Archive for April 2011
Easter weekend evoked a large variety of childhood memories for myself. Combined with my memories, I hope it imparted lasting impressions on our boys and added to their lives some quality childhood memories. I pray for those days when they can recollect to each other “ remember that Easter weekend, when we had a great time, great food, and a family atmosphere”.
We received a helpful training that has encouraged us to intently add creative styles of playing, learning and expression. Over the Easter weekend our boys took part in a drama to tell the story of Christ’s resurrection, along with competing in groups for who could make the best stories out of lego’s(from my childhood), play dough, construction paper with coloring supplies, and guitar practice. Watching our boys work together so well, so eager to use their creative talents is more than just uplifting! I think along with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, my hope was resurrected. It also evoked so many fond memories of my childhood, loving lego’s puzzles, transformers and so on. Calls to mind how fortunate I was and how lucky these chosen boys are compared to the thousands that don’t get to have those childhood memories.
We had a rough time dealing with three boys in the house, that were stealing a lot, lying very well, and doing some unimaginable things. We learned a lot from it, but it also kicked us square in the butt. Our time on Easter weekend cured some of those ills. We sent 7 boys to see their families as part of our family reconciliation. This piece of our work has been pretty darn successful. That left us with about 10 boys, so the intimacy of the weekend was enhanced. It was just awesome. On top of that, the push for more intimate mentoring(spearheaded by Muleken) has started to really pay dividends. A couple of our toughest boys have had remarkable improvement since adding personal, intimate, one on one mentoring time. My eagerness to see the fruit in one boys life is growing quite a bit. I wait expectantly on the Lord to do the unthinkable with this boy, who I nearly wrote off, and for 8 of the 9 months wondered how we let him in the house. He now stands as one of our most creative, and brightest boys. Still struggling with anger, addictions, but showing much more joy, respect for adults, and desire for affection. Amen.
On the personal side, I feel like I am falling rather than climbing. It’s hard and embarrassing to explain since I am one of the most blessed, miracles witnessing son of a gun. The shine of sacrificing, being obedient has long ago worn off. I find in myself more flaws then I can list. Thought that creates a strong faith in what God can do, it never is from God to feel so beat up. From my fathering skills, team work skills, communication skills, to my discipline, I just seem to be sinking or better.. sucking. (this isn’t my cry for affirmation, this is just open book Adam, and also I trust temporary)
On the car front. I started the driving license process here. It has turned out to match the stereotypical bureaucratic, horrible service in Africa. Next week will be my fourth day working on a process that has been exhausting and of course frustrating. Add on that the car market is horrendous. A 20 year old car will cost at least $15,000 USD and I am still learning if I am even allowed to buy a car as a volunteer foreigner. I would have to partner with someone to buy it but the pickins’ are slim. The more I have romanticized about drives out to and through the country, the more I have wanted buying a car to be a reality, but I highly doubt it ever happens. I can rent cars here though not cost effective, so that is my saving grace. This has helped me refocus on my finances and pray harder for the administrative hurdles that dent my support.
So much hope, so much faith, so many up and downs, so many struggles, so many battles, so many miracles, so many failures, so many success…. This is what has consistently defined my service in Ethiopia, with high peaks and low valleys. ALL are worth it if we can create some lasting childhood memories!
Ahhh the sweet memories of being a lazy bum, skipping class and wasting an expensive college education at Penn State. For sure, I can say I don’t remember anything from my ummm.. call it 5 years of college and business management degree. I don’t think(and I praise him for it) God really designed me as an in class learner. I gather so much from life experience, which I think adds to my bravado as I look forward to the outcomes of most life challenges. Some people choose school as a confidence builder, to set out in their career or other interest, I choose life. That could easily be my logic for just being a really bad student(you should see me in my new Amharic classes, pitiful, can’t sit still for more than 15 minutes), and professional procrastinator.
The idea of “what benefits will come out of the cost” associated with my decision to move to Ethiopia and live with these boys is consistently coming to my mind. There are a few areas of analysis if we are determining the benefits attributed to the investment in this project. The first thing we think of is “how many boys lives are we/can we change from the money donated”. That is most obvious, but there are so many more aspects. Some of those are how is it benefiting my life, how is it benefiting other’s lives not involved intimately, how is it changing Gods kingdom, how does it affect each person involved, when might the benefits be seen, what about the “next generation” of boys helped…. And so on.
This is a very tough subject. How do you measure the responsible, logical, practical handling of finances with the spiritual, maturity development, life changes of teenage Ethiopian former street boys? So is each boy worth a certain amount, is each learning lesson to be attributed a dollar amount? How do we measure that growth, that spiritual development? Sure, many Christ followers will say “the reward is in heaven, we only answer to God, it is up to God”, but unfortunately/fortunately God gave us a practical mind to use and a practical world to live in that we must answer too. There are many cultural factors in Ethiopia that leads to a form of “conservatism” utilized by those frightened by the history of corruption and miss appropriated funds. There are many pros and cons to this conservatism and I would say it is needed considering the history and tendency of people running NGO’s in Ethiopia. This conservatism of funding contradicts my minds idea of how to holistically address street children(or any at risk youth for that matter). To me the cost is worth it. The more we limit the costs, the more we limit chances to grow, learn, experiment, empower. The way my strategic mind works is to start with the overall growth, learning potential, and future benefits and then funnel that into a cost effective way to make it happen. Culturally though it is common to start with the money and get the most out of what you have. It’s a huge contradiction between what I think is in my American mind and the minds of some Ethiopians.
So the pressures have started to grow in my mind. We run a ministry that is on the expensive side and that does potentially have a high “failure rate”. In my observance of street kid projects the “success rate” tends to hover around 50% or 65%. This observation begs the question of how do you define the success rate, what is the benefit cost ratio.
One commitment I made when I started was that I would be satisfied with just ONE boy being changed/saved. Though that remains truth in my heart, my mind is starting to argue that we do need to influence as many as possible in a positive way, Godly way. My mind knows that about 4 or 5 boys are on the cusp of “failing” as others might reach that point also. God is all powerful, but that devil sure has a firm grasp on some of our beloved boys. We have had major struggles of late, with theft, disrespect, and other expected forms of difficulties. What if we end up with only 10 boys out of 22? Or even 15 out of 22? (68%, a very familiar test score for me, but what about this group of boys?) How will we justify the thousands of dollars being used to end up with anything less than an 80% success rate? My heart screams yes to saving one life! My mind says ummmmm, that isn’t a very good benefit cost ratio. I can’t argue with the tightened government regulations that the one boy we changed could influence 100’s of people as it is passed on to generations and in that worth the thousands of dollars.
I thank God my heart does see the vast influence area this project/my decision is having on at least dozens of people not directly involved in the boys lives. From supporters, random acquaintances, volunteers, my loved ones and more. I thank God that our team knows that the reward lies outside of this world for us, the boys and anyone involved. I thank God that this team has a heart that is ok with one success story but strives for 100% success rate! I thank God for the divinely incalculable benefits this project will have in our lives, the lives of these boys, and the lives of generations to come. My heart begs God for answers to how to better fight against the strong hold Satan has on some of our boys. I ask God for comfort as I steer clear of worries about if our project doesn’t have a high “success rate” then what do I do next? I am thankful for God using all this to create needed leadership skills and experiences in me. I thank Him for what I pray will be the beginnings of a long career in serving the neediest. May each valley accentuate each mountain top and may each mountain top shine His glory!
PS: MY life is a weird sorts of normal out here. I have started to think that to survive three more years here I need to find a little bit more of normalcy for myself. This has lead me to consider buying a car here!! Not an idea I love exactly, especially the whole spending money part. The good thing is that cars don’t depreciate here(weird), but the bad thing is with taxes they are ridiculously expensive. But being able to leave the city when I need a break, or just entertaining friends, or giving friends rides, it would bring back a piece of the Adam I miss.