Thursday, March 1- After a long day we are now located in Awassa, Ethiopia. The day started with breakfast with the team at the Hotel Kaleb in the Capital Addis Ababa. We loaded our luggage and headed to the Ethiopia National Headquarters and met with the Director and several of the senior leaders. The Director gave us a brief overview of what the challenges are in Ethiopia and how there is hope that those challenges can be overcome with global support. Highlighting the meeting was the Director of the Famine in the Horn of Africa Desta Arega. This area includes over 13 million people experiencing severe food crisis in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya. The slow global response to the indicators this was becoming a disaster after drought and crop failures, and many livestock being lost, has led to many more people dying of starvation than expected. More money is needed by global non government organizations to incur further deaths. The drought during the late 2011 rainy season in the area, in addition to little rain in the early 2012 rainy season could lead to a bigger disaster during the Summer of 2012. Close attention to indicators is necessary to step up a much quicker response in the future if no rain comes before the dry Summer season. Refugees are entering Ethiopia leading to more stress on the Ethiopian government and World Vision Ethiopia. Greater attention by the international press and global support is necessary to eliminate further damage to the population. Following the meeting the Vision team met for lunch, then headed South around 170 miles to Awassa, which is near Faith’s sponsored Area Development Project. The trek took over 5 hours driving through the most poverty stricken area I’ve encountered in my entire life. Families of an average of 6 live in small huts made of mud and reeds and live on less than 2 USD a day. We had to weave between hundreds of their 2 wheel primitive carriages drawn by mules on the highway which was dangerous at times since large semi trucks and other vehicles were passing us and weaving through traffic at high speeds. Once it turned dark they were still pulling their daily water and goods for sale without any lighting or reflectors, making disasters very close at times. One of many other things we witnessed was the large dense population along the highway in this remote wilderness of Ethiopia between Addis Ababa and Abaya. We calculated we saw more than 1 million people during the 170 mile stretch, congregating along and on the highway due to it was there form of transporting commerce, water and their social interaction.
It was emotionally moving to see the conditions these families are living in, doing everything they can to get by. I couldn’t hold back the tears. What was amazing, is that these people seemed to have a sense of hope and happiness, that God is providing for them. Most of them were cheerful and smiling. I’m still processing what I witnessed today, and it will stay with me forever. I wonder why Americans have it all, and they have nothing???
Later on our venture to Awassa we passed at least a dozen camels. We were all hoping we would get the opportunity to see some indigenous animals from Africa. What was interesting is that there were 4 very young, 5-8 years old boys nearby playing. They thought nothing of the camels, whereas we were intrigued. They ran up to our SUV while we were stopped to take pictures wanting our attention. I’ll never forget the wonder and hope in their beautiful eyes. We continued on our way and noticed the air was thick with smog, whereas we thought we would have pristine air. The poverty stricken locals have access to lots of natural charcoal and extract it for sale and use. They burn it for heat and cooking. We arrived in Awassa just after dinner time and the air was thick with charcoal smoke and diesel smog, which most all vehicles use in Ethiopia. We checked in to the Lewi Hotel on Lake Awassa and had dinner and World Vision leader Andy Smith prayed and had devotion with us. He asked us how we saw God’s kingdom at work today. I prayed how I saw his kingdom come, and asked for mercy and grace for these people that are suffering. Or, are they, they seem happy, not having the burdens we westerners are loaded down with. Tomorrow we will visit the 21 year old Shone ADP, in its maturity, with a clean water project, sustainable farming, education and health programs. Saturday we visit our Faith sponsored Abaya ADPfor and orientaion, learn more about the project, and visit our sponsored children. Sunday we go to a local church for worship, then a boat excursion on Lake Awassa, then Monday we again visit our sponsored ADP in Abaya. Please continue to pray for God to work through us and that this treasured time witnessing God at work will transform us forever.
Peace in Christ.