Day 7 - WV Micro/Leadercast Vision Trip - Last Day Together
Our last day together as a group and it's a bit sad. We have only spent 6 days together but I have grown close to each member of the World Vision and Leadercast team. That's what 5 hours a day in a Toyota Land Cruiser with a loose suspension, no catalytic converters and rustic toilet facilities will do. We have traveled in groups of three or four to three remote locations, experienced beautiful landscapes and met some incredible families. Looking back over the week I think I have used the words 'overwhelmed', 'inspired', 'beautiful' 'humbled' and 'blessed' enough to be in a "Shoot Christians Say 2" video and I have found myself apologizing for being at a loss for words or not being able to have a coherent conversation.
Since today is our 'free' day there is no urgency to waking up early. Brian, Laurie, Luke and I are up relatively early so we go to the 'American Zone' for breakfast. The 'American Zone' as far as I can tell, consists of a cupcake bakery and an one-hour eyeglass/vision center. We order breakfast at the Cupcake Delights Bakery - French toast, pancakes and omelets. The coffee, as is expected in Ethiopia, is out-of-this-world. We all get double caramel macchiatos which will turn into a quad by the end of the meal.
There is a large Coptic Christian church about 5 minutes walk from the hotel. The courtyard is filled with worshippers. We are told that photography is forbidden but as we approach the church we see a wedding couple taking photos around the central square. The layout of the grounds is distinctly Italian and reminds me of a hybrid of the piazzas in Rome - a small Piazza Navonna, without the shops and restaurants. The main focus here is the church and the people we meet on the path are there to pray. Along the way there are small veiled tents with tables and artifacts, at each there are people praying. I ask and am told that each is an altar to a saint. Even under the trees that line the path, worshippers are deep in prayer, it is obvious that we are in a holy place and these proud Ethiopians are a very spiritual people.
We meet together for a lunch and decide on MY Burger ordering hamburgers, cheese burgers and fries and wash it down with bottles of Coke and Miranda, an orange Fanta-like soda. While not the best burger I have had (that goes to Five Guys in Hillsborough, NJ), it is acceptable.
As we drive to the market I think of all the people back at home and I don't know how I will be able to adequately put into words our experiences here. Laurie has done a great job capturing the spirit of the people but she is a poet and songwriter and can put a lot into few words - a talent I just don't possess. My long form blog posts will just have to do.
The market consists of rows of stalls all selling very similar goods - knock off 'ebony' carvings of religious icons, crosses made of 'silver', ceramic chickens (I haven't figured out the significance), scarves, jewelry and bags. Some of the vendors have a few unique items that we stop to look at. We are all thankful that we have Tamiru with us to 'negotiate'. As Americans the concept of haggling is, well, foreign. My Ahmiric is no better today than it was the day we landed but I do pick of some English words here and there and I know that he is making a case to give us the local price and not the tourist price. In some cases it works, while in others it backfires. After negotiating a price with one of the saleswomen for a plaque in the shape of Africa, Laurie pays the agreed to fee. The shop owner is not happy with the deal and accuses Laurie of stealing the item. It was a tense moment that was only resolved by paying for the item again.
It's been a long day but we have our wrap up dinner tonight at the Elfign Top View Restaurant - the last time the group will be together. We will dine with some of the local Ethiopian World Vision staff including Bruno, the acting head of all World Vision Africa, Worknesh, the Deputy National Director, Chris, a liaison from World Vision US and the team that has been with us this entire week (Tamiru and Masey). We are at one of the best Italian restaurants in Addis - I know what you are thinking but Italian food is prevalent in Ethiopia and this is some of the best.
Laurie and Worknesh discuss the local needs of the various ADPs, the opportunities for additional educational opportunities for both the children as well as, or especially, mothers who dropped out of school before completing their high school education. Worknesh describes some of the harsh realities of life in Ethiopia and even with all of the good work we have experienced we know there is so much more to do. Worknesh is intrigued by Laurie's role as a speech pathologist and they spend significant time discussing the lack of services available in Ethiopia. Their discussion turns to the reason we are visiting and Laurie dons her C.R.O.W. hat (Community Relations Organization Wizard). There are a number of co-ops that have been started in the ADPs - from coffee to dairy to hot peppers. We are excited to explore sourcing some hot peppers from Ethiopia and doing it through World Vision would allow us to take advantage of the infrastructure already in place, support the local cooperatives and potentially extend the market for goods in services produced in Ethiopia.
I spend the evening hearing about the work that Bruno is doing to help World Vision Ethiopia become a world class organization despite the challenges that center mainly on infrastructure and resources. Karen is able to speak to him about the needs of World Vision Micro and he promises to assist in helping to institute processes that will aid in supplying more loan candidates to Micro so more families can be helped. Karen is quick to point out that Ethiopia is already one of the best examples in the field and Bruno is intrigued and wants to have all of Africa working at a peak level. I learn some very valuable lessons tonight - charity is a business and the best of them, like World Vision, are responsible stewards of the money that we donate. My appreciation of the business of helping people has increased exponentially and I am more comfortable with our decision to donate to World Vision. There is just no way we could ever have the infrastructure in place to effectively distribute the limited monies we can give. I am thankful that World Vision takes so much care of how those monies are distributed, keeping overhead low and maximizing impact.
As the evening winds down I am feeling melancholy. Tripp, Brooke, Nathan and Ben will be leaving for the airport directly from dinner. There is one last surprise, however. The local team has arranged a birthday cake for Laurie and we sing 'happy birthday' in English and then in Ahmiric.
Goodbyes are heartfelt and the sadness is tempered by the knowledge that we will all be meeting again for Leadercast on May 9 in Atlanta. Tripp and I have spent lots of time together this week, he has seen a side of me that few ever see and has made me examine the reasons for being here. We have experienced first hand the impact of these micro loans and how they change lives. I hug him and say a silent prayer for his safe travels and his upcoming marriage. Brooke and Ben are next and I tell them how honored (that word again) I am to have met them. I look forward to the future and seeing them again. Finally it is time to say goodbye to Nathan. For whatever reason he has had the greatest impact on me personally and I am glad that our story is in his hands. I am not sure if he knows or if the hug I give him is uncomfortably long but I thank God for him and for the work he does telling the stories of the poor, the needy, the forgotten.
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
~John 6: 1-13