The time has come again.......for leaving. Charis and Caleb leave 3 weeks from tomorrow (May 21). They will visit friends in Spain on their way back to the US. Mark, Miles and Ati leave about a month later (June 19) and will also stop over in Spain. We are excited to be returning to family, friends and life back 'home', but also grieving. The past 10 years have held much. Thank you for your support along the way - both financial and otherwise. We couldn't have done it without you. We have one final need that is weighing on us - our plane tickets home. Our mission account is $7000 in debt for these. If they are not paid off by the end of June, our severance pay for July, August and September will go towards these - leaving us with no income. Please consider helping us with this (go to the 'Give' tab). Thank you.
One of the perks of working at Bingham Academy is that we get three full weeks off for Christmas Break. Charis decided to use the time to make a surprise visit to her family back in the States. Meanwhile, the kids and I spent a very interesting month together, having fun but learning how important Mommy is to us! I made the following video as a memoir...
I learned a lot over those 3 1/2 weeks. I learned the joy of caring for family as well as the drain of caring for family. I learned the importance of friends. I learned to make the most of every opportunity to enjoy your kids while you have 'em. Yet how hard it is to do that when you've got dishes to clean and laundry to hang and dinner to cook. I gained a new appreciation for my wife and all she does. I gained a deeper respect for single parents who do this and still hold down a job. I gained empathy for the husband or wife whose spouse is in overseas military service... for months or even years at a time. I learned loneliness. Loneliness like I hadn't felt it since I went off to college while my parents and siblings returned to Zimbabwe. The loneliness was most acute when I came down with a wasting 48 hour stomach bug that left me weaker than perhaps I've ever been in my life.
But how quickly life returns to normal. Charis is back. My stomach has recovered. School's started up again. Yet in the middle of that normalcy, I hope I never forget the lessons learned "while you were away..."
"He who finds a wife finds what is good
Many of our friends and family already know about our decision to return to the States in June 2015, at the end of this school year. We don't want anyone to get the impression, however, that working at Bingham is not fulfilling or that spending this year in Ethiopia is not an amazing experience. Thanks to your continued prayers and giving we get to be a part of the story God is writing in this corner of the world, even if it will only be a short chapter of that book...
Ati's KG2 class celebrated Ethiopia Day by wearing traditional clothes and experiencing their very own coffee ceremony (minus the tasting!)
One aspect of Bingham I absolutely love are the opportunities the school plans for students to learn outside the classroom walls. In October, I had the joy of joining my 6th grade class in the beautiful forests of Suba National Park, about a 90 minute drive from Addis. Camp fires, baboons, and hikes were all part of our experience as we learned what Creation has to tell us about God.
You can imagine how happy I was, a month later, to be invited to join the 9th and 10th Grade PE Class on their overnight hike in the mountains of that same national park. Captivating is the best way I can describe the experience of hiking through majestic hills of golden wheat fields, rugged cliffs, and cozy village compounds.
Meanwhile, Charis spent a grueling six weeks of intensive Amharic lessons at language school. Inspite of the language overload, she really enjoyed her teacher and classmates.
Now she volunteers once a week at Strong Families, a Christian day care that works at orphan prevention by enabling mothers to work during the day while their children are cared for.
Another unique opportunity for our family was visiting Ati's old orphanage. Unfortunately, the children have been moved to a facility outside the city, and the location is just too far for us to visit regularly. But we did enjoy a morning of loving on the children who are still there. We couldn't help but think that one of those children might still have been Ati... Pray for the little ones at Faith Orphanage and for the millions of orphans all across the country.
Pray for our family, that we'll make the most of every opportunity while we're here.
This map illustrates the unique place that is Addis, and specifically Bingham Academy. The map represents only a handful of my students. They come from all over the world. Imagine the potential impact!
And students represent only a small part of the Bingham family, as I found out just yesterday at the school's Christmas "Gibsha." It was amazing to see all the beautiful families represented by Bingham's Ethiopian staff. It's an understatement to say that Bingham's ministry could not be carried out without these faithful co-workers.
Pray for the ministry here at Bingham and in Addis: that in the hands of the Master, our broken attempts at touching lives will be like the broken bread that fed thousands. That the result will be multiplied praises to the Author of Life.
Last week we took some of our 6th graders to an orphanage in the city as part of Activities Week. For about half of the students, this was their first time in such a place.
Students played soccer and basketball with the older kids while some went up to the infant room where they learned how comforting human touch is to a child.
The orphanage is run by a group of precious ladies from the small Mediterranean island of Malta. Their quick smiles and subtle sense of humor are a testimony to the bright faith that has kept them serving here more than forty years.
Just before leaving, one of the nuns pointed to a boy, about five years old, kicking around a soccer ball.
"Benny weighed only half a kilo when he came to be with us," she began. "An American woman was with us at the time. She would take the child and wrap him inside her shirt as she fed him. 'My Benny will not die,' she would tell us. She nursed that child to health. Looking at him today, you would not know his life started out that way."
I left that day, amazed at the selfless compassion of these ladies who have lived here for so many years. But I was also encouraged by the impact made on a child's life by a short-term volunteer from the States who simply chose not to lose hope.
And sometimes in this life - and particularly in this part of the world - hope is all we have.
"My Benny will not die."
*Benny is a pseudonym. His real name was changed here for reasons of privacy.
When you get a haircut, be sure to go back home
Last month, Caleb and I experienced our very first Ethiopian haircut! Unlike the Ray Stevens lyrics above, I thought the barber did a fantastic job, in spite of the fact that I had no idea how to explain in Amharic what I wanted!
Charis and I have been impressed with how well our kids seem to be handling the cultural adjustment here. Apart from their God-given resilience and the effective prayers of many on their behalf, there are a few additional things that have helped along the way.
Take Miles for example.
The other day, while out with me to get bread and eggs, he was hounded by some local boys who decided that this blond-headed foreigner was someone they could poke fun at. He was pretty upset by their teasing. Back at home, I explained that the majority of people here are really friendly, but there would always be the few rascals to deal with.
He didn't want to go back outside the gate.
Until I uttered the magic words: "soccer jersey."
Once he knew I would help him look for a soccer outfit, he wouldn't stop asking me to take him back out! It was so neat to see the fear and anxiety turn to eager excitement. The picture below says it all...
Then there was the day we gave away all our oranges.
I had been out with the kids, doing some shopping on the streets. At our last stop, there were four older gentlemen, sitting in a row, looking haggard and asking for alms. I decided to give each an orange. As we walked back through the gate of our compound, I handed the last two bits of citrus to one of the guards.
Miles was aghast. "Why did you give away all our oranges?"
This provided an opportunity for a mini lesson on poverty and generosity.
"Why did you give away all our oranges?"
We're learning just how rewarding giving is.
The other day, Caleb and I went with a group from school on a five hour hike in the mountains outside the city. It was beautiful!
Most of the hike brought us through farmland where young children tended the cattle and sheep. A few of the children accompanied us all the way up to near the top of the mountain. Here, Caleb and I shared some of our snacks with them.
But what got me was how thirsty they were.
I had brought an extra plastic cup which I used to share some of our filtered drinking water. The little kids chugged it down like they were on a Gatorade commercial. I was reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew 10:
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
It felt good to bring a little joy to these kids' hearts.
But really, we weren't sacrificing anything. The reward Caleb and I got from seeing their joy was so much more than what we gave away. I doubt those kids high up on the mountain were even aware that they were helping us along our own journey of cultural adjustment.
I doubt they knew how much they gave us that day.
I'm thankful for the little things like haircuts, soccer jerseys, and oranges, that help us adjust, little by little, to life here in Addis.
"Slowly, slowly an egg learns to walk."
What do you do when the sun goes down in Addis during the rainy season?
Catch flying ants!
And eat them....
Our family was watching a movie at home when there was a knock on the door. It was some neighbor kids inviting us to a flying ant feast! I tried one myself. I'm ashamed to say that it was my first ever - even after having spent my entire childhood in Zimbabwe! A little earthy and soft, but edible! I think Ati enjoyed them the most :)
Staff orientation ended with a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, complete with incence, popcorn, and of course, freshly roasted coffee beans.
Tuesday, August 19th was the first day of school!
The year was started off with an all-school chapel, and it was so neat to see all the countries represented (including Zim!) by students and staff. It really is a diverse group!
12 suitcases and 9 carry-ons, and we found ourselves flying across the Atlantic and over the Sahara desert towards our new home in Addis.
The leaving was compounded this time. We said good-byes to our family and close friends in the States then flew to Madrid to pick up the rest of our luggage and see friends - only to have those same friends take us to the airport 30 hours later.
I don't like this part of the movie...
As we got to airport security, and the kids gave their friends one last hug, our oldest said, "I don't like this part of the movie. I wish we could skip this part."
We arrived safely in Addis at about 4:00 a.m., Sunday, where we were met by our friend who helped us lug our bags to the school van. After sleeping till about 10:00 a.m., we awoke to find ourselves in a new world.
We are so grateful to be living on campus as we begin our transition to Ethiopia. We love our apartment which even includes a cozy fireplace. Believe it or not, we enjoyed our first fire tonight! In August. In Africa. Close to the equator! The overcast and rainy weather, combined with the high altitude make for cold nights. And yes, we enjoyed one of our first power cuts last night too - for now there's still that nostalgic, camping feel to the electricity going out. We'll see how we like it a few months from now!
We have been so encouraged by the welcome we've received and have enjoyed getting to know our new colleagues from Ethiopia, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Canada, England, Scotland, South Africa, Norway, and yes, even some from the States :)
Life outside the school gates is a completely different world. "Suks" or small shops line the road along with small restaurants, "men's beauty" salons, and much to my delight there's a café every few hundred feet! There's also an open market where - if I look hard enough - I'm sure I'll find some Real Madrid shirts to buy our kids. We found out where the local ATM is, where to buy bread (the "Nice Bakery"), popcorn kernels, and sugar.
Fruits that are in season right now: mango, papaya, citrus, avocado, bananas, and strawberries. Other food items, such as butter, are much harder to find. Still, between the hospitality of our new community and Charis' resourceful cooking, we're eating very well!
As I think of those 12 pieces of luggage we brought over with us, I'm reminded of the saying that it's not about what you bring but what you leave behind. Pray for us as we get stuck in to life here in Addis that when the time eventually comes to go, we'll have left something of eternal significance here in the relationships formed, and in the lives touched.
Thanks for being a part of our story.
This video explains our reasons for moving to Bingham Academy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia while also showing the relationships and ministry we were a part of in Spain.
We are still in need of some additional monthly support as well as one-time gifts which will go towards the cost of travel to Ethiopia. Visit our GIVE page to learn how to partner with us financially, or CONTACT us with any questions you might have. And please pray for our family as we get ready to leave Boston on July 31st!
I wanted to write this entry about seven weeks ago when were getting ready to leave Spain but did not have the time. The thoughts suddenly bit into me again the other day like a horsefly helping himself to a chunk of flesh, and they left my emotions raw. Our whole family is dealing with the grief of saying good-bye to Spain and to the friends we made there.
It's the finality of it that really gets me. I realized this only a few weeks before leaving. Maybe it was while sitting on top of the hill just behind our house - the warm breeze shivering the leaves of the olive trees - looking out across the sleepy little pueblo below with a horse farm off to one side. We were leaving... for good.
It was then that I thought how bad leaving stinks.
It really does. Leaving is loss; it's a tearing up; it makes no sense. Why did we leave so soon? Why did we even go there in the first place? Wouldn't it have been easier not to have loved these people, these places, only to be torn from them prematurely (like the Spanish national team from this year's FIFA World Cup!)
The other thing that makes leaving Spain so hard is that we only have a few weeks to process it before we're off to another continent and another school. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to go to Ethiopia and to serve at Bingham, but time moves fast and life is relentless. And grieving takes time. I learned that in a big way, leaving my home in Zimbabwe at 17 years of age.
It makes me even more grateful that my Jesus knows all about leaving. First, he had to leave his Father and his home in Heaven to come live here for awhile. Then, he had to say goodbye to 12 of his closest friends, his mother, and hundreds of others whom he'd come to love. I wonder if, just after disappearing from sight in the clouds, his friends had similar thoughts: Why did he even come in the first place? It would have been easier for us not to have known him, to have loved him at all.
Good thing about it: It's not final. He's coming back.
And I guess that's what we hang on to regarding our friends in the faith whom we leave here on earth: We will see them again one day.
In the meantime, leaving still stinks... bad.
Well, once again, we've gone too long between posts! We have five weeks left here in Spain - very bittersweet. With more left to do than time allows. We have our 2 senior dorm kids' graduation 4 weeks from today. Between now and then we have packing, cleaning and sad goodbyes - besides all the other end-of-year activities. Please pray for us as we are under a lot of stress - even the kids. Stomach flu, teeth through lips and trouble sleeping have plagued us in recent days.
We look forward to our 8 weeks in the States. While time won't allow us to see everyone, we're thankful for the chance to see friends and family after more than 1 1/2 years away.
After these 8 weeks, we will fly to Ethiopia and begin our work at Bingham Academy. Yay! Although, moving to Africa is quite daunting. We have to bring everything for our family of 5 in 10 suitcases and 5 carryons. Everything. If everyone stays on board with our support, we should be fully funded for Ethiopia (some of you have asked). I'm sure once we get settled and involved in ministry, we will have additional ministry/set-up costs as well. Not to mention, we had to buy our airline tickets to Ethiopia on faith....we need $3750 in one-time gifts to cover these (Madrid to Addis Ababa). You can click on our 'Give' tab to find out more.
Please pray for us, especially during these next 5 weeks as we say goodbye to friends that have become very dear. Especially for the kids, as they can't process as well. Here are some pictures to bring you up to date on our lives.