When I was awakened on Tuesday morning I felt so much anticipation. There was so much I was expecting for the day ahead. I was going to meet Biniam! I was going to be in a village. See a rural school. And I was really, really hoping we would also have time to tour Soddo Christian Hospital. From what I had read, it was a facility that would inspire Sierra greatly.
I dressed and packed quickly, anxious to get on with the day.
The kids and I were ready early so we snapped a couple of pictures before heading to breakfast.
These three were so much fun together.
We ate breakfast indoors - away from the monkeys!
Beginning my day with coffee so lovely I am compelled to photograph it is such a joy.
What could be better than pretty coffee?
We paused in front of the lake for a couple more photos before checking out of the hotel.
Tsige is one of the most photogenic people I have ever met. Her joy and good-natured personality shine through completely in each photo taken.
We checked out of the hotel, and waited in Yilkal's van for the project staff to arrive and guide us to the Care Point. A monkey sat curiously on the hood of the vehicle right next to ours. We had the window open, and I was not completely convinced that he was not going to jump on board. You could say he kept me on my toes!
How amazing is this bird? God is so creative!
This monkey actually stayed in his tree!
I enjoyed him much more in this location!
At this point in the morning, everything changed.
Yilkal, our driver, hesitantly explained that he had heard there was some tribal fighting on the road between Hawassa and Soddo. He did not think it would be possible for us to continue to our destination. I was truly in shock. I had never, ever considered such a thing. I know many people who have traveled in that area, and I had never heard of anyone being turned back. Although my heart was breaking, it was also peaceful. I told him immediately, "If it is not safe. We can not go."
We waited anxiously for Thomas, from CHC, and Mebratu, from FOVC, to join us and help us make the decision. They had not heard about the problems when Yilkal called them, but they began making calls to see if what Yilkal had heard was true.
When they arrived, we all decided that it would be unwise for us to continue.
Mebratu, who knows Biniam, said to me, "You read his letters? He always say, when you come?"
I told him repeatedly that Biniam's letters were the reason that we were there. I kept appologizing and asking him to please explain everything to Biniam. Please, please tell him that we tried. I begged.
We took a photo as proof we were there.
We exchanged a bit of small talk, and then we all climbed into the van together. Rather than heading to the village, we headed to the office. On the way there Mebratu said, "Biniam and his friends will be so sad. They are waiting for you right now. They know you come."
Sierra looked at me and as our eyes met, I knew we were both about 2 seconds away from an ugly cry. I took a deep breath and whispered, "I know. I know. It is just so sad."
When the van stopped outside of the guys' office, the air on the street was charged. It felt tight and unwelcoming. We quickly unloaded Biniam's things, carried them up to the office, and explained each item. I had a full tote of school supplies, which Mebratu happily received on behalf of the teachers and children. (If you donated materials, I am sorry I do not have the photos and information I promised. Ugh! It was a sad day.) I also had a photo book, a letter, and a backpack full of personal items for Biniam along with a big bag of teff and a jug of oil for his family. Mebratu promised to deliver all of the items. At one point he asked if I would come again. I told him honestly, "If the Lord allows, I will return. I save for three years to come here. I am not sure if/when I will return."
We gave hugs and handshakes, then quickly filed back into the van.
In that moment, I know the peace and protection of the Lord was covering us completely. My entire reason for the entire trip had just "gone south" and I was OK. Sad, but OK. Additionally, we knew danger lingered near - but we were not terrified. We were aware, but we were OK.
We quickly headed back onto the same highway we had just traveled the day before.
The evidence that "something" was going on soon became clear. While driving we ran into somewhere around 6 military checkpoints. At each of these stops, entire buses were being unloaded. All bags were being searched. People were standing in line waiting for clearance. But - at each and every stop, we were simply waved through.
In this case, racial profiling worked in our favor. The suspects were local rather than Western, so we were allowed quick clearance.
We drove quickly and quietly.
After a small eternity - or about 2.5 hours, Yilkal suggested we stop for lunch. He said were now "safe." And explained that he had been too nervous to eat breakfast. Poor man. He was so nervous about my reaction to this crummy news that he could not even eat.
We told him for the 50th time how thankful we were that God had used him to protect us.
And then we told him about 50 more times.
We later learned that the road between Hawassa and Shashamene (sp?) was closed for several days, just hours after we had driven on it. Had we not left when Yilkal suggested, we would have been stuck somewhere. We would have had to reschedule our flights. Depending on where we got stuck, we could have been in danger. Surely, God was watching over us.
I am still in awe of it all.
Let me reassure you all - we were never in danger. We WERE near danger. God kept us from harm and fear. He was and is so good.
Let me also pause to be honest, I am really sad that I was not able to meet Biniam. I am also a bit angry. Biniam, of all the children we sponsor, does not have a momma. She died when he was young. I just so longed to love on him as only a momma can for a few hours. He is also at a Care Point that does not receive frequent visitors. Our coming would have been such fun for all the children. It just really stinks.
I did receive these photos this last week. I am so thankful to see he received his gifts.
These shoes were a last minute addition. Thanks Kristen! I sure hope they fit.
The sweatshirt was once Jamison's.
It might be silly, but it makes my heart happy to think of Biniam wearing something I have washed and lovingly folded for my older son.
Biniam is 16.
One of the things we purchased for him was a Bible that is in English and Amharic.
My heart hopes that some way, some how these mere gifts allow him to feel loved and encouraged. I was not able to hug his neck or pray over his home, yet I trust the Lord to fill each gap.
I also pray with my whole heart that these gifts make his life just a little bit easier. Times are hard always. This current drought makes them harder still. May the Lord of hope be with you, my precious Biniam. May He fill you fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him.
My friends, thank you for covering us with your prayers.
I had asked that you pray that we would do as much or as little as the Lord allowed on this particular day. He closed many doors - and I give Him praise and glory for that. I do not understand His timing - but I am so very thankful for his protection.