Monday came with a whisper.  The team finally received another “down” day.  For the most part, this was quite welcome.

PictureOn prior trips, our teams have stayed at guesthouses where we all eat the same food, prepared by the same friendly hands every day, just for us.  In prior years, almost everyone returned to the U.S. without the intestinal “disruptions” that are considered common in Africa for Westerners.  Not this year!  Of our 24 members, more than half have struggled with one “end” or the other.  Eight have now taken at least the booster dose of Cipro. 

Eating in hotels and restaurants in Addis seems to have taken a toll.  And yet, we all marvel at how relatively strong and healthy we have been, and how quickly we recover.  Today, the opportunity to rest seems to be helping with recovery.  (Ya think?)

We split up this morning.  The majority of the team ventured out to the ceramics studio that was originally started as a livelihood project by HOPE for former female street workers, but has now been spun off as a sustainable business in its own right.  These eight women use clay and kilns to make crèche scenes, chess sets and a variety of clay figurines that are then sold (mostly to tourists and at one local market) in order to provide income for the women.  They are quaint pieces, not necessarily art, but beautiful in the story of redemption they tell.

PictureAfter the ceramics studio, the team was shuttled (by our faithful driver Bebe and his companion, Amara) to Haile Salassie Market, where team members can purchase souvenirs (such as scarves, baskets, jewelry, etc.) without the need for bartering.  The market is right across the street from HOPE’s downtown offices, so members of the team also took advantage of the opportunity to purchase HOPE’s homemade peanut butter and more books of meal tickets to pass out to the women and children who approach the bus at every intersection asking for food or “manie.”  (We long ago learned that passing out money simply encourages an unhealthy dependency.  In contrast, meal tickets provide the opportunity to eat.)

The team gathered after shopping at the Loyal Grocery and Restaurant, just down Churchill Road from HOPE and across the street from Haile Salassie.  After a brief lunch, the team headed to the Addis School of HOPE for one last farewell to the staff and teachers.

PICTURESaying goodbye is hard.  It is even harder when the distance that separates you is 12,000 miles.  During our weeklong conference, teachers from both sides of the world closed that distance and hurdled over the barriers of language, culture, and socio-economic position.  Regardless of where they came from when they started their time together (Christians or not, Muslims or not, religious or not, wealthy or not), during this final farewell (as with all of our time here), these teachers were simply that – teachers – with a love for children and a passion to be the best they could be.  Brought together by that common bond, and encouraged by their time together to allow trust and friendships to grow, now we part, with a pain and anguish in our hearts.  “When will we be together again?” we ask.  “Will we be together again?”  No one knows for sure, so we linger with one another, we hug long and hard, we cry and we hug again.  We pass along our peace and our love in the best ways we know how to people who were, just a week ago, complete strangers to most of us.  And we board our bus for the hotel.

The team was quiet on the way back to the hotel.  In some respects, perhaps we were preparing for our team devotional and affirmation time to which the rest of the afternoon would be devoted.  Perhaps we were thinking of the goodbyes tomorrow morning to the nine members of the team who would be departing for a safari in Kenya.  Perhaps we were beginning to think about what it will be like to leave this team, this little family, with whom we’ve shared our rawest emotions, our giggles, our tears and fears, and our trust.

Somewhere deep inside of each of us, I think we are all holding on, saying “no, this can’t be coming to a close,” and “no, this has been too good,” and “no, I don’t want to say goodbye.”
But reality settles in and we proceed to our team debrief, struggling with how we unpack Ethiopia, how we process Ethiopia after we leave, how we talk about Ethiopia to those who have never been, and how we listen to Ethiopia as it speaks into our lives for days and months and years to come.

No, we didn’t get the projectors today!

Temesgen again went to the airport to try.  But as of 1:30 p.m. when we were at HOPE’s Addis School, he had been there for five hours and was on his third office at Bole airport.  Hopefully we will succeed.  We won’t know until Wednesday, as those of us remaining in Ethiopia tomorrow are exploring Project Mercy in the South.
Keep praying!