Many people have told me that they like the diversity on our blog.  That one day it is cute pictures of Nathan and Lydia and the next it is a picture of a huge mass resection.  So, I thought I would share another perspective from Soddo.  The following was an email written by a new friend of mine.  Katie is from Seattle and was a teacher before she came to Soddo 3 months ago.  She is now teaching at a local foster home.  We have become fast friends; the picture above was taken on the top of a Land Cruiser while driving around at a National Reserve Park a few hours from here.   Katie has been such a blessing to have here and I love her wisdom, her inquisitive nature, her compassion and her love for Jesus.  In the following email home to friends she does a great job of describing the not-so-unusual things we face every day. I loved it and she said I could share so, Enjoy…

“This is an email (or maybe just a journal entry) which will describe the ways that the desires of the flesh and spirit are slightly satisfied within the young western missionaries who inhabit this small orphanage in southern Ethiopia. The things which filled yesterday were unplanned and unpredicted. They were not large things, but small things, things that could occur almost anywhere, but for me, occur only here, across the world from my home.

The morning was spent with the sixteen littlest guys, in the library. We did a drawing project (which bombed) and then tried to do some writing in English, but the skill level varies so much amongst that group that those efforts bombed as well. The kids were very squirrely and disrespectful, and I was positively sick of them by the time my young interpreter showed up to help. “Please tell them that once they are finished they should put on their shoes and get out, because I am sick of them…and please include that part, that I am sick of them and their behavior,” I said when he walked into the library. He laughed and did as I asked. Next he translated some words of warning about behavior and consequences, that hitting, kicking, insulting, disrespectful behavior, and the ruination of the library materials will result in disciplinary action from our new dean of students and, quite certainly, a loss of privilege to use the library’s fun resources. As children scrambled in the shoe tub and then wandered out into the yard, we spoke directly to those children who had hurt one another during class. Humiliated tears filled their eyes and we explained how things like this are resolved – through repentance and reconciliation – and then, finally and apologetically, little Ethiopian heads nodded low towards one another.

Later in the afternoon, I cancelled our English class and just sat with some of the older girls under a metal umbrella in between the library and cafeteria. I feel so much love and appreciation from these ones, for reasons unknown – I have offered almost nothing to their benefit since my arrival. We giggled at the oddities of communicating with one another, and I learned Amharic names of body  parts…including the polite and impolite terms for the butt (which presently I cannot recall at all). One of them grabbed her chest and asked “What is this?” I laughed at the grabbing and at the asking, and in nervousness and delight upon entrance into what feels like much more personal territory with new little friends, and then explained that doctors call them “breasts” and then what everyone else calls them, and they informed me of the Amharic word for them – “toots” (the oo sound like that in “oo-la-la”, and not that in “tootsie roll”). As we talked, they lovingly touched my face and smoothed my hair, and cooed simple phrases like “good hair”, “good good GOOD girl”, and “you – beautiful girl!” I informed them of the idea of butterfly kisses…and shortly our time together was moved to the field where we had girls-only kick-the-soccer-ball-around circles, foot races, sit-ups and squats.

For dinner we were planning to meet a friend in town – twenty-something nurse Sophie – at one of the “nicer” places to eat.  As the time to meet her approached, to me the whole evening felt very special indeed (and honestly, it is special to eat anywhere besides the noisy dirty-looking cafeteria), and, while Noah played marbles and Sam soccer, I scurried back to my room to get ready. I took a quick warm shower to wash off the sweat and grime, and then put on pop music, and later, blush, eyeliner, and mascara. Out came my one snug pair of jeans, my flowy floral top (to hide my snugly jeaned bottom), and completely impractical shoes.  The boys came back to get ready, and I tidied up the common area, cleaning the coffee grounds from the cups and dried Nutella from the forks and then stowing them all away.

We drove to the restaurant hotel on two motorbikes, girls on one, boys on the other, passing swarms of people and vehicles going every which way, and a recent collision of a bus and a Bajaj (three wheeled taxis with cloth curtains hanging down around the driver…scary). The boys let me choose where to sit and I chose the “fancy” dining room, nine little tables, each with purple and turquoise cloth napkins folded in tulip shapes, one at each chair. We ordered drinks, and immediately realized that we were not even hungry yet. After cancelling our order, we headed out for a bike ride to pass the time.  We set out on our respective bikes and after making several “failed” attempts to explore a few dirt roads (failed on account of the road being far too squishy muddy from the rain all week), we headed up a paved road which follows around the side of a large hill on the north side of town. Ominous gray clouds slowly sifted down towards earth as we dodged light traffic and headed up and up, sweeping around the side of this small mountain. To my left was greenery and brown fences and houses, all small and dark and damp looking, a colored roof here and there. Ethiopians were sprinkled along the way, alone or in clumps, standing in doorways or on porches, especially children. Stares and yelps and hellos followed us as we raced past…though I have stopped taking much notice of this clatter, because of its constancy outside of the orphanage compound. To my right, sigh…to my right was grand panoramic views of Soddo and the surrounding area. Yellow, white, brown, dark, and mostly gray buildings set out on a carpet of green, which extends out into the distance, running out into plains and up onto the rounded point mountains seen in every direction at varied distances. Squares of farmland of different shades of brown and green, the bus station’s fenced in brown lot, the red roofs of the Christian hospital compound, the confusion of road construction, and the hundred places still unknown to me that my companions name and point at in the frame of our view.  We passed on the left of this glorious small river valley, gray boulders set naturally like irregular stairs toward the cold blue water, moss and grass everywhere…idyllic.  It looks like a place to explore and relax, to hike, jump from rock to rock, eat a picnic, stand ankle deep in river water and ponder this foreign nation, roll on the soft green, or, in that season of life yet unknown to me, fall in love. All the Ethiopians one can see at this spot are bathing or doing laundry.

Droplets of water fell on our jackets and exposed hair and faces as we headed back to the restaurant. My wild, air-dried, wavy, pinned back hair was an enormous mess and my face was cold. Drinks were immediately served and we ordered dinner a little bit later. I picked at my spicy macaroni spaghetti, and the others chewed and chewed their chewy chewy veal. The evening ended naturally enough, so we paid and headed out. Included in the rest of the evening were a rainy and muddy ride home with Sam (on which I long-leggedly stepped off the bike at just the right moment, as Sam and bike swerved almost horizontally, “Good job Katie!” is what I heard from him in reply, and then I walked the rest of the way home next to Sam and bike battling forward through the mud), listening to Sam read Christopher Robin poetry aloud as we wait for Noah to return from the rain after escorting Sophie home, pajamas and hot chocolate and a cookie, and watching Big Fish projected on the wall of our common room as lightning and thunder boom outside our metal doors.

I call this the slight satisfaction of the desires of flesh and spirit… In spiritual obedience, the day was spent in speech and laughter and instruction and discipline, diving again into the foreign-ness of everyday Ethiopian waters…but is only one day’s efforts within the enormous effort used through the many. In the flesh, we three are missing home and comfort, but on a night like last night, which, after being dazzled by how beautiful the Lord has made even the poorest lands, turns into one in which our only desire was to be cozy and warm and watching a movie…we did it. We sought and easily found the companionship of one another and pillows and hot chocolate and Ewan Macgregor on the big screen… and found rest from the unique labor that Jesus has called us to here: loving and taking care of these orphans through teaching and training and advising.

This is a very special time of my life. I feel that this Saturday morning, as I write this email, after waking up late and wiling away a few hours reading John Steinbeck, and feeling inspired to write up my yesterday Steinbeck-style. It is a very special season, one that will likely never be repeated. My goals for today are to help the kids use some of the fun stuff in the library, spend some time speaking to a few of the girls about their pasts, be good to these two boys, soak up the Word of the Lord, and pray some honest prayers for here and for home.

Love, Katie”

Katie, it has been a privilege to be a part of this “special season” in your life.  It may not be repeated exactly like this, but I know it will affect your other seasons just the same. Thanks for sharing.  Love, Becca

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