From our FIG Awassa Director, Greg Knight – Day 3 of his visit:

Today we began at Ajuuja meeting with Eyasu and three of the four active board members of Ajuuja Children’s Home. They expressed great gratitude for all the support that Project HOPEFUL Awassa has sent so far and prayed blessings upon our family and all the donors involved and Project HOPEFUL. All four men are well spoken and confident men of God that not only serve on the board but are active in the hands on portion of the ministry. They asked that we tell the donors, Charisa and Project HOPEFUL that “without you we can not do this.” We talked for a while and board member Pastor Aklilu closed the meeting with prayer.

While we were meeting Rebekah spent time playing with the children and getting some more great photos! A few of the girls gave her a special hairdo and she enjoyed the time laughing and playing with them. She also had a chance to try her hand at making injera! The ladies said she did a great job so…..I’m expecting some fresh injera when we get home.

Afterwards we took a few minutes to head to Haile Resort which is owned by Ethiopian Olympic runner Haile Gebresellasie. Joel, Rebekah and I took a small boat into Lake Awassa hoping to catch a glimpse of the lake’s resident hippos. It was a pleasant ride and our guide drove us straight to a group of hippos in the water cooling off from the midday sun. Rebekah said it was the fourth scariest event of her life! The ride back was nice and we enjoyed the magnificent scenery that God created around Lake Awassa complete with local families fishing, tending livestock and washing laundry.

Upon returning to Ajuuja we were told that two of the children from the community we hadn’t met yet were there. They were ready to see us and receive their care packages. We talked with them and asked about their families and things they liked and they shyly obliged with soft answers. The young boy that was there was escorted by his mother. My notes said that his father was HIV+ and when I asked how he was doing I learned that he was bedridden with full blown AIDS. I watched as he played with a spinning top and toy helicopter and realized his father would likely not be around much longer and his mother was already bearing the burden of fully supporting the family and caring for her very ill husband. It set a very sad tone for me but I didn’t react, I just made the notes.

After they left Fekadu and Eyasu asked me to sit in the room where we met the staff two days earlier and the board that morning. Fekadu said there is bad news and Eyasu explained the young boy Tamrat, who I expected to see this day, would not be coming.

They explained that when we visited his home a day earlier and were told that they had to go to the hospital that his father had taken ill and suddenly died. I sat and looked at Tamrat’s photo and thought of all the hardship in his life and how this was just not fair. Suddenly overcome by emotions I let go and sniffled, snorted and cried while the others sat silently. I know these families have a hard life and something like this is a common occurrence but this was so real. The boy we were so looking forward to meeting and giving a small bag of items to bless and show him that we love him just had a devastatingly life changing event happen and for all the advocating and posting and begging for donations we do there is not a thing we could have done to stop that.All I knew to do was ask can we help in any way? Eyasu and Askale said the funeral costs would be around 500 Birr or about $27 so we left that for them. I’m still processing all that but I know that God is sovereign and loves that family in a way that I can’t even begin to grasp.

After I composed myself and the awkward silence was over we regrouped to head to the market to shop. We had a donation for two Bibles that was enough for seven. God did it again!! We think too small sometimes.Ajuuja’s immediate need is for formula so we bought that with donated funds we brought. We shopped and bought personal care items and a nice outfit for one of the community girls. I felt led to provide food for a very poor but very special lady. I suggested tef and oil but Askale said she was from a group that didn’t use tef so we opted to search for corn. For that we needed to head to the open market where the ferenji price would be double the local price so we waited. While waiting a few of the donkey and horse drawn carts passed and I asked Rebekah if she wanted to ride. She agreed after much prodding form Teshome, Fekadu and me. It was once again the ferenji show at the local people smiled and watched us closely as we rode up the cobblestone path with our smiling driver. As we approached we learned that Askale and Joel had made a great deal! They used less than the amount I told them I’d like to spend and bought 100 KGs (about 200 lbs.) of dried corn. I asked Askale how long it would last and she said for a single lady about six months!!!! God came through again and now I wonder why we are amazed when He does these things.

We returned to Ajuuja to deliver our purchases and say good bye as this portion of our trip closes. Eyasu was so excited to see the formula and Bibles and just kept saying “it is so much, it is so much, and after all the others it is so much!!” We gathered back in the meeting room that I filled with blubbers and tears earlier and celebrated with kolo (an Ethiopian snack) and much thanksgiving for everyone there. The staff presented each of us with gifts of traditional Sidama items and I must say I think we looked pretty snazzy in our new duds.

Now I am thanking God for the staff at Ajuuja and all their hard work, for all the friends who give sacrificially and pray for this effort, for Ethiopian friends who keep us out of trouble, for the whole Project HOPEFUL team welcoming us aboard and all they do and for allowing me to experience this time and to be a deliverer of His blessings to people He created and loves.