I did not sleep well last night-I had a mosquito buzzing around my head keeping me paranoid about malaria until I finally got up and put bug spray on my head and face. Once I went to sleep, I just kept dreaming of walking with the sweet sweet children from Korah down a rocky path. I was awakened again by the VERY LOUD amplified muslim prayer chanting that is piped through speakers all over the city—on Saturdays and Sundays it goes from 5 am to 9 am and today's singer was decidedly off key. It was also pouring down rain. I decided to make the most of being wide awake at 6 am and take an actual warm shower for the first time this trip-it was fabulous! Even if our "shower" is a 2 ft square surrounded by a curtain hanging from the ceiling that provides no protection for the spraying water so that the entire slick tile floor is wet, and usually muddy. Not wearing shoes in the bathroom is not an option. And also? It is 9 gals to 1 weird quirky bathroom-again, good thing I have all that practice at not showering back home! :)
We had breakfast and got ready to head out to our day's destination, Ararat Ministry. No one was really sure where it was and the guy that we thought was coming to take us did not come but, our faithful guide Bizi said he thought he knew about where it was and we would find it so off we went, into the countryside surrounding Addis Ababa. It was an interesting drive, saw lots of green and also lots of BIG mud puddles from all the rain. We took a few wrong turns here and there and asked people every now and then on the road which way to go next-it was lots of fun b/c we got to see several different places in Addis. The bus helper guy (they have one who drives, and one who does other stuff like jump out with a big stick to put in any mud puddles we came up on to see if they were too deep for the van to drive through-he is a very important man-we had a couple close calls that were slightly terrifying as our bus went nearly over sideways into the puddle.) would point things out to me since I was in the front seat by him-where there are apartments for Somali refugees, what was growing in fields, what certain words were. We finally, after Bizi made several phone calls (everyone here has cell phones and the national telephone company has a monopoly on the service and controls all of it) while I wrote down #'s for him, we got as close as we could to Ararat.
By this time we were outside the city and could see the surrounding mountains all around, covered in green and adorned with puffs of white clouds at the tops. It was truly breathtaking in it's beauty, yet so strange to see the primitive round straw huts in front of us and off in the distance the relatively modern buildings of the city of Addis. Our destination proved to be right next to part of the runway for the airport, which I had always thought was in the middle of nowhere from when we had landed or taken off here. I guess it still was...We were told we would have to walk into the community on foot as it did not have a road for vehicles. We got out into a large bunch of squelchy mud that had a long puddle along the length of the road where we needed to cross. After some muddy missteps with folks getting their shoes completely stuck in the mud, the stick helper from the bus put out a cinder block in the middle of the puddle for me to cross. Chivalry, Ethiopian style :) Apparently Bizi had a similar idea at the same time only he dropped his large rock down, and my nice, finally-showered self, was promptly covered head to toe in a shower of dark brown mud. Oh the look on poor Bizi's face! I laughed so hard b/c really, what else could you do? And as Bizi was covering his mouth and saying, "Oh! I am so SORRY!", I turned to him and said, "BIZ-EE!!" in a teasing tone like, "aw man..." He was not sure whether to laugh or keep apologizing while the rest of the group-after their initial gasps of horror at watching the event happen, was in hysterics and wildly snapping pictures while Bizi ran over to me to help me the rest of the way out of my ditch. We hugged and I laughed and told him we were still friends and no big deal, and Melissa helped me wipe the mud out of my ear and off my face. There was really no hope for getting it off my clothes, backpack or out of my hair until it dried some so on we walked down a rocky path, my team members turning back to survey the damage every now and then and giggle. Then all the sudden I had 2 little dirty children following behind me giggling-I laughed with them b/c I knew I was quite a sight. We walked on down the wide rocky path, encountered a lot more mud, and then rounded the corner to the top of a breathtaking green terraced field. After some walking through sodden long muddy grass (so thankful for my water-proof hiking shoes!!), we arrived at he gate of Ararat, in the middle of nowhere, it seemed.
This place was different from the others-no small chilren greeted us with sweet smiles, although we did get some curious stares. The center of the small compound was a patch of swampy grass with some large rocks placed through the middle to walk on and it is surrounded by 3 small buildings, the church meeting place, the office maybe? and a random small hut that I don't know it's purpose. We were told to go up into the church building where they were having a service and we entered a red crushed rock floored space with white washed mud/manure? (from the smell) walls and a simple raised pulpit type space in the front. There was a tin roof and a couple of windows but with the curtains drwan, it was fairly dark in there. They made all the children sit in back so that we could sit up front and they were singing and clapping to begin their service. We sat through a long service, that Bizi translated for us, and honestly, while it was fascinating to worship God side by side in 2 different languages, was long and draining. I was fighting sleep as were several other team members despite the stand up-sit down routine we did about 10 times. The bench of folks behind me from our team kept sinking down into the earthen floor and every time I glanced back they were lower and lower, providing enough comic relief that it kept me awake until the service was over. By the end, they were all leaning forward and hanging on to the back of our bench to avoid putting any extra pressure on their bench, it was hilarious.
I noticed that the babies that were their with their mothers b/c they were nursing still had no diapers on and I knew it was because diapers were not an option in this place. Can you even imagine??? Needless to say, the babies were filthy with their own soiling. Some had some rags tucked in their pants which later I found one such child wandering with the rag hanging to the ground through the split in her disintegrating pants. I went in search of her mother, and we found her and she snatched it away hanging her head in embarrassment. I tapped her on the shoulder to look at me and put my hand on her and said "Enat" (Mother) and patted myself and said "Enat" and nodded to let her know I am a mom, too, and I know she was struggling and doing the very best she could under the circumstances. She teared up and nodded and I embraced her, and she just kept patting me and kissing my neck and raising her hand up, as if she felt relieved to be understood and to take a break from the sheer back-breaking work of everyday life and lean on someone who "got it" in some minute way. My heart broke for her-I felt her shame and brokenness as if it were my own in that instant and wanted to take her for a weekend at the spa or something-she just needed such a break and to be loved on, but that is an absolute impossibility in this poor farming community-there is not such thing as "me" time. All day I witnessed broken defeated women and I LOVED that we did simple things like paint their nails for them and give those that we could new shirts or shoes—it would not change their world, no, but for a few minutes, they got to rest and be a little pampered.
The children here were somewhat different from the others we had encountered thus far-they did not approach us and though they were curious, kept their distance, until they saw we had candy and crafts and coloring books and clothes for them. We did all sorts of activities with them, including a FABULOUS wall mural on which they all made their hand prints and we did ours and it said "Jesus Loves Ararat". At the end of the day that was hung on the rear wall of the church building, really brightening up a stark space. But the children here were aggressive and it was very much "street rules"-if they put their things (new toothbrushes, books, flip flops, crayons, etc) down, someone snatched it up and many fights broke out over things being taken from another. I watched a child pick up a fallen cracker right out of the mud and eat it, they would eat whatever they found or could take from another.
We bought the community 4 sheep again and I was the accidental viewer yet again of the slaughter-I was walking and all the sudden looked to my side right as they slip the throat-I just cannot see that again, especially since this time the sheep did not give up easily and continued to thrash about after it's neck had been cut. And they did it right on the path where everyone walked so that you had to go out into the muddy wet grass if you wanted to avoid stepping in the puddles of blood. It was disgusting. No one really cared about this place, though-they would wipe their nose on a begged tissue then toss it on the ground without even a care. All their food trash was just thrown wherever they were at the moment and when we went around with a bag for trash, they grabbed at it to see what they might be getting out of it. It was draining, and I felt like this was just a dark place spiritually. We were told the area was a place where devil worship was prominent and it felt like that was a reality. Hard to explain, just not a light-filled place. But, I did feel like we brought in some light today-and there was much more joy with those children and mamas when we left than when we came, but this group was heavy to be around and took a lot out of me. I did clean and bandage another couple of festering, repulsive wounds and teach a few children how to use a toothbrush and tooth paste, but I was ready to go when it was time to go, after the sheep was cooked and we served it to all of them. I knew this was the only meal most of them would eat today, and maybe for several days. We were told that many families have a rotation of who gets to eat at what meal-if you ate breakfast, then you were done for the day. If you did not, then you could eat lunch, then you had your one meal, and so on. Sigh. Too much to even comprehend in a country where my kids eat 3 meals and a couple snacks a day.
On the way out through the muddy, slippery field (where Bizi grabbed my arm as I stepped on a slick part and held on to me as we walked across the muddy hill and I teased him that oh NOW he cared about keeping me out of the mud ;) ), we passed at least one pile of dinner that had come back up due to someone's body not being able to comprehend such food. Yuck. I was so ready to get back on the bus that I may have jumped in and swam across the puddled up ditch if I needed to. Fortunately, the sun had been out and the ground had swallowed a little of the water and I jumped across the ditch with no more incidents.
The bus ride back to our guest house confirmed that others had similar feelings as I about today. Kelly Bullock, one of my roomies, and I stayed up late into the night talking about it and both agreed that maybe our purpose in being there today, besides bringing in the light of Jesus, was to stand in the gap and pray for that dark place. We spent some time praying together for Ararat before finally going to bed. We were exhausted from our day, but sleep was fairly elusive for me, and that was not helped when my bed broke in the middle of the night and I awoke with my middle on the floor. It had already done that one time today when I sat on it to put on my socks and I had fixed it, but I thought it might still be precarious and so I did laugh, but wow, this just seemed to not be my day. Bless Kelly B., she was out of her bed and to my side to help me put my mattress on the floor to go back to sleep before I really even knew what was going on. It was chilly but I was too cold and tired to get out of my mattress to get a sweatshirt so I just snuggled down in and finally went to sleep and never heard another thing for about 4 hours, praise the Lord. After today, tomorrow could ONLY get better! :)