Here is the next installment of reflections from sponsors who have visited our care point in Kombolcha. Their experiences have deeply moved me over the last year. I hope you get a better sense of the journey, the transformation of sponsors and the children from these updates.
This is from Les who went on the March 2013 trip.
This was my 1st mission trip internationally, 1st trip anywhere I think without a construction element of some sort. I was going to spend time with the children, play some games, show them and tell them that they are loved by me, by us and by Jesus. I had prayed over the decision to go, sought God in the time leading up to the trip, there were many conference calls to discuss the trip. I was ready, or so I thought. There were tests of my patience (long lines, crowds, delayed luggage, no water at the hotel), but what overwhelmed me was the joy and love of the children once we got to the care point. They didn't care what we were bringing, they were simply happy we had come….and happy is such a weak word to describe it. They wanted to spend time with us, sit with us, hold on to us, play with us, laugh with us. I share with you, some of the many memories that remain with me, burned into my soul.
When we first arrived, I remember the kids surrounding me, 10 or 15 or more. All wanted my attention. We played some simple hand clapping games, laughed, shared hugs. Emotionally exhausting but physically energizing. Sitting with them later that day they wanted to hold my hand, touch me, be near me. They were curious about the hair on my arms and laughed at the sweat pouring off my head. Another memory is Matthew, Derek, I playing keep away with a volley ball. We'd toss it to each other high above our heads and the kids would jump on us to get the ball. I decided to lift the kids above my head so they could get the ball, soon they all seemed to be around me, pointing to say "me next" until my arms ached. The games we played were simple - bean bag toss, jump rope, hop scotch, pin the tail on the donkey - and we had labored to pick the right games. But the kids didn't care what games we were playing. Again, they only wanted to spend time with us, to feel special, to say without words "look at me, watch me", to be loved.
The last day was tough. The kids were more clingy. They knew we would be leaving, we knew we'd be leaving and each of us were trying to steal extra minutes together. The week had gone by so fast. Hugs lasted longer, tears were wiped away only to be replaced. For me the tears were knowing I'd miss the children's smiles, laughs, knowing they were returning to their daily existence and I mine….each sad in its own way.
By worldly standards Ethiopia and its people are poor, lacking what the rest of us define as necessities. The children we saw running along side the bus, the children we spent time with at the camp, the children you / I sponsor, though had a beautiful, simple joy that week, something I am poor in. Part of me is back in Ethiopia playing with the children, sharing a love that breaks all language barriers. Part of Ethiopia is here with me, I didn't declare it through customs though. It exists in my mind, heart and soul, changing me.