Archive for August 2010
Today is the 10th day of living with 22 boys that formerly lived on the streets of Addis Ababa. The mental exhaustion is starting to gradually relent. Each day there are observable changes and growth. My brain can hardly comprehend this amazing time.
As I write this, the boys are in the middle of 2 hours of quiet and study time. I can walk out of my room and see multiple boys reading quietly, trying to teach each other the basics of Amharic and English, or writing something. There is no better time to soak in the reality of life in this house. My spirit is most full when I watch them learning, growing and helping one another. There is no greater reward for my sacrifice, I can’t thank God enough.
The first 8 days were extremely challenging. Coming from a life of schedules and regiment, the chaos that ensued in the first 8 days was mind numbing. The constant noise alone was hard to bear. I left the house for the first time by myself on the 8th day. It was a strange experience, like being released from jail(sort of) for the first time. I also took my second shower, shaved for the first time, ate food other then Ethiopian for the first time, met a friend for the first time, and observed the beautiful sky for the first time in 8 days. Those 8 days are in the past as each day we are with the boys gets more structured and enjoyable.
The boy’s days start with showers and washing clothes at 7am. Then we sit down for basic devotions followed by breakfast. Depending on the day, breakfast is followed by quiet study time, or a quest speaker(Ermias and Koni from Youth Impact mainly). Then we have afternoons that include lunch, chores, school for English, Amharic, and Math, community service, free time and more.The nights are “family time” where we watch a movie or play different games. Then it is time for bed around 9, where we find time to work on work stuff.
The first 8 days were “fly by the seat of pants” days. We(Muleken, Elias, Teddy and myself) basically stayed up each night trying to plan an organize 22 boys, scheduling recreation, school, and more. It is impossible to comprehend the amount of organization it takes to schedule and organize 22 boys. The simple things like bars of soap, soft, school, cleaning, chores are monumental tasks. Starting today though, we have a schedule laid out for the whole week. We also started our allowance program, where their behavior will determine how much birr they will earn each month hopefully giving them positive reinforcement and teaching them how to be financially responsible.
There have been major improvements in some boys already. A couple boys have gone from constantly disrespectful to being examples to the other boys. Yesterday we sent them out for soccer. It was the first time sending them out with no leaders. Three of the older more mature boys were given the task of leadership and they came back with joy because there were no fights and very few arguments. That might be the first time they have not fought during soccer, ever! Yesterday, we only had one boy who was late to a scheduled event once. Wow, the first attempt at tracking attendance only three boys were on time, now only one was late(by one minute).
As the schedule continues to solidify the full time leaders will find ways to maintain our sanity. I am experience extreme gratitude today because of how much improvement we have seen already. If the first 8 days became the norm I am not sure how long I or any of us would last. We still need a lot more people to help out, tutoring, teaching, just babysitting but we are no longer surviving but instead thriving.
Another great reward has been the gradual openness of some of the boys. Some of them have shown refreshing honesty admitting that they were high every time we met them in the past, telling us stories about stealing and fighting. It seems like a healthy release for those able to open up and a chance for us to show them unconditional love.
I gotta run, time to enforce my role as disciplinarian.
I hope those that actually read this blog and know me can hear me singing the Destiny’s Child song with these lyrics(in my highest pitch Beyonce imitation) while I write this. “ I’m a survivor, I’m not gonna give up, I’m not gon’ stop, im’ gonna work harder”. I’m glad God didn’t make me a singer or a dancer, but hoping he made me a survivor. It ain’t about my though, its about the survival of these 22 boys and many more to come.
Survival= “the act or fact of living, or the continuation of life”. Well some arguments could be made that we are helping these boys survive, but I think we are just living, a fact. We are learning to live together, learning to form a very unusual family. We are learning to survive together. This is the most living I have ever done, it is actually almost too much. Its been an amazing but some extremely hard few days. Some of the work just baffles me, defeats me, frustrates me and so on. I am just looking to hang on, or survive. I signed up for this, maybe didn’t realize the reality, but the harder the better. If I can survive the beginning blows I know there will be major victories to come.
Enough about me. Here are the rewards for as close to 100 sacrifice and service as I’ll ever get.
-So far when I ask for someone to help clean up after our huge meals(at least 26 people 3 times a day) I get over eager young teenage volunteers. Our compound is ridiculously clean(better then my room ever has been in my life) considering there are 22 “street(amazing) boys” living here. – There hasn’t been one fight.
– There have been more smiles then I could count
– We have had sleep over’s(fun until temp houses are set up) that have been as fun as I have had with these boys since knowing them
– looking in our living room at 13 or so(rest in another room) sleeping, warm, rainless, close friends
-watching them intently listen to a couple visitors or us as we teach or share something
– dancing party where they showed us a few of the traditional dances
– seeing some of their desire to read
-the amount of time they have enjoyed Mezmors(cultural, popular spiritual songs)
-the frequent references by the boys about us being their family, fathers, uncles and so on
-observing the intricate relationships of 22 boys that have spent at least a year living on the street together
-the glowing smiles after getting new clothes and some hair cuts
Finally it is the knowledge that one day they may look back on these days as a turning point, or at least some high quality memories. The knowledge that a few crazy, ill prepared people “sacrificed” to show them love. The knowledge that one day they may see that amazingly imperfect people did amazingly unselfish things because there was “something” about them. The knowledge that the something was Jesus only Him.
PS: The house owner decided to show up on the first day to tell us they want us out… Prayer needed, though expecting bigger and better things.
A couple days ago we got one of the common downpours in Addis Ababa that included hail. It seems like all the worlds water is released on Addis in a half hour span. A couple friends and I were in a mini bus. Like mentioned before these busses are from about the 60’s and each one that runs is a miracle of Ethiopian ingenuity. This particular bus had NO windshield wipers, but that didn’t slow our drive down in the downpour. You could not see a thing in front of you, seriously nothing. It was kinda fun, like a roller coaster ride with blinders. It was at least hilarious. Needless to say we made it safely to our destination.
It got me thinking about the kids moving into the house on Friday. We have spent the good part of the last 10 months preparing and planning our boy’s future in the house. The reality remains that none of us have any idea how it will play out or how God will show up in their lives. We have ZERO visibility in terms of the future of all of us, the boys, workers, and people who will show up in the future.
If I am 100% honest, I am scared to death about what may be coming up. Yeah, that is a lack of faith but I hope the fact that I continue to move forward despite silly fears is the true sign of my faith. I have no idea how this will play out but remain confident that looking back on this time I will be amazed by all that God does through this. I can’t wait till that day, right now though my knees are shaking a bit.
The boys will come to the house for the first time at 11am on Friday. That day will be filled with going over the rules, consequences, programs, structure of how everything will work. They will be sent back to their shanty homes for the last time to collect their things and say good bye to their old life. On Satruday we will take them shopping for new clothes that will be a symbolic piece of how it is a new chance at improving their lives. On Sunday we will have some volunteer introductions, games and church. Then next week we will start regularly scheduled programs like tutoring, medical check ups, mentoring, devotions, recreation, three meals and much more.
These are exciting and scary times. The fact that it is actually, finally happening is surreal. Please think of our team often. Please pray for us, pray for our wisdom, for our stress levels, for our ability to build each other up and not tear down, pray for our faith, our confidence, and to feel the presence of God very close by.
FINALLY! A HUGE HUGE thanks for all those who have contributed in so many ways. Nice emails, educational emails or info, encouraging words on the blog or through email, prayers, thoughts and financial support. This is NOT possible with out you all!