trip. I've mentioned before that my boss is one of my biggest advocates and not only was he supportive, but everyone I work with was excited for me. Another "small" change was that I have 2 children. Children who are at a very precious age. Children who love to be tucked into bed each night and get upset if their ritual prayers and good night wishes are interrupted. Children who I hate to leave each morning and long to be with each afternoon. Children that I wouldn't hear tell me they loved me for 10 days. And above all those changes I have a husband. A husband who shares my desire to use our resources to make the world a better place. A husband who works hard to provide for his family and to be the kind of father he was blessed to have. A husband who was willing to sacrifice to make this trip a reality for me.

And life has shown me things. Since I last went to Africa my father and father-in-law have both died. One unexpectedly and one as we anticipated, both leaving a gaping whole in our lives. My job has shown me things. Things that I couldn't imagine human beings would do to one another. The world has shown me things. As a country we have experienced tragedy and loss. And to top it all off we now have the Internet at our fingertips and with more information we have less communication.

As I process I realize that my heart is hardened in many ways. I am sceptical of people and their motives. I am not as quick to give the benefit of the doubt and even quicker to throw out a judgment.

But there is something about Africa that changes you to the soul. In many ways it is like holding a mirror up and seeing what your character is truly made of. As much as I think I am a grateful person, how would my attitude be if I lived in the shanties I saw. Or if I had to walk 4 miles to get water. How shallow am I for getting upset when they don't get my order right at a fast food place or if I have to wait 10 extra minutes for a prescription. I realize how entitled I have become. To look around and see these precious people with joyful smiles, it's humbling to think about what gets me in a bad mood.

(One of Bobbie Jo's beautiful images)

I also realize it is easy for me to have faith given the life I have. Africa brings about a lot of questions. How can this happen in a world that has so much? Why do the people allow their leaders to take advantage of them and why do the leaders think it is OK? Why did I get the opportunity to be raised by a stable and loving family when my birth mother could have so easily chosen abortion or tried to raise me herself or abandoned me like the children we saw. Why do I get to live in America, the land of plenty, and raise my children in a comfortable home? I have learned that I have to focus. There are not answers to these questions. I do not believe God wants me to be burdened by the guilt. I believe he wants me to be grateful for the blessings I have. More importantly it is what I do with those blessings that matter. As you stand in a sea of orphaned children and realize a few hundred dollars a year could provide clean water and clothes and education for them shouldn't that make you reassess where you spend your money? Do you really need that expensive purse or those fancy shoes (two things that ALWAYS seem important to me). As I chastise my children for wanting more, more, more am I any different?

An amazing photographer named Bobbie Jo Majors joined us on our trip.
Here she is during our first day of dental:

You can see her work HERE. She sent us a video she created. Please take a few minutes to watch THIS. She has been writing on her blog about what to do with everything she saw and felt. Thoughts of selling her home and giving up her business. It's a common internal struggle. Should I feel OK living my comfortable life? Do I really need all of the things I have grown accustomed to? It did make me think of the scene in Schindler's List where Schindler realizes all of the money he has squandered and how that money could have been used to save so many others. That was the angst we experienced, for the 450 we were able to see, there are still hundreds more that need our help. Did we do enough? It's a feeling I hope I never lose, that there is always more to be done. Part of what I should do is help and physically be the person that tends to the poor. The other part of my job is to let others know that they can make a difference. To put aside apathy or cynicism and just extend kindness. What do we do with our experience? We don't let it stay in the pictures....we take what we have and help those we can.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A friend at work has this quote as his signature on all of his emails. I've seen it a thousand times. Strong words from a man who refused to silently standby and watch the atrocities of the Holocaust. He saw a world ravaged by hate and bigotry and the insatiable desire for power. Many countries in Africa have seen this same desire ravage their homes. Not every country has seen the same genocide (though many have) as the Jews did during Nazi rule, but the people have fallen victim to the desire of those in power to accumulate and hoard at he expense of the masses. Such is the case in Ethiopia. When famine began to take the lives of tens of thousands of people, the rulers tried to claim ignorance and tried harder to prevent the story from getting out to the rest of the world. Famine in the 70s and 80s created a devestation that would be punctuated in the 90s by the massive spread of HIV and AIDS across the continent. The combination of these forces is largely responsible for the orphan crisis.

It's difficult to comprehend here in the United States what happens to children when their is no longer anyone to take care of them. We have government agencies who swoop in and non-profits that advocate. I in no way want to minimize the situation in our country - believe you me, I see it firsthand. I know what happens to chidren in foster care. The ones who have been abused or neglected. But even in that system each child receives a court appointed guardian and possibly a volunteer to make sure their guardian is doing what is in the child's best interest. A foster home goes through a thorough inspection and a licensing process. Standards have to be met for the care of the child. Counseling is offered and treatment is available for older children who may have some behavioral problems.

In Ethiopia children from the ages of 7-18 go to homes. Not foster homes where they have to share a bedroom with another sibling. Homes that resemble placese where we in America would go camping for the weekend and then complain about the circumstances. Homes where the running water is a spicket outside and the toilet is a hole in the ground. Homes where the only clothes they have are the uniforms so tattered by daily wear they are barely held together by the threads. Homes where they are cared for by nannies who make less than $2,000 a year. Nannies with good hearts and kind souls, but not mothers.

These are the children we saw on Thursday of our trip.


We went to see the boys in the morning and the girls in the afternoon.

When we arrived at the boys orphanage we set up shop in the church/auditorium. One large room with painted murals on each wall. One outlet for electricity and no water. The room reminded me of a movie set where the characters stumble into an abandoned warehouse that was once used for happier times. To say that it was dirty puts it mildly. The boys were so sweet and eager to help. They picked up the crates of supplies and dutifully put them where requested. So eager to please. So eager for praise. Some boys grabbed brooms and mops and worked to make our area presentable. The team was once again amazing. Each person found their supplies and went to their station to set up shop. As the boys waited on benches to be checked in sweet Sallie taught them the thrill of doing the "wave" and then rounds of "Head and Shoudlers, Knees and Toes" broke out. They marched through like little soldiers, ironically considering there were possibly some former ones in the crowd, and smiled as they departed with spaces where their teeth once were and new toothbrushes and toothpaste. After about 250 boys were treated we packed up, ate our lunch in the vans and headed to the girls orphanage. As we waited to to leave one boy recognzied a member of our team from a visit earlier in the week. He came up and said he had missed the dental day because he was at school. He said he was working very hard because he had to score a 700 in math to be considered for college. By his speech and his memory there was no doubt in my mind he had the ability. He said he wanted to go into medicine and do what so many people had done for him. He said the only way he could do it was with the Lord's help. What drives a kid like that. Parents dead, living in a home with 250 others, nothing in the world to call his own and a smile as big as the moon and a desire to be a doctor.

The girls were just as heartwarming. They eagerly stood in line for a chance to be seen by a dentist. As they waited, some of the girls from our group painted their nails and made salvation bracelets with them.

Sweetest smiles and gentle eyes.

I was asked on this day to share my story of being adopted. It was fitting to share it in this place. It was easy to let my mind wonder how different my life would have been if my biological mother hadn't chosen adoption. The life filled with love, protection and opportunities I have had with my family was not a likely scenario. I even said it outloud, while my life would have been different if raised by my biologically mother, it still would not have been what these girls where facing. It's hard not to wonder what will become of these girls? What does their future hold? These girls abandoned by death and disease. The life of a young girl abandonded is not pretty anywhere on the planet. They are so much more suseptable to the evils of the world. Knowing how fragile the self-esteem is of a young girl, who will tell them how beautiful and worthwhile they are? In some ways it felt like a cruel tease to come in and shower them with love for a few hours. My prayer is that they take this small moment to know there are people out there who do care for them and love them and believe they are worth traveling across the world to give them a hug.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week. - Alice Walker, author The Color Purple

Day 5 - Our Sabbath

When planning the trip, Moody and Emily wisely worked in a day just to rest, regroup and and process through some of the things we had seen. The original plan was for the day to be used however each person wanted, and then to have a gathering in the evening to share and discuss what we'd experienced. One tiny little thing intervened. Actually, it was dozens of tiny little things. We had the chance to go to the main orphanage in Ethiopia where all children are supposed to come first before they are assigned to the different orphanages and adoption agencies throughout the country. The way the system is set up, if a child is abandoned or orphaned they must come to this place first and then literally by chance they are sent to the next place. As we would learn at the end of the week this can mean the difference between a very low income agency with little means and overcrowding or a well financed one with trained staff and clean accommodations. Mind blowing to think that a lottery system changes the course of these children's lives.

The fabulous part about getting to go rock babies was the connection that was made before we went. I mentioned before that people who have a heart for the poor and orphans in Ethiopia are often connected by 6 degrees of separation. True in the case of the parents who were to adopt baby Brighton. After receiving an email that their dreams of having a new baby were coming true one November 26th, their elation turned to heartbreak when they began to get follow up emails that Brighton had been very ill. Before they had a chance to bring their baby home, Brighton went to Heaven. In the midst of their devastation this couple was not sure what to do with this experience or how to regroup from such a tragedy. In their grief they created the non-profit Brighton Their World to honor the son they never had they chance to raise. If you click on the name, it will take you to their page and their mission. Among their grand purpose of bringing attention to the orphan crisis, they also do the very practical and MUCH needed task of collecting formula to ship around the world to places like Addis Ababa whose buildings are filled with tiny babies who can no longer depend on their parents for nourishment. Having a HUGE amount of formula to send to Ethiopia, Brighton's parents made the connection with Moody and Emily and physically drove from Georgia to Texas so that the 67 folks we were taking could load up their bags with formula in every form and size.

On our Sabbath we had the chance to take that formula to the state run clearinghouse and feed that formula to these little babies who generally get their bottles fed to them from a pillow propped up under their chin. I want to be clear that this is not a criticism of the men and women who work at this orphanage. It is a picture of the reality of the crisis this country and the continent as a whole are in. As you can see, rocking the babies and giving them bottles was a task we were all eager to perform.

In addition to the babies there were other children we got to meet. The orphanage itself was established when a wealthy couple discovered they could not have children of their own. They donated the land to the government to use to take care of these children. It bears the name of the donor's wife and while there is not a lot of money running through the place there is clearly a lot of love. Each nurse knows the name and story of every child. There is one building dedicated to children with special needs. My friend Laurel who is a speech therapist back home fell in love with this cutie.

Precious child dressed in an infant's onesie. With obvious developmental issues it was difficult to know how old she was. It was more difficult to learn that she was 6. We watched as the nurses poured love on her and the other children who had a difficult time. I know it sounds redundant, but Ethiopia is not kind to people, especially children, who have physical or mental challenges. We sat in awe of the nurse who lined the children with these special needs up on a couch. One blind, several grossly underdeveloped or with obvious physical deformities. She gentle took injera, gathered the meat onto it and placed it in each child's mouth. The obvious image was of a mama bird feeding her young. But this woman did it with a kindness and a love in her eyes. I can only imagine what her wages are and I'm ashamed to think about the fact that I probably squander that amount each month on frivolous things each onth. And yet for these mere pennies she took the time to make sure each of these souls were tended to and assured that they would not go hungry. Not as long as she was there. My world of work back home sees mothers who neglect their children. Where they allow the men in their lives to do unthinkable things. I've handled cases with children who are scarred physically and emotionally I couldn't help but think how ironic it was to watch this woman - in one of the poorest countries of the world, with no connection to theses children other than her occupation, with very little to offer them. She gave these children abundantly more than all of the parents I come across in the court system combined. Another lesson about what children TRULY need. An especially good lesson for a mother who wants nothing more than to make her children happy.

OK...so we did enjoy some play time too. As much as i would like to say we then spent the rest of our day building houses, the absolute truth is we went shopping. After spending hours watching these ladies care for these children and feeling a sense of hopelessness, retail therapy did seem like kind of a shallow response. We were reminded that spending money in the local economy is one of the best things we can do as a whole. (Don't judge.....sure we were justifying it in our minds, but the truth is it does help) We spent the day at a small market behind the large post office in town.

Store after store of beautiful hand crafted curios and then some not so hand crafted, straight up souvenir items. Everyone found their treasures and items people from home had requested. They also found a way to negotiate in the local language and how to make great deals with the shop owners.

We reassembled in the garden of one of the guest houses at 5:00 for a time of sharing. David Daniels who is the pastor of the church where I am a member, Pantego Bible Church lead our time. On a side note - not many people get to spend a week in Africa with their pastor. We had about 20 come from our church. For me it is such an encouragement to see the person who teaches from the pulpit every Sunday put his words into action. Never one to shy away from work or loving people, I was so encouraged to what this man who is put on a pedestal by thousands in his congregation come to his knees to serve the "least of these". He and his wife Tiffany are very special and I am so glad I had the chance to experience this with them.

During our time David asked us to talk about what we had seen and what we thought God wanted us to do with what we saw. After the challenging first day of being overwhelmed and having to turn so many away, to the desolate conditions of Korah and the faces of the children in each orphanage we had a lot on our hearts. Consistently we did not want to go back to our lives in America where we were spoiled and comfortable and not take some kind of action. We shared stories about specific people we met and how our short encounters with them made a huge impact.

I share this story, but it is really not mine to tell. It belongs to my sweet friend Susan who was my roommate in Africa and my sounding board every night (and most of the day) for what I was experiencing. She shared about one of the people who made the biggest impact on her. It was in Korah. She was working in the pedo area treating the children all day long. A little boy came in who needed his tooth pulled. The dentist had a difficult time getting the tooth out and as the father stood and watch his son writhe in pain, tears began streaming down his face. As any parent knows there is nothing worse than watching your child experience hurt. You immediately want to fix it and would give anything to take on the burden yourself so you don't have to see it imposed on your child. As this father struggled to watch this experience for his son, his tears of empathy turned into a plea for help. He begged Susan and the team she was working with to take his son. Take him to America where he can live a better life. To America where he can get an education and be provided all of the things that his life in Korah could not give him. How many fathers in this world don't even know where their children sleep at night and aren't willing to provide for their very basic needs and this man - recognizing his lot in life, broken by what he had just seen his child physically go through, this man was willing for his heart to be ripped from his chest and let his boy go half way around the world because he longed so deeply for him to thrive in this world. Children in America should be so lucky.

Monday, October 11, 2010

We have to quench the thirst of Jesus for others and for us. We do this by nursing the sick and dying. By each action done to them I quench the thirst of Jesus for love of that person - by giving God's love in me to that particular person. Gathering and teaching little street children. visiting and caring for Beggars. Giving shelter to the abandoned. Caring for the unwanted, the unloved, the lonely - all the poor people. This is how I quench the thirst of Jesus for others, by giving his love in action to them. - Mother Teresa

Day 4 - Korah

Before any of us went to Korah, Dr. Moody shared this video with us;

The Village of Korah - A short documentary from Session 7 Media on Vimeo.

With these images impressed on our hearts and the experience of the day before fresh in our minds, it was fair to say many were anxious about what we were going to face when we got there. Throughout our trip we traveled through the city in hired vans with drivers. The drivers are contract workers working mainly with The Gladney Center for adoption who escort adoptive families when they come to Ethiopia to meet their children. They are some of the nicest, hardworking guys you will every meet. Truly a treasured part of the trip to make new friends with them. To give you some perspective though, the drivers lived their whole lives in Addis and had never been to Korah. They didn't see any reason to go and quite honestly they were not thrilled to take us.

The average citizen of Addis has two opinions of Korah - you have either never heard of this place, or it is a forbidden area reserved for outcasts that no one would dare enter.

I learned years ago that videos can make a deep impression, but they never capture the magnitude of the situation. Nothing was more true than here. As far as you could see masses of people were living in this small, filth ridden area. Shanties built of tin or tarp covered the land. As we pulled up to the church (again, another building made of tin roof and tarp sides) we met Cherrie. Cherrie is an American who came to Korah to discover this is where her heart is. Her children are grown and her husband is about to retire and she spends the majority of her time ministering to the people of Korah. She wears a spectacular necklace made of washers with the names of her biological children stamped on several and then handfuls of names of the children she sponors at Korah stamped on the others. She gave us a tour and a history of the area and introduced us to Sammy. You see Sammy in the video. Sammy's parents, both lepers, raised him in the dump. YoungLife came to Korah and Sammy dedicated his life to Christ and felt a burden to minister to the other kids in Korah. He has a group of guys he disciples and they provide education and help for children who grow up.

We were directed into the church - the one with no electricity or running water - and given instructions. One of the things we quickly learned on this trip was the art of improvising. There were no tables to lay patients on so the church "pews" (long wooden benches) became the examining and working tables. The irony did not go unnoticed. We Americans complain if we have to wait 10 minutes to see our dentist and then when we want a massage chair with a TV in the ceiling to keep us at the height of comfort while we go to our annual check up. And pain, we want anything we can get to make the pain non-existent. In stark contrast we saw 300 people wait in a line, standing in the mud soaked with debris and urine, eager for the chance to see a REAL LIVE dentist with the hope to get the teeth that are rotting in their heads, causing tremendous amounts of pain and health issues pulled with one, maybe two shots of anesthesia. Then they hop up, don't get a friend to drive them home or a comfortable area with a TV to rest before they head back out. They pick up their crutch, made of a stick or broom handle, and limp back to the tin shack where every possession they own waits inside.

The phrase "poorest of the poor" is used a lot in Ethiopia, in all of Africa for that matter. It has even became a source of pride and even a point of contention for some who want to all jockey for the position of being the one service or clinic that serves the poorest of the poor. That day in Korah, there was no doubt, we came face to face with the poorest of the poor. The age of the person often dictated their condition. The older residents clearly were banished because of leprosy. Many missing limbs or apendages. Many crippled by the disease. We many who were blind whose entire existence was at the mercy of another person. Ethiopia is not kind to those with disabilities. The terrain is difficult to navigate for the heathy and their is not government assistance to provide meals or medication. It's a wonder anyone who has physical challenges survives at all. The skin of the young does not wear the scars of leprosy, instead the lesions of HIV or AIDS.

And in shame we Americans who thought we were bringing buckets of hope and aid to these people found we were the ones who benefitted that day. Amidst the pile of the city's discarded we found a precious people who were full of joy and gratitutde. Who quickly shared how God had blessed them. Blessed them? It took me so off guard. People with nothing...actually, with more than nothing with the trash of the people around them, they looked me right in the eye and told about how they were blessed. Humbling.

We wrapped up dental services and walked to ALERT. ALERT is the leprosy hospital that was donated years ago by a doctor and now serves as a residence hall for about 200 families. These families make hand made garmets and gifts to sell for support.

With our group who had not yet had the opportunity to buy local wares it was like Macy's on Christmas Eve. It took over an hour for everyone to get through the line and at the end of the day it was the largest sales the store had ever seen! Cherished items for those of us who had the chance to meet a cherished group of people.

The end of the day provided a place where we could all decompress a bit. We had a cultural dinner at a traditional restaraunt where we ate delicious lamb and yentils and other dishes served on the bread of the country injera. Entertainment was provided in the form of local singers and dancers and then some NOT-SO-LOCAL dancers joined in the fun and things got a little crazy. We decided what happens in Addis needed to stay in Addis but there is no doubt YouTube will be the source of shame for several.

I am working to update as quickly as I can. The benefit of being jetlagged as you can see is getting up early in the morning. I will be adding pictures to the earlier posts as well if you want to loop back around.

Day 5 - government run orphanages.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

DAY 2 and 3

I'm torn about posting because there is no way to include all of the things we have seen in the past 2 days. I don't feel I am going to give it justice in the few moments I have on the hotel's computer to include everything, so I will try to hit the highlights.

Sunday morning we gather together at Beza church. We got there at 8:30 which is when we thought it would begin but one of the pastors told us it was a special day and they were combining their early and late services. So a little delay until 10:00 and we all joined the congregation inside. The service was in both English, for the "international" congregation and Amharic for the local folks. The singing put gospel choirs in the states to shame. Singing and dancing and a very fun time for all of us. The church was celebrating the Feast of the Tabernacle and so the invited leaders from local churches to join as a show of unity. First a Messianic Jewish Rabbi spoke and gave a lesson about the Ethiopian Jews and how they had been persecuted. Then a priest from the traditional Christian Orthodox church told had the forefathers kept the faith in the country. The pastor then did his own lesson about how God has been so faithful. That seems like a lot....it was. 3 hours worth. It was a wonderful experience and I'm so glad we went.

After church we ate a beautiful resturaunt overlooking the city. It was a gorgeous view and a nice time to relax. Our next stop was one we were so thankful we got to be a part of. We met with the leaders of an organization called Drawn from Water. I can't enter the link from here, but google Drawn from Water. They discovered a tribe in Northern Ethiopia who believes certain things curse a child and if they do not kill that child another child in the village will die and because of the curse. So, the elders of the village make a decision and they may drown the child (hence the name) or they could just leave a child in the forest to die. One of the things that they believe is a sign of the curse is if the child's top front teeth come in before their bottom front teeth. Can you imagine - you make a decision to kill a child because their top teeth come in first. So, these lovely families are now trying to build relationships with the elders and prevent further deaths. While they do that they actually go out and rescue these children and bring them back to the home they have established. Unlike the majority of the orphans who were left alone due to HIV/AIDS - these children have parents but the village decided they should be removed. It's amazing the love these folks give the children and we had a wonderful time blowing up balloons and painting faces, passing out lollipops and silly bands and bringing new shoes for the kids going to school. After 2 lovely days of calm laid back time with some of the most beautiful children in the world, we had to prepare for the unexpected.

Monday was the first day we went out with the dentist. We have 17 from all over the United States and they are INCREDIBLE. They are tremendously talented and I cannot believe they have given up 10 days at their practice to do this. We got up early and headed about 45 minutes outside of town to a smaller area where there is a government run clinic. There are no paved roads and along the way our drivers negotiated through a maze of people, goats, potholes and large rocks. As we pulled up the facilities were what you would imagine a clinic in the middle of Africa being. Corregated tin roofs and cinderblock buildings in and L shape. 15 rooms with no electricity or running water. We knew going in there was no way to gage how many people would show up. When we arrived the crowd was massive. I would guess 300 -400 people most of whom live in the forest behind the clinic. As all of the dental people arranged their stations we tried to entertain the small children. We started with face paints and baloons and the small group of children turned into a mob. Just the chance to get a Disney sticker or a paper plate was worth pushing to the front of the line. As the crowd grew we realized we needed to focus on helping out the dental folks and not trying to do crafts or other activities. Each room was assinged a different task. 2 orthodontist did initial triage and determined what services the patient needed. From there they might go to cleaning or restorative to get a filling. Anesthesia was another area where they prepped for the last room which only did extractions. I was on the end at the "pharmacy" helping the local clinic pharmacist pass out tylenol and amoxicillin. As 1:00 rolled into 3:00 and then 4:00 the line of people never ended. One of our drivers went into a little coffee shop and said the "American dentist" were the talk of the town. As people heard the news they made their way to the clinic. Finally, after hours of seeing patients and facing the reality that everyone was not going to get served the decision was made to close down. It was very difficult to see face the reality that we could only do so much. The dentist were very hard on themselves. They wanted everyone to walk away with some kind of care. Then we all stood back to see what had been done. Close to 400 men, women and children had been seen by a dentist. Hundreds of extractions and filings and treatment for infection. It was an amazing day and much what I imagine the scene was like when Jesus fed the 5,000. Just a mass of humanity wanting to be loved. We did what we could and we thank God for giving us the strength to do it.

Our day at the clinic was a harsh reality that Day 4 we were going to a leper colony and no one truly knew what would happen there. We had no idea what to expect and what we didn know was that the conditions were much worse than what we had seen. Stay tuned for the day at Korah.

Monday, October 4, 2010


My head spins trying to find a way to capture everything that happened the first day. We have MARGINGAL internet reception here so I won't get to write much. I'll skip all of the travel details except to say it truly was a miracle that 67 people got here with over $50,000 worth of supplies including medicine and medical equipment and we only lost one bag of clothes. AMAZING. Our hotel here is wonderful and they have provided a great room for us to sort all the supplies to be distributed everyday.

After 20 hours of travel and arriving at the hotel and sorting out everything we were ready to meet some kids. I want to begin by letting you know I will not be using any true names of locations or children unless they are already on the internet. Ethiopia is a very proud country. They are a very loving, hard-working people. They truly do the very best they can with what they have. I want to be sensitive to their perspective too. Many Westerners have come for short stints and used the informaiton they gathered to criticize this country. This is not my intention. This is the reason for the annonymity.

Our plan for the day was very laid back. We were meeting at 10:00 and then going to the orphanage where Abe Alexander (the inspiration for all of this) was adopted from. We had 5 or 6 vans of folks pulling up and we were welcomed by a sea of beautiful, happy faces. As each one of us entered the courtyard we were bombarded with hugs and kisses and the sweetest affection. (MAKING FOAM VISORS)

Each person became liked a pied piper with a group of 10 to 14 children around them. We started handing out lollipops and sillybands and while each child could not contain their excitement, they were also very mindful to wait their turn.

I was amazed to watch the older children wait for the younger ones. The dentist got set up. There "examining tables" were benches from the side of the picnic tables covered with fuzzy mats for comfort. (DR. MOODY LOOKING AT SOME PATIENTS)

They did amazing work outside and inside another dentist performed extractions or fillings with the means he had. Each person had an assignment. One group instructed each child in groups of 3 or 4 in oral hygeiene. It was apparent that they had never brushed their teeth before.

They were THRILLED to recieve a new toothbrush with paste. One group painted a room. The toodlers quarters needed a freshen up and gallons of green paint gave the room a whole new look. Nate Berkus would have been proud. Then the nannies needed help getting the infants to sleep. I walked in the room to what seemed liked dozens of babies. (Actually only 9, but when they are crawling in every direction it multiplies. God knew what He was doing when he gave me twins because withing minutes I was balancing one baby on my leg and keeping one over my shoulder. Each nanny took such loving care of each child. There were at least 2 babies to every bed and one had three. They were clean but dressed in onesies that looked liked they made it through the Brady Bunch and then were sent over. We were lucky to be able to bring some new onesies and formula and disposable diapers. One little one seemed to have some difficulty. She was the one over my shoulder. As I held her she labored with every breath and at times coughed to the point it seemed to pain her. When aked how old she was the nurse said "six month". I looked at her and couldn't help of thinking of when Gabby was born and the skin on her legs just hung of her bones. This 6 month old child could not have weighed 10 pounds. I knew when I heard her age and felt her coughs that she was very ill. Possible like many orphans in Ethiopia that she was HIV positive. Possible that it was just an infetion. The reality of the situation is that she willl probably not make it to her 1st birthday. Knowing that I held her as long as the nurses would let me, wanting her to know in some small way that she was loved and her live was seen here on earth.

The men had a different task. Several guys from our group had heard that buying a goat or sheep could provide a lot of meat for the kids. So off they went and bought 4 sheep. You can imagine what happened when they returned. Let me just say if you are squimish to blood you didn't want to be around. (OUR DINNER - DON'T LOOK TOO CLOSE, YOU WILL SEE TEETH. IRONIC FOR A DENTAL TRIP)

These four sheep became our Bar-B-Q dinner and it all happened right there in the courtyard. It was very good and traditional preparation made it very spicy. A classic example of the people of Ethiopia. Here we hoped to give them some food for the week and they invited all of us to stay to partake.

But the true highlight of my day came in the form of an 18 year old girl. She was not an orphan there, but the biological mother of Abe. We knew she was coming and in preparation I found a necklace for her with Abe's name on it. As an adoptee I knew the sacrifice she made. And as the Alexanders found discovered Abe's diagnosis I knew that she literally saved his life when she allowed him to be adopted. Here she came in the gates. You would know her from a mile away because she has the most gorgeous caramel skin and bright brown eyes. When she saw Abe it was very difficult. Abe had a hard time too and she was seeing face to face the reality of what she had just learned only weeks before about his condition. As the tears melted away I was able to let her know what a gift she had given and how I thanked my birth mother every day for allowing me to be adopted by my parents and that her decision truly changed the course of Abe's life. As the tears dried off she was able to tell us how she knew when she was pregnant that God was going to do a miracle in the child she carried. As Emily and I sat with her and the precious director of the orphanage interpretted for all of us, she was assured that he is in fact a miracle and the reason we are all here. (ABE AND HIS TWO MOMS)

I could have left after the first day and my trip would have been so worthwhile. But.....today was just as good! More on that tomorrow. AND....I have to send pictures later as well.