Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our Last Days...

Sunday August 14, 2011

As I sit here on the plane typing in the midst of our 17 hour flight, I find myself reflecting a little bit on everything.  Overall, it is hard to piece everything together. 

I absolutely can’t wait to see my kids and Shannon this afternoon.  I want to share my experiences with them and give the kids everything that I bought for them.  I don’t know for sure how I will be able to share everything with them though.  I truly believe that until you experience the amount of emotions, love and heartache that we experienced in the past 2 weeks that you can’t quite comprehend was it is all about.  I know Shannon will be very interested and supportive as I sort through everything and I love her for that.

I really can’t imagine going to back to work tomorrow.  That’s a pretty crazy statement for me, because I truly love what I do and have so many wonderful and supportive people at work.  But, I have been in such a different world for the past 2 weeks where everyone seems to be happy, time is not important, and there is no pressure to do anything, and that is a different world from what I’m used to.

I hope I can somehow relay to my kids what my trip was all about.  They are very young and I doubt that they will be able to comprehend any of it, but the earlier they learn about the issues of others in the world, the better off they will be long term.

The team has talked a lot of “decompressing” after the trip.  At first, I kind of blew the concept off, as usually I can analyze situations and make decisions pretty easily.  But, I will admit that right now, I’m not sure what the next step in my life will be with regards to serving God and the underserved.  There are so many opportunities that are available that I’m not sure what is the best match for me and my family. 

Sponsoring kids is always an option which is easy and very cost effective.  I will say that I learned on this trip that if we decide to sponsor a child (and this goes for anyone reading this) that sending money is not enough.  These kids are starving for love and they take letters and pictures from their sponsor very seriously.  They badly want to be involved in someone’s life and feel loved and cared for. 

We are going to explore the option of bringing older orphans (18 years old) over the states to give them opportunity and help transition them into a productive adult.  And, adoption of younger kids is obviously not off the table for our family.

I can’t imagine that missions work will not be a part of my life in some capacity going forward.  I do think that I gave the people I came in contact with some hope and love, but I assure you that I received far more from this than they did.  I truly learned to love people while in Africa.  Everyone we touched loved us and wore huge smiles, whether at a facility or on the street.  I hope this makes me a better father and husband.

I also learned that I’m nowhere close to where I need to be with regards to my faith and my spiritual walk with Christ.  The men on this trip amazed me at their knowledge and devotion to their faith and they were great role models for me.  I have a new dedication to knowing Christ and improving my faith.

Other than that, I will continue to think and pray over the next few weeks as to the next step in life.  Thanks again for following this and contributing to my life.

Saturday August 13, 2011

Today was our final opportunity to love on orphans in Africa.  It was also the only day that we would be visiting a Catholic orphanage, so I felt a little bit closer to this institution.  Being the only catholic on the trip, everyone knew I had a little soft spot for the 4 nuns that run the place. 

It is home to about 110 kids, ranging from small babies to high school age.  They are also the only place we visited that had special needs children.  While it was hard to see so many kids in their orphage in somewhat difficult circumstances with very limited resources, the visit was good.  We had a blast with the older kids.  They got the opportunity to experience their first high stakes game of dodgeball.  Their playground was set up perfectly for it and we had a lot of fun teaching them the finer points of the game (I was the one getting drilled in the eye with a nerf football).

It was a short visit with them and time to head for lunch.  We visited a local place that serves a variety of food.  They weren’t prepared for 40+ Americans to raid their place, so the wait was lengthy, but the pizza they made was out of this world.  I wish we had an Island Breeze pizza place in Springfield.

We finished the day with some quick shopping, then packing, and off to the airport for our 10:15 flight.

Friday August 12, 2011

The day started off with a fun note.  I was called outside my hotel room by my good friend Jason to see the monkeys which often visit the trees above the parking lot of the hotel.  Jason had begun treating them to Wheat Thins.  After several minutes of tossing the crackers to the monkeys, we earned their trust and we eventually had them literally taking crackers from our hands.  It was a ton of fun and certainly something we don’t see in Missouri.

Roger and Rob then treated us to a very nice breakfast buffet at a gorgeous lakeside resort next to Lake Hawassa.  The scenery was beautiful and the food was just as good.

Then it was supposed to be off to a transition home in Hawassa.  But, we were informed by the director of that facility the morning our visit was scheduled that they had no kids.  At first it was disappointing and a little bit confusing, but after some questions for him, we learned that he shipped 79 babies and infants to another transition home in Addis to be adopted out to American families.  I certainly can’t be disappointed about that. 

He was kind enough to take us to another transition home located nearby to see their kids.  It was comprised of all babies and it was a very nice facility.  Every baby had their own bed and everything was very clean.  I would estimate that there were 4-5 babies for each caregiver, on average.  It was nice to hold some babies as we had not seen any babies along our trip (even though I got puked on twice and peed on once).  I wore the markings proudly. 

I struggled a little bit emotionally because I kept looking at every child I held wondering if I am holding my next child.  The ladies that we spoke with did not know specifically what agencies they worked with to know if by chance we were looking at Holt kids.

It was then time to pile back into the vans for the 5 hour ride back to Addis.  It was brutally rough, but overall the trip was worth it.  Once back in Addis, we showered and put on the best clothes that we had left to go out for a nice meal, Ethiopian style.  We went to a high end restaurant that served traditional Ethiopian food and had singers and dancers performing for us.  After dinner, we hit a small cafĂ© for desert and it was off to bed.  Overall, another good day was had by all.

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