It was an incredible journey that we set out on as a team; we came together from all sides of the states to form this close-knit, nearly indescribable bond... the best word I can think to describe our experience at the end of the trip was family.
Dealing with the emotions, experiences has been difficult. Christie and I have talked about it, but it is so hard to grasp unless you are there living the moment. A few highlights from our trip include...
DIAPERS!!! :: Delivering 4 tubs of diapers to 3 different orphanages: A government orphanage in Addis [not allowed to give actual name], a private orphanage in Holeta [Debre Berhan] and a Catholic Orphanage in Addis [Kidane Mihret]; and giving away to a few different individuals too (including a few moms in Korah and one of our drivers who had a 2-month old baby girl!
GIR-MON!!! :: (I'm not sure if that is how it's spelled, but that's how it sounds) is a 6'3"(ish) blind boy (well, he's 20... but I'm 30 so I can call him a boy). He came up to me while I was standing in the road in between the shelter and the church.... he asked if I had anything to help protect his eyes. [Cue Despicable Me voice..."Lightbulb"] "Marcy has sunglasses!" I thought. So I took him inside where the church is and the two of us sat down on the bench and chatted. He was/is amazing. I know I've said a lot of things on our trip were amazing, but this moment was "it" for me. I found out Marcy had left to help Mercy get new clothes so we were left w/o sunglasses for the time being. Then McKenzie came up and gave him her sunglasses... and they fit him perfectly... and I must say he looked pretty stylin' in them. He sung for me, hugged me, kissed me, told me he loved me, called me his best friend... affection for other men doesn't come the easiest for me, but I can honestly say I fell in love with this boy.
ICE CREAM W/ THE BOYS! :: Every evening we'd get back to the Ethiopian Guest House and a group of boys from the neighborhood would show up looking to play some soccer and to see if we had any candy or anything. Well, about half way through the trip we thought it would be fun to treat them to ice cream... so we walked down to the market and each boy picked one out. Interestingly the two flavors available were: Coffee and Milk.
COW STOMACH! :: One of the last evenings we were there the whole group went out for a traditional dinner. I sat next to one of our drivers... Bebe. (Who might I add is amazing!) Once dinner was served him and I dug in... we were the only two (at our table) that had embraced traditional cuisine while we were there. I pointed to this odd looking meat on the platter and asked him what it was. He said "Try it." I said "You go first." So, he ate it. Then, as a man of my word... I took a large hunk of injera, picked up the funky meat and plopped it in my mouth. Just about gagged myself, but I managed to chew it and keep it down. It had the consistency of rubber and the taste of worst gristle you've ever eaten. I asked him what it was, his answer... "Cow stomach." EWW!
NATURE PARK! :: Returning to Addis from Ambo we stopped by a nature park where we say some amazing sites. Including a monkey drinking an orange soda. How about that. It was super cute. I took a 6-foot leap across the top of a waterfall and climbed to the top of another waterfall (with about 5 others). At the top we took a trail back about 1/2 mile to a super small village where we helped a lady break sticks that she would later use as kiln and met up with a bunch of kids. Upon returning we saw a lady washing her clothes at the top of the waterfall.
SHOES! :: Shoes were another big part of our trip. We took part in a TOMS shoe distribution at a school in Dahley. We were able to bless these children (and a few members of the community) with shoes by removing their current shoes and placing new ones on their feet. The condition of the shoes was saddening... every foot was dirty, but several were cracked and bleeding and many were suffering from different types infections. I washed and sanitized my hands several times that day. :) Another part where shoes played a big impact were the 3 pairs I gave away to kids that lived on the street and needed them. One of the boys I gave a pair to (Ti) had asked my wife for her pair of shoes when we traveled to pick up Zek! He was still there and still needed shoes. I gave him the pair off my feet. I arrived with 4 pairs of shoes... I came home with a pair of flip flops.
There are so many more things that I could talk about, those are just the ones that come to my head right now. As more come up I hope to share them with you.
This was an amazing experience and if you are considering a mission trip, I highly recommend it. Loving on the people I came into contact with was so soul-filling. I left nearly on empty, I came home overflowing. Joy is contagious and the people you meet are so joy-filled that you will never want to leave. In fact, based on the conversations I've had since returning home, most of our group feels that way.