A Day in the Life of a Mission Trip

The team arose this morning, with a small congregation in the main room, talking about the enormous rain and hailstorm from the night before.  It poured torrents of water for a good thirty minutes straight, right around midnight, which left us all questioning whether the children stayed dry while they slept. The power was off when we awoke, which meant cold showers for the “morning shower club.” It was still drizzling a bit by the time we headed outside after breakfast, but nothing like the night before.
The children arrived at their usual time, but this year, many were clad in rainproof jackets or carrying umbrellas.  It was such a relief to see.  Not only did they have real clothes, but their shoes also looked far more rain-ready than in prior years.  Again, another sigh of relief. 

Grace and Debbie headed off to the library with the majority of our team to lead staff devotionals. Todd prayed for them before they left, and then they did a beautiful job teaching on unity and community, with Pastor Mattewos translating.  The rest of us hung out in “the fishbowl”, feeling a little under the weather.
Around 9:30, Laura and I began prepping our craft for the day.  We would be creating an “All About Me!”  Book with grades 5 and 6.  We began at 10, and at first, the children struggled understanding the concepts of putting down their own age, their own memory, and their own family members into the blanks of the book.  For some kids, apparently, their favorite memory with their family was “coming to Ethiopia in the summer” and in their spare time, they like to “go to Santa Cruz with their friends”.  It took them a while to figure out that they weren’t supposed to copy my examples, although it created lots of laughs and fun in the classroom.  With the help of many outstanding translators, grade 6 (the classroom where I was teaching) began writing their own thoughts and memories, and also decorated their books.  They are just so much fun, and really seemed to enjoy themselves. 

After crafts, the “real” teachers went back to teaching, and the non-teachers (aka the “teachers aides”) took some rest time in the guesthouse.  At noon, which was the end of the second lesson, we got some time to spend with the kids out on the playground and in the courtyard.  A group of girls sat down and tried to teach me some more Amharic, to no avail. Either way, it was fun and I did learn a few words.  My vocabulary currently consists of bread, troublemaker, banana, boat, apple, ears, and some of the children’s names.
At 12:30, the team headed in for lunch, ate quickly, and then my mom, sister, Laura, and I sat at the table just chatting as the kids walked by.  As the 5th and 6th graders walked to lunch in the upper cafeteria, we were able to observe each and every one thanks to “the fishbowl”.  So we would sit at the table and wave and talk about which kid was the smart one in our class (Jonas), or the girl with the pretty eyes (Mahalet).  Mahalet actually stood outside “the fishbowl” and would play peek-a-boo with me from behind the bushes. Finally, I ran outside, snuck up on her, threw her over my shoulder and spun her around while I called her, jokingly, a little troublemaker.  From there, a group of kids circled to watch and giggle.  We all sat down to watch the soccer game going on in the courtyard.  It was the outgoing 10th graders versus the already-graduated preparatory school kids.  The children taught me more Amharic and quizzed me on Manchester United players, American actors and Ethiopian singers.  It’s so funny how much they love American entertainment.  Arnold seems to take the cake in terms of votes for favorite actor.  We all stayed outside until about 1:30 when we joined up with the two different teaching teams to help them with their teaching activities.

After the activity, Emily, Laura and I left the classroom as the teachers planned for the next day.  We headed out to the courtyard to play “P.I.G.” with some of the older kids and just shoot hoops to pass time.  While we were out there, it actually began pouring (with hail).  For five minutes or so, it came down pretty hard.  After it stopped, everyone else continued to play basketball, but I walked over the playground for the kindergarten kids, which looks over the city of Dese and into the mountains.  It was incredible, watching as the rain moved down the street, another section of town, and finally into another village and off into the mountains.  Overall, it was absolutely beautiful, just being able to watch how far the rain stretched. 

Some of our team members went for a walk this afternoon and, ten minutes after they left, were caught in the same monsoon rain with hail.  Luckily they had taken shelter in one of the many homes under construction and waited it out.  We’ve noticed that the government and various NGO’s are pouring money into parts of Dese that had some of the greatest poverty, building new housing for families to share.  We’ve heard that Wandemaggen and his two sisters (whom our family sponsors) have a new government house.  We are excited to see how their conditions have improved from last year, when they were living among sticks wrapped in plastic and covered with tin, in a one-room “house” that was smaller than many Silicon Valley bathrooms.

I returned to playing basketball games for a while, until the clouds started returning and it began to get dark.  The older kids headed home and the three of us made our way back into the guesthouse.  Everyone dried off a little, sat around and chatted about the day, and finally ate a wonderful dinner of pasta and French fries.  Carbohydrates, carbohydrates, and more carbohydrates.  I don’t think dinner could have possibly tasted any better.  Devotionals start in a few minutes, and from there, we will probably all head to sleep.  It’s a big day ahead of us tomorrow.  All the other grades will be returning tomorrow after not being allowed onto the campus for the past two days.  It should be fun!  :-)