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Ethiopia Day 5

On Wednesday, we went to visit the child that we sponsor through Compassion International. We had to bring our boys back to the care center on Tuesday afternoon because we couldn't take them with us on the Compassion tour. So, on Tuesday night we actually got some sleep, and then we left first thing Wednesday morning. 

Compassion has many sites throughout Addis and throughout Ethiopia. There are thousands of children in their program. It took about 20 minutes to get to the Compassion site, and when we got there our little guy (Yabsira) was waiting outside the gate for us with his mom and the director of the site. In the 15 years that this site has been operating, only 4 families have come to visit, so it was a pretty big deal for them. It was a big deal for us, too. 

Right away, Yabsira gave us both huge hugs and kissed our cheeks. I didn't think I would get emotional, but I started to cry when I saw him. Then the compassion director took us through the building and explained all about the ministry. It was obvious that this man really loved the Lord, loved his job, and loved the children. We learned that he had been part of the underground church when Ethiopia was under communism. He really was a fascinating man! We had some time to talk through a translator with our sponsor child and his mother and then we went to Yabsira's home. It was only a short drive away. Actually, all of the children in the program have to be within walking distance because they don't have cars or other forms of transportation. We had a van, so we all piled in and drove to their house. 

This is our guide and the director of the Compassion site. Our guide, as I mentioned before, was formerly sponsored through the Compassion program. He earned a scholarship to college through Compassion and now has a veterinary degree. (Unfortunately, in Ethiopia the government chooses your major, so even though he wanted to study medicine for people, he was forced to study medicine for animals. This wouldn't be so bad if there was a need for veterinarians in Ethiopia; there isn't. People don't have pets and they certainly don't pay money to care for animals. We had an interesting discussion about the differences between Ethiopia  and America in that regard! He said he saw a video in one of his classes that showed an animal hospital in America and he commented that it was nicer than the hospitals that they have in Ethiopia for people). That's a little shameful, don't you think?! More importantly, our guide told us that the best thing about his experience with Compassion is that he met Jesus.

These pictures are of their home. Our sponsor child's mother did a traditional coffee ceremony for us, which includes roasting fresh coffee beans over a fire. Then she ground the roasted beans by hand, walked to the community pump for water, boiled it over the fire, and then made us fresh coffee. It was delicious and a very gracious gesture. She invited a few of her neighbors to join us and we all sat and drank coffee together. Don played soccer outside with Yabsira and a friend, and at one point, Yabsira asked if he could come home with us. Yabsira got a little mad that his friend was encroaching on his time with Don, plus his soccer ball was getting dirty (he had wanted to keep it tucked away in their home to keep it clean). There was a little stand that sold candies nearby and he asked if we would buy him one; we were happy to! As soon as he had it in his hands, all of the Ethiopian adults nearby told him to share it with everyone around him, including us. We wanted him to keep and enjoy the whole thing for himself, but that's not the way they do things there. If you have something, you share it with everyone. 

There's so much more I could say about this day and the conditions of this little village, but I kind of hesitate to write much about it because I want to be careful not to exploit them in any way and I don't want to puff us up at all. There are two main reasons that I'm posting about this: one, it was part of our trip and an experience we will never, never forget; outside of meeting the boys, I think this day will go down as one of the more significant days of our lives; two, I really hope it encourages more people to consider sponsoring a child. 

Honestly, being there opened our eyes to the reality of poverty at a whole new level. People in Yabsira's community live on less in a year than most of us spend on a week of groceries. The whole time we were with them, I kept being struck by how much we've been given in America and what a great responsibility (and privilege) we have because of it. 

Prior to this trip, despite sending and receiving letters and pictures, I felt somewhat disconnected from Yabsira. Being there, I realized how significant these sponsorship programs are--they literally change people's lives. The children in the program receive additional education, they are taught the gospel, they are given food and basic necessities; they are given a chance at a life. They wouldn't have this chance otherwise. They could work really hard in school and still end up walking the streets hoping that someone will let them shine their shoes in exchange for a few coins. 

If you're interested, Compassion International is a great, reputable organization. We were SO impressed by them and have absolutely no concerns about recommending them. Lifesong for Orphans also has a great sponsorship program, and it's only $20 a month.  

The video below shows some random shots from our day; at one point, Don is trying to toss Yabsira. Yabsira had never done this before and was afraid to let go. Sweet boy. Password: compassion

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