pictureWe woke up early to drive to Roggie Village. As we passed through the already teaming streets of Addis, the labyrinth of makeshift structures behind the store fronts made of colorful corrugated metal walls and roofs with blue tarp awnings gave way to a single line of stores with open countryside behind them thinning until there was just open countryside of dry ground with tuffs of green and scattered trees. Round huts with mud walls and thatch roofs dotted the landscape with lakes and faint mountains in the distance. After driving a couple hours we stopped in a town at a hotel for breakfast then continued down the straight road to Roggie Village. 

pictureAt the Hope Enterprises sign we turned off the smooth paved road onto the bumpy dirt road that our driver skillfully navigated all the way to the school compound as children ran alongside us and every person we passed waved with a big warm smile.  We were greeted at the gate of the compound by rows of women from the village cheering loudly and clapping.  They followed us into the compound and shook our hands and gave us hugs as we got off the bus and walked to the other side of the school buildings where the men were bringing chairs out of the classroom and arranging them around a large tree. They invited us to sit and continued bringing out chairs for all the men placing them in a half circle. The women sat in the grass completing the circle around the tree with their children.

pictureThe principal (Bashir) and the teachers of the school invited the Elders of the village to come forward to pray. Bashir acted as MC, first introducing 3 or 4 of the Elders who moved to chairs in the middle of the great circle and proceeded to take turns declaring the importance of the visit, their welcome for us and appreciation for the well, school, etc. The Elders echoed a traditional blessing as they sat side by side holding each other’s hands with palms up…saying (roughly):

  • “Let the earth bear witness to this day”  (and all the villagers then repeated “the earth”)
  • “Let the sky bear witness to this day”  ( “the sky”)
  • “Let the sun bear witness to this day”  ( “the sun”)
  • “Let all creation bear witness to this day”  (and all the villagers repeated “all creation”)

pictureEach in turn repeated this blessing, then these 4 went back to their seats and Bashir asked if the key Elder would speak his heart.  One of the 4 came forward beside Bashir amidst applause and spoke to the gathering about how they had been blessing by the visitors, by having good water saving many hours of water-hauling each day by the women, blessed by the school and so many children being educated, blessed by the new library and school room being built, etc.  As he finished to applause, Bashir invited a woman to come forward to speak the heart of the women.

After being encouraged by rhythmic clapping, a lovely woman stepped forward.  Abainish was dressed nicer than most, with attractive clothes, clean and untorn.  This was the woman that Bennie nominated to lead the women’s committee that manage the well and water distribution (this tall, gentle woman had gained Bennie’s trust with her faith).  She told of the first visitors who built the church and had noticed children wearing only shirts.  She talked about how the women used to carry water for hours each day.  Now they had clean water nearby.  They charge the equivalent of about ¼  cent per 20 liter container and she had accumulated 10,000 Birr after paying the generator upkeep and fuel and she planned to use it to invest in the village women (apparently in microenterprise-type endeavors).  (Note that a day’s wages for a rural laborer are about 5-10 Birr, so this is a lot of money for them).  There was some murmuring from another woman about her talk of the near-naked children, but some village men challenged the interruption and Abainish continued. As she spoke and gave glory to Jesus Christ there arose from elsewhere a complaint about her open mention of Jesus so the Pastor from Hope interrupted to speak to the village about these blessings being the intervention of God for everyone, regardless of their faith.  And Abainish continued.  

pictureAfter she concluded, a young man (apparently one of the few villagers to advance to Preparatory School) stepped forward to read a poem describing how these projects have helped the village. The ceremony concluded with Bashir and the Elder’s presenting Mike and Deb with a gift of traditional Oromic clothing.

After the ceremony, we visited the students in their classroom who had been sitting quietly in their classrooms during this whole time. The students greeted us, standing and saying in unison, picture“Welcome our guests,” and sang songs in Oromafo, Amharic, or English. Then we walked around the compound to see the new plants and buildings. We unloaded some of our supplies and played with some of the children for a bit before we piled into the bus. With children running after us and adults pausing from their work in the fields to wave, we drove to our accommodations at Sabana by Lake Lugana for the next several nights.