Day 3

PictureHaving opted for the “late” departure, our team met Zenebe and Pastor Matthewos at 7:00 a.m. for our five-hour ride to Roggie Village.  We were joined by Susan Clarke and her team of six college or post-college adults (including Jane Van Antwerp’s daughter, Karen and her husband Steven, Victoria, and three – Katie Clarke, Joe and Josh – who are staying in Ethiopia for two months this summer to teach and work with other ministry partners.  Please visit the team’s blog at  Following a delicious brunch along the way, we arrived at Roggie Village around 1:30 p.m. where we were greeted, not just by 150 HOPE Enterprise students, seated attentively at their seats in the brand new classrooms built by MPPC, but also by the entire village outside.

Our team was blown-away by how Grace jumped off the bus and nearly dove into the midst of the children from the village.  Holding hands, giving hugs to strangers and expressing love in the most intimate way is a gift that Grace has, and it humbles many other members of the team.

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To me, Roggie Village was the experience of a lifetime; a little glimpse of what heaven will be like. As soon as we approached the HOPE school, kids along the road spotted our bus and excitedly shouted out to each other to announce our arrival. Two occurrences especially were memorable on this first day.

The first was the sight of about 30 or 40 mothers sitting down in a long line watching us interestedly. I decided to greet one or two of them, and extended my hand to the first, who stood up and gave me the Ethiopian kiss – right cheek to left cheek to right cheek. As soon as the first woman was done, she immediately sat down and the next one stood up – another kiss and handshake. Down she went. Up came the third. More kisses and more handshakes. Down went the third, up came the fourth. This happened all the way down the line till I had been kissed by at least 30 mothers. What a blessing!

The second event was when the elder of the village welcomed us and thanked us for providing the school and The Well. He emphasized these as great gifts from God. He then asked for the team leader, and Todd was elected (we are fortunate to have three leaders on this trip). Then the elder sat him down on a chair, with the villagers and our team crowding in closer and closer. Todd was presented with a huge woven blanket as a symbol of their gratitude, and our team was told that we were now a part of their culture and community. Todd thanked them for letting us come and told them that the excitement of the kids and the warm welcome from everyone held so much joy for us. The good will and mutual respect in the circle was palpable, and we have been in a state of euphoria since then.

By the way, I have discovered that Ethiopians revere age. Even someone a year older is respected. This gives me a huge advantage, given that I am Methuselah compared with the rest of the team.

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The students were so excited to see us. Sitting in their classrooms, dressed in their new, teal-colored uniforms, they greeted us with song, chanted greetings and presented drawings for our team to deliver to their sponsors at MPPC.  The air was filled with joy and excitement as several members greeted their sponsored child, some for the first time.  Our team was excited to participate in Jennifer and Justin’s first meeting of Kuffa, the little boy they have sponsored since the beginning of the Roggie school.  (More on that later.)

Our mission in Roggie was three-fold.  First, we were spending time with the teachers, helping them with “English-as-a-second-language” (“ESL”) teaching skills.  Our team’s teachers came to life during this project, giving of themselves and their talent to the three wonderful servants of God known as the teachers at Roggie.

Second, Susan Clarke’s team worked with the children, reinforcing English through song and play.  What joy to watch these young children frolic, play and giggle at the “forengi” as Josh rode a mule, Joe ran, the children chasing behind him, and Katie practiced her Amharic.

Finally, we were able to deliver a card to each student completed by an MPPC child, while we took photographs and video of each sponsored child (and the KG-1 entering class this Fall) to show sponsors how the children were doing and to let them learn a little of their sponsored child’s personality.  What fun to watch Steve Hammack taking photographs while jumping up and down making noises to get the children to smile or laugh.

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We spent a good portion of our morning photographing and videotaping each child (150 of them) to provide a visual record for their sponsors. This required teamwork -- Lil rounded up the kids, Jennifer greeted each one and handed them their folder, four or five of us took them over to Todd, Grant, Justin, and Steve, who took each child’s picture with the child holding a name tag with his or her name on it.

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Perhaps the most meaningful part of the time at Roggie came when we were greeted by the entire village.  With the village elders in the front, the other men behind them and the village women at the back, the elders welcomed us as part of their family.  They expressed gratitude for all that MPPC has done for their village and their children – building the school, digging the well, and for the plans to establish the library and the evening literacy training program for adults.

The elders asked that the leader of the team step forward and Todd Johnson stepped forward (or was he pushed?).  Todd was asked to sit in a chair, at which point the elders brought out a long, woven piece of cloth and draped Todd with it under the mid-day sun.  The elders spoke of how they were blessing MPPC as an elder and part of their family and how, as an elder, Todd would have the wisdom and right to sit as judge and jury in the village.  The members of the team were stunned and honored, especially Todd, when the elders asked him to speak.

Todd spoke of the gratefulness experienced by everyone at MPPC to be a part of helping the elders and the rest of the village to help their children.  He mentioned what a privilege it was to work with such wise people and with people who cared so much for their most precious resource – their children.  Finally, Todd gave thanks for the gifts the village had given to MPPC.  He said, “We come from a place where people have very many things, but sometimes, not much joy.  But you and your children have joy!  Every time we come to visit, we are given the gift of your joy, one of the most precious gifts that God gives us.”  You could just see the eyes of the village elders light up in pride.

What a blessing to be blessed this way!  What a blessing to bless!