Safe and Sound

PictureWith stomachs full and the majority of the team sleeping soundly in their beds (at 9:15pm) here is the first entry for the Dessie Blog.  We have reached the end of one of the longest days in recent memory for any of us.  The team left San Francisco around 11:30pm on Thursday, April 24th.  Flying through the night, the team switched planes in Washington DC for the 8 hour flight to Rome.  Once in Rome, the plane was fueled and cleaned before the final leg of the journey – a 6-hour flight to Addis Ababa.  We landed at 10:30am local time, April 26th.

PictureWe were met at the airport by our local hosts Melaku, Mimi and Gizaw.  We were driven (read: faith building exercise – imagine San Francisco traffic without laws, stoplights or crosswalks) to the Myungsung Christian Medical Center, a hospital established by a Korean church which loaned us a microscope to use during our screening of the Dessie schoolchildren.  We then drove (read: further deepening of our faith…) to the SIM guesthouse where we were able to rest, meet with Dr. Minas, the president of Hope Enterprises, as well as Dr. Bob Hawkinson and his wife Michael Anne who are heavily involved in the Community Health Education program we will help bring to Dessie.  After a wonderful dinner, we retired for the night thankful to be in Ethiopia and anticipating the things we’ll see and do in the days to come.

PictureWe are thankful for the safety of our flights and for the gracious welcome of our hosts.  Unfortunately, 11 of our 14 checked bags did not arrive with the flight and will not be arriving until Sunday night, April 27th.  Being flexible and with some humor, we made the best of the situation and experienced the local merchants in a quest for toothbrushes, T-shirts, and deodorant.  We do not need to make any alterations to our travel plans for now and we will be flying north to Dessie on Sunday morning.  Our bags will be driven to Dessie on Monday with our supplies for the screening stations as well.

Please pray for us as we travel to Dessie and for the work we will be performing there.  Pray too for the Addis team which is en route to Addis and will be arriving tomorrow evening.

Addis Team arrival and day 1-

PictureWe are excited to be in Ethiopia!  The Addis team had a smooth trip from San Francisco to Washington, DC where we connected to an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Ababa.  After an uneventful transatlantic journey, including a 45 minute layover in Rome for a crew change, we arrived in Addis on schedule Sunday evening. 

PictureIt turns out that most of the luggage for the Dessie team, delayed due to a tight connection in Washington, arrived in Addis on our flight.  We retrieved the luggage, and Malaku, director of Dessie project sponsor LifeWinds, embarked on the difficult drive north.  By now our colleagues are reunited with their clothing and medicines.

PictureWe are comfortably established in the guesthouse arranged by Gizaw Melese, our team coordinator with Service in Missions Aids Care and Treatment (SIM ACT).  Our living room window opens up on a typical California vista.  However, the Muslim call to prayer issuing at dawn from loudspeakers atop the nearby mosques underscored the fact that we are nearly 10,000 miles away from the Golden State.

Today, after devotions and orientation at SIM ACT headquarters, we split into three teams and paid home visits to many nearby SIM ACT beneficiaries. We made basic medical and social assessments, while providing spiritual encouragement.  Tomorrow we will hold the first of many clinics where we will do our best to care for the acute medical needs of many of these patients and their families.

PictureSince 2005, poor people suffering from AIDS are able to receive anti-retro viral therapy (ART) at no cost through a United States AIDS initiative administered by the Ethiopian government, potentially extending life by decades.  ART, while necessary, is not sufficient for survival   The SIM ACT program provides beneficiaries with food, financial and medical support that sustains life, pays the rent and, critically, enables continued schooling for children of patients who find themselves too weakened by illness to work.  You can see the program’s impact on the faces of those we visited today.

AIDS is today’s leprosy.  The patients we met are routinely ostracized by family, friends and neighbors because of their diagnosis.  We are honored to be able to serve our colleagues at SIM ACT, who amaze us by their compassion and are daily a tangible manifestation of Jesus’ love for most needy. 

It’s hard to believe that we’re 10,000 miles from home.