Day 6

After months of prepping and anticipating, today we began our Hope/MPPC Teachers Training Conference.  With over 100 Ethiopian teachers and administrators in attendance, it was a rich day of fellowship and learning from each other. From the opening devotional, to grade specific trainings, to shared coffee and lunch breaks, it was quickly apparent how much we had in common with our African counterparts, both as Christians and as educators.  The elementary group’s work around vocabulary development led to clever tunes in Amharic and English to help grow students’ language comprehension; high school teachers applied the allegory of the cave to teaching kids how to think critically; American and Ethiopian administrators shared ways to assess and motivate their teachers.  Jeff opened our first session together with a talk on how we teach to develop both kid’s heads and hearts; by the end of day one, I think we all felt that the same had happened for us.

Tomorrow our high school crew will have their first day of ESL activities with Hope tenth graders.  Please pray that their time with their Ethiopian peers will be as rich and productive as today was for our teachers and administrators.  Please also keep in your prayers our collective health … and give a prayer of thanks for our support crew of Grant, Erik, Grace, Todd and Lil who made today possible by being willing to help with any and everything.


PictureI am so grateful for this team!  What an amazing spirit and an amazing heart for service.  We have been leaning into what it means to be servants, and one of the ideas, borrowed from Duane Elmer in his book, Cross-Cultural Servanthood, rests on the idea that serving another is not possible until you understand them.  As we have leaned into understanding others, we have focused on how it is not enough to simply "learn about them."  We can learn a great deal "about" someone by reading a fact sheet, but we wouldn't understand them from that.  Rather, we must at least aspire to "learn from" them.  We must put ourselves in a place where we learn from them about their dreams, their fallen aspirations, their heart, their brokenness, their struggles and their abilities.  Then, we can begin to understand them and begin to serve them.

But we have also studied how "learning from" someone may still not be the highest aspiration for understanding them.  Rather, we grow truly close and bond with another person when we dare to "learn with" them.  So, our team of gifted teachers has been aspiring to learn "with" the 100+ Ethiopian teachers.

PictureSeparate from the conference, I had the joy of learning from and with our HOPE partners as we worked to get the 20 overhead projectors through customs.  Typically, when we seek to bring such items into the country, we arrange with HOPE beforehand and they procure the necessary governmental letters permitting the items to enter duty free with a letter of donation from us.  This time, however, we were remiss.  The projectors were funding in the last 10-days before our trip, and were purchased and loaded into luggage bags in our final sprint for departure.  Arrangements with HOPE?  Oops!

Upon entry on Thursday evening, all 20 overhead projectors (4 per HOPE school), were confiscated by Customs until we resolved whether we needed to pay duties.  In the meantime, they are warehoused at the airport's customs warehouse, at a cost of 100 Birr per day (or just less than $10 per day).  These overhead projectors were the result of several years of studying the technology that teachers could and would use the most in HOPE schools.  Previously, we have provided a few overhead projectors, a few computers (with ESL software, but not access to the internet), and other equipment.  (My favorite, were the CD players we provided each teacher in Dessie in 2007, complete with CD's of their textbooks read in English by the now famous "Voice of Ethiopia," Lil Johnson, who spent much of that trip holed up in a bedroom reading textbooks into computer microphones.)  In December 2008, when several of us returned to Dessie we did an assessment of the technology -- what was being used and what wasn't -- by reviewing all of the technology (and its condition and upkeep) and by interviewing the teachers.  At that time, it was made clear by elementary and high school teachers alike that the overhead projector was the tool of choice (by a long shot).

PictureSo today, with letters from HOPE and MPPC in hand that made clear the projectors were donations, I returned to the Bole Airport with officials from HOPE.  Nearly three hours later, we returned to the HOPE campus, somewhat dispirited having not only spoken to the top official at the airport, but the Customs officer responsible for import duties, his boss, being lectured and then directed to the director for NGO's.  We head in the morning at 8:30 a.m. to see if we can avoid $2,500 of import duties (on $5,000 of technology).  Please pray for understanding, both by the Custom's officers and by us -- that we might learn from and with each other, in humility.