Today was another busy day for the Taylor Lighthouse team in Ethiopia. We attended and "performed" for the Christmas morning service; we took a tour of the compound with Deme (Marta and Deme are the founders of Project Mercy) and heard about Project Mercy's history a little bit; we performed a 4pm music and drama program for the house kids (the kids who live at Project Mercy); we walked around the outside of the compound, up to the hospital to find kids who were playing gana (a game played only on Christmas); we came back for dinner and went caroling after our team time together.
After these past few days, I have played more guitar in a small amount of time than I EVER have. It's great practice for me, but sometimes I feel like my guitar skills are lacking. Yesterday, Julie, Heidi, and I tried to find as much time to practice as possible because we knew we should prepare something for the services today. We practiced in the morning before lunch, in the afternoon before dinner, and in the evening after dinner. I also played for one of our dramas since our CD player is in one of the missing bags. We performed it for the morning service, practice before the 4pm service, during the 4pm service, and after dinner. So much more playing than I normally do! It's just crazy to me, but I'm glad for all the opportunities. I was really nervous for the morning service (and a little for the 4pm service), but both went really smoothly. Praise God for that definitely.
Hearing Deme speak today and experiencing the tour with him was really a privilege and a blessing for me. I love the passion he has for Project Mercy and the ministry God is doing through it. It really is amazing to me how clearly God's hand has been in the history of this place and its purposes. God has brought along the right people with the right passions and needs at the right time, and it is truly a blessing for me to see that. I feel really passionate about the ways that Project Mercy is ministering to the community at large by helping provide small business and other job opportunities, growing food for the people of Ethiopia, bringing in children of all backgrounds (mostly poor and rural) to be educated in nice quality facilities, providing skill building opportunities for men and women alike, finding sustainable ways of living to teach to the Ethiopians in the community (tukol design, growing crops, water sources), and empowering the community so that they can take ownership of the things that are happening instead of it being solely a Project Mercy project or idea. This is similar to what my church back home is seeking to do in their community as well, and I hope I can learn some things from this experience to bring back home with me.
This is one of the gardens on the compound in which they grow food not only to feed those who live on the compound but also to feed people outside the compound and sell to people so they can take it to market and make a profit. They also use some non native foods to make the food more marketable, and they use agricultural techniques that are new to the people to teach them how to better grow their own crops.
Talking to children outside of the compound today was a really good thing for me and also and eye-opening experience for me to better understand how the culture views us as white Americans. I got to know a few girls pretty well just from putting myself out there a little bit. I got to know names, grades, and ages, but the most fun part was being able to make fun of them and tease them a little after they made fun of me for not speaking Amharic or knowing what they were saying. I caught on, though, and it was really cool and unique to be able to engage with them in that way. The language barrier works in humor's favor. Some boys came up to me and were teasing me and being rambunctious, and the girls that I was with defended me and told me to ignore them. It was cute, and I felt like that was an indicator of some small trust or personal connection that we were able to develop in that short time of speaking only a few English phrases to one another (name, age, grade). They also taught me a little Amharic (or tried to teach me), which I also thought was cool. After we visited those kids, we came back for dinner.
I am really that we are able to eat with other American volunteers. It is really fun to be able to glean their knowledge of this place, the culture, and the school style. What is even cooler is getting to know their stories and how similar and different they are from our own life stories.
Being able to experience a Christmas service in Amharic was also really neat, especially because the children had taken on the responsibility of planning and participating in the majority of the worship part of the service. They were so cute and such a blessing. They put on a little Christmas pageant-- it was fun to see them do their kid thing, messing up some transitions and stuff. The congregation would laugh just like we would if our American kids were putting on a kids program that had some natural hesitations and missed cues in it. It reminded me that people are people and that children are children no matter where you are in the world. That moment was one where I felt connected to the people, sort of like I was in on the joke for once.