I’m back from an amazing trip to Ethiopia and want to share with you about my experience there. My husband and I headed a team to care for and learn from the people of Sintaro, the village our church “adopted.” We are in the third year of a seven-year project to come alongside the village as they move toward development. We have provided a well and built a school, which now has 250 children attending.
Three encounters during our time in the village have stuck with me:
- The children’s laughter around the water faucets. Witnessing the transformation clean water has made in the village is astounding. Water-borne diseases and intestinal illnesses have all but vanished. Most homes have two jerry cans – one for river water for washing clothes and one for drinking and washing hands. The well has become a ‘river of life,’ cleansing, washing, filling. The spiritual simile is not lost on the people of Sintaro.
- Hiking up one of the steep, verdant green hills on our way to visit one of the distribution points for the water, an older woman came panting up the hill behind me. As she approached, I turned and she was clearly agitated and focused on me. I asked my translator what she was saying and it seems she was worried for me. She had remembered me from my previous trips and was concerned that my husband had died as he was not with me. Her husband had died the previous year and she did not want me to suffer her loss. She, whose husband was likely her only source of meager income by which to eat, was worried for me. It was then I knew that we had succeeded connecting heart to heart with our dear friends in Sintaro.
- My friends visit to the home of a family with eleven children touched my heart. As she tells it, “With smiling faces the family drew our attention to the schoolwork of the one child attending the school which is posted like precious Monet paintings around the hut. It is dark inside and smells of soot from years of warming the home by a small camp fire in the middle of the round space. The floor is dirt. Here, the family sleeps alongside the cow and goat, kept inside to protect them from the nightly roaming of hyena. As we turn to leave, the grandfather counsels us, “Many people seek material things in this world, but faith in God is far more important.” The joy in this home now made sense to us.” In the midst of abject poverty, the clarity of priorities is, to me, incredible.
The people of Sintaro are more aware of the unquestionable presence and provision of God than anyone I know in the United States. Having little they love much. We who went to help are being helped in ways we are only beginning to understand.