Days 1 & 2: World Vision Micro/Leadercast Trip

February 14, 2014

It was a beautiful day as we prepared to leave for the airport. If you had asked me yesterday what the odds of us being able to fly out would be I would have said 50/50. And that, as my wife would be the first to tell you, were optimistic. She has taken to calling me Peter Pan. I don't think it's a compliment! In the past 24 hours about 18 inches of heavy, wet snow fell in Central New Jersey making travel difficult at best. Some other members of our party are making their way up from Atlanta where they experienced n ow and ice of 'historic' levels. The final contingent was flying in from Seattle - while the weather there was not as bad, flying into the East Coast to meet us in Washington DC would be tricky. Three flights converging during one of the harshest winter periods on record - and this for just the first leg of our trip.

Some of us had met before, all from different worlds, but we are all coming together to tell a story. What's the plot who's the protagonist? Is there a villain? That is all about to be revealed over the next 9 days.

The cast so far:

Karen, our team leader. Within the week she was recruited to lead the trip, taking the place of Tiffany. Karen is strong, experienced and energetic.

Brian, the organizer, idea man and West Coaster. It's Brian's vision that put us all together for this trip, in ways, it's his story that will allow this story to unfold.

Brooke, experienced yet young. It's evident that she has a passion for Africa and a love for the people there.

Tripp, by reputation, the comedian of the group but in reality a driven, hard worker. A deep thinker. Recently engaged and soon to be married, we are thankful that his fiancé has loaned him out to us.

Luke, the youngest member of the group but don't let that fool you. Thoughtful, questioning, with a mixture of adolescent angst and a deep compassion that easily turns to empathy.

Laurie, outwardly conservative but inwardly adventurous. Her wit and wisdom are a deadly combination - I look forward to seeing her reveal the depth of her personality to the group.

Finally me. Handsome, witty, intelligent and incredibly modest. In reality, I force myself to be outgoing, as my natural inclination is to be introverted.

Our advance team of Nathan and Ben will be introduced in the next day but they have spent the last three days traveling our route, meeting the entrepreneurs and doing all the legwork that a trip like this takes to put together.

What I can tell you so far is that we are journeying g together to Ethiopia where we will meet four hard working entrepreneurs who have been the beneficiaries of micro loans provided by World Vision Micro. If the story has any heroes I am putting my money on them. If I had to guess at the villain in the story it would have to be poverty.

We are traveling to Addis Ababa, by Western standards it's considered 'third world' or 'economically disadvantaged'. I look forward to forming my own opinions.

We gather for an evening meal of pizza and salad at our DC hotel - our last meal in North America before we head out in the morning. Conversation is wonderful. We get to know each other a little bit more and learn what each of us is hoping to experience on this trip. Luke, our 19 year old son says it best. "I'm looking forward to having my preconceptions proved wrong."

It's Valentine's Day but I can't think of a better way to spend it.

February 15, 2014

The ride to the airport was uneventful as is the check-in and boarding process. The Ethiopian Airlines plane is a newer Boeing 787 that, even in economy class, is comfortable. The flight is schedule to be 13 and a half hours but the captain tells us we have a favorable tail wind and will only take 11 and a half. Sleep on the plane comes with difficulty though - but we all seem to get some. Now the test for the rest of the day is to stay awake until a 'normal' time.It seems that God does have a sense of humor. Our last night in the Western world and three of the five rooms had 'issues' ranging from loud intermittent buzzing that kept the occupant awake, leaking faucets that soaked the floor and, sorry in advance for the graphic description to follow, a urine soaked mattress pad on the pullout couch. Not only did we all deal with the inconveniences, our spirits were not dampened - not even by the freezing rain mixture falling.

Tamiru, our local guide meets us at the airport and greets each of us with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  We catch-up with Nathan and Ben at our hotel in Addis Ababa. After checking in we take a quick tour of our surrounding area. We stop for coffee at a little shop next to the hotel complete with a green circle logo, green-aproned staff and caramel macchiatos. For a light lunch we head to a German Beer Garden and order Margherita Pizza.

On every street corner, lining the sidewalks are a multitude of little children between four and 12 years old, professional beggars. I knew that we would see children begging on the street but it still breaks my heart. The most upsetting thing I experienced was the swift kick a tiny girl of four or five years old received for failing to get any birr (the local currency) out of us.

It is now 3pm in Addis Ababa and we have been awake almost 30 hours but I am now losing the battle. Tomorrow is our first day in the field and I want to be as alert as possible so I can give the entrepreneur's we will meet my full attention.

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help alway say,
"The Lord is great!"

But as for me, I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
you are my God, do not delay.

Psalm 40: 16-17