Archive for July 2010
THANK GOD IT IS FRIDAY! Never have I uttered these four letters with such meaning and impact behind them. These four initials have completely changed meaning for me since being in Ethiopia.
While working in corporate America I uttered these words without much reverence for God and also I was glad the work week was over. At times it meant nothing because I often found myself in the office on Saturdays and Sundays. It often meant fun times with friends, a time to catch up on errands and more. Now when I say these words they take on a whole new more powerful meaning.
6 months ago we started our first attempt at structuring a program for the boys. For the last 6 months or so we have met on church grounds to play soccer, eat, and then share about life and faith. Now I find myself SO thankful to God for these Friday’s with the boys. I am not thankful that it is almost over like I was in corporate America, but instead can’t wait to spend the time with the boys.
6 months ago the Friday time consisted of trying to tame 25 boys so that chaos didn’t turn into a war zone. It was Birukti, myself, Pastor Z, and a few other pastors. The boys came, played soccer, argued half the time and fought the other half. Then we ate a good meal and heard a good word from visiting guests or the pastors.
There has been huge improvement in our Fridays. Today we spent a lot more time smiling with the boys then yelling at them. Every last one of the 21 boys was punctual, meaning 10am on the dot. They then willingly and happily participated in structured warm ups led by Camden and Muleken. The 15 minute soccer games followed that without one incident of a fight and really very minimal arguing. I even heard one of our boys Freakash encouraging his teammates!!!!! WOW. Finally we all sat together to go over announcements followed by me speaking about how Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi were amazing examples of rejecting and the “norm” of this world and using the life of Jesus to guide them in love and peace. We then ate some really good misser wat . Finally the boys who received yellow cards, from yours truly, during soccer washed the dishes with only minimal complaining, there even some smiles from them.
What a day! Forward progress in these boys’ lives is a blessing that reminds us we are on the right path. I feel fortunate to have so much pride in some boys that two years ago I didn’t even know.
Progress is also happening with the house. The furniture continues to arrive. We hired a cook and a cleaner. The volunteers are coming this Saturday for one more dinner/training before the boys come to the house. Testing and assessments of the boys continue to move forward. We had two great young men express interest in living at the house and being a full time mentor. We continue to wait on some things to get approval for them to live at house, plus waiting on some fine tuning of budget. Our team meetings are typically full of laughter, mixed with a couple frustrations, but in the end good productive meetings.
So seriously I Thank God IT IS Friday and actually wish I could relive it instead of moving on to Saturday like my previous life.
How can we live amongst such multitude of injustices? How did I for so many years do nothing to play a part in fighting it? How did I find happiness when I was ignoring it? Was that even happiness? I am so grateful for how my view of injustice and what it is made of has changed. Recognizing the truth of injustice and being willing to stand up against it makes me feel like a brawny warrior. Makes me feel more alive than any other time in my life.
My view of injustice used to center around me. Poor me, why do I have to suffer from depression or anxiety, why can’t I figure out my path in life, why can’t I easily find a beautiful girl? Sure I knew of things outside of my bubble that were atrocities happening to others, but lacked any confidence needed to imagine I could be a solution. I will say my faith did in two years, what I had struggled to do in 28. It first let me see more clearly the injustice around us, then through obedience and faith I saw I could be a part of changing it.
Today I did the tiniest thing to stand up against a very small injustice in the grand scheme of life. (Maybe not injustice, just a silly human mistake). Someone was again labeling my amazing, awesome, well behaved, hard working boys, with a common stigma. They were to help around the church today to set up some chairs. The plans changed last minute and I was asked to pick the most responsible boys from the group and send the rest home, since there is a good chance they will break the chairs. Umm, no, no they won’t. First, they probably do more quality work then adults, second the chairs are practically steal. “We either all come in or none come in”. Seriously, sounds silly right? But it got my blood pressure boiling like every false assumption does. The best part is that when I feel that justice anger rising I am the most thankful for where I am, who I am and the God that brought me here. Seriously, while I was “passionately” telling my friend that it was all or none, I thanked God for that very moment. So the boys helped, did an amazingly fast, good job and the person who had the assumption said “yirkirta,”, or excuse me.
The above is only a microcosm of the reality of my boys lives and a very small constant in our world full of atrocities. I guess some day I might get off my “street children” kick, God could take me anywhere for anything. BUT, I sure hope not. I love being a part of fighting this injustice. I love what I would say is a God inspired adrenaline rush, the bubbling of rage against injustice. NO YOU WILL NOT TREAT MY BOYS LIKE THAT AND KINDLY SIR DO NOT PUT STIGMAS ON THEM CAUSE THEY LIVE IN THE STREETS.. Arms crossed, my stern face on.
It’s not just rage though, it’s a deep sorrow and sometimes a lack of hope that arises in me when I see some injustice. I am reading “Soul Survivor” by Phillip Yancy. What an awesome snapshot of 13 amazing lives. Martin Luther King Jr. is beginning to stand out in my life in a major way. The injustice he faced and the actions he took to be a solution are so far out of my brains reach it baffles me! I am not sure there are better examples of acting out the model of Jesus’ life. To hold on to what you know is right, rely on loving your enemies and NEVER using violence through extremely intense persecution is SO ridiculously amazing to me. I won’t amount to a finger nail on his MLK’s hand, but that’s ok. What he really does is challenges us all to look at injustice and do the opposite of what is easy but just, using the model of Jesus’ life. Ghandi did the same thing. It encourages me to look inward and make sure I am not just “helping street children” but finding a Jesus inspired pattern on how to fight it in an incredibly difficult and unworldly way.
Since my passion runs wild I tend to find myself holding on tight to a wobbly, rickety roller coaster. One of my fondest memories was going on my first roller coaster with my uncle. It was the oldest one in the amusement park, high, and EXHILARATING! This blog quickly follows one dedicated to venting about how hard this adventure seems. This blog also has a complete different tone, the exhilarating drop after a climb up a steep hill. Let me raise both arms in enjoyment today!
So I entered today refreshed after a near break down last night. Our day was filled with soccer with the boys, my regular “speech” to them regarding multiple important topics, then lunch and ice cream with the team from South Carolina.
Can I just say my boys are the best, ummmmm of all time! So frustrating at times, but when they step up it overwhelms me. It is intriguing but very satisfying, that I can look on 20 some kids as a proud father-ish. The pride that wells up in me almost punches me in the heart, it’s awesome. It’s less like holding my two arms up on a roller coaster but instead hanging by one foot off that same coaster, but feeling completely safe! It’s what I think is a glimpse into what our loving father feels towards us.
Today we played a fight less soccer game after a completely participatory warm exercise time. The only two kids that were late willingly ran 15 laps to pay the consequence. We then sat 20 of them down to discuss a multitude of issues. All but one had eyes intently focused on me. We discussed how complaining doesn’t help anything, our need for them to help us in discipline, the need to receive gifts with better gratitude and less arguing over who gets what, our fun plans for the day, our plans for next week, and more…
The three most important pieces of today’s discussion was around Jesus, announcing the “next step” for our project, and how we are a family and NOT an organization. Our Jesus conversation was about how we don’t look to change, or force anything on them. We talked about some messages the boys receive from people about Jesus. The messages sometimes follow the “ you must be saved now” path. We agree that we hope they are and become saved, but we hope to do it with less words and instead share life with them so that the love of Christ shines brightly through us. Them being saved and making that difficult and important decision, is not a requirement to receive our love, help, and and guidance. We did make clear that Jesus is the center piece of our lives and what they see in us we get from His love.
We also wanted to make clear that Change 4 Change is not the priority for any of us. I was convicted when I came back with us spending a lot of time on the name of the organization. With bracelets, fundraising attempts, facebook pages and more, I lost sight of what this was about. It is about FAMILY! I don’t and won’t give a hoot about what our name is. Call us “ funny looking white dude thing”, doesn’t matter. We all need to make sure we are sending a message of family, love, and a bond that runs deep! I regret temporarily loosing site of that, but its clearly in focus now and I pray it is never lost again.
Finally we will be announcing to the kids, FINALLY, that we are starting day programs at the house. While we wait for a frustrating delay in having the approval for the kids to move in, we are moving forward with programs including tutoring, character development, mentoring, counseling, three meals a day, and much more.
I pray I can keep my hands held high on this roller coaster and let Jesus be my seat belt as I experience life changing family, bonds, fulfillment, and challenges.
Everyone can probably imagine how hard the roles me and our team in Ethiopia are playing in our boys lives. Though everyone’s imagination might be vivid, I can’t even grasp the difficulties at times. When people ask me “is it exciting, is it fun, do you love it?”, I only can answer “ it is hard”. We all look at faith differently and we all have our own opinions on sacrificing for our faith and how we are to be blessed in our faith. I won’t pretend I have a clue about any of it though. All I know is that we have chosen to sacrifice certain comforts and “nice” feelings to play a major role in some boy’s lives and be an example to everyone. We mostly receive blessings through knowing that our boys lives can and will be changed and that they will know the love Jesus exemplified.
I have not written in a blog in a while. I am always pondering what to write, but lately there has been an overwhelming amount of stuff going on in my life. I feel like it is my duty to communicate to everyone who supports us and to anyone that it may help, teach, make laugh, make cry. I sometimes wish for more creative titles but just need to write it! Speaking of crying, I have felt lately like a machine. I was worried that because of the nature of some difficulties we face that I have turned off all emotions and most feelings. Well good news! In returning to Ethiopia from my short stay in the U.S. I have already experience great joy, great anger, and great great sorrow. Yup, all that in three days.
My trip was wonderful to the states I can’t even begin to count the blessings of amazing friends, family, generosity, and just the path my life has taken. It was crazy getting back to the rat race of America, seeing the overabundance, convenience, cleanliness and more. I saw so many people and did so many things that it all was a whirlwind.
In returning to Ethiopia, I was immediately a part of hosting a team from South Carolina, working on budget items, discussing difficult decisions, learning about what is now up to 8 boys in jail or on their way, and preparing the house for the boys. It is like a never ending whirlwind I suppose. My brain never stops. My faith is pushed to the limits, challenging me to grow and stand firm in my love of God. There are some exciting things happening, though it seems none of them come easy.
The last two days were filled with the team from South Carolina(huge supporters) helping do some ESL training for our boys. In the midst of this we are working hard to institute some regular discipline in our boy’s lives. It is amazing how much disciplining takes out me. In fact Muleken definitely had enough of having to be the lead while I was gone, so it takes a lot out of all of us. I love discipline though. I love knowing what our boys will become if they can find some discipline in their lives. I love the thought of them looking back on people that showed them love by teaching how to live life(Jesus did that really well too). I love it when it sinks in, when they comprehend it and put it into practice. We had a good day today playing ESL games, making crafts, singing, eating and more. Like yesterday though it ended in a fight and enforced consequences. It breaks my heart to enforce consequences sometimes but it is so important. We really are working on developing a family atmosphere for these boys.
On top of hosting we are really starting to move on preparing the house for the boys and growing our programs. We are constantly adjusting but the time is close. We have some furniture and Muleken is working hard to purchase the rest. Muleken is just insanely a rock start for God. He took what we had and put together a decent budget outline that I hope can help us communicate about funds needed. While I was away he, Camden, Abe, Zola, and Betty lead days with the boys. They had the boys clean some of the main streets in Addis then rewarded them with a fun day watching the World Cup. It was music to my ears. We are hoping for some great opportunities and partnerships in our boys being a part of cleaning the city. Income generation projects are vastly important to the long term success of this and the growth of our boys.
We are still waiting to receive approval to allow the kids to move into the house. Until then we are going to start day programs every day. It’s a huge step and causes us to face great challenges. We are discussing whether or not to take in more boys, bringing the total to about 22(doesn’t include the others outside the house we need to keep relationship with). This requires complete faith and some guts on our end. There is NO perfect way to address the issue of street boys. Research and experience basically just tells us that it’s very difficult, a unique issue and nearly impossible. In sum, it is JUST PLAIN HARD. If we didn’t have God to help us, guide us, I would guess that we all would succumb to the difficulties.