Ethiopia 2009 - Pt. 5
The past couple of nights I have slept all the way through, but I have also dreamed of the needs I saw in Ethiopia, so I have awakened with a heavy heart. Today especially has been tough as my thoughts have been on this post, which will likely be the most difficult.
Our first stop was a center run by Emmanuel Church. It appeared to be a day-care type place where mothers could bring their kids for social interaction, meals and other care. Inside one of the rooms I enjoyed complimenting the children on their coloring, which was obviously something they rarely got to do. Outside, I played with several kids and helped tie up balloons to hand out. The mothers and children alike were so beautiful inside and out. This was another occasion where there were no specific kids that stuck out to me, but rather it was a chance to love on as many as possible. It was the first time that I had knowingly held a child with full-blown AIDS, and it was right as we were leaving. I simply cannot describe how that felt. I wish I could.
After lunch we visited a place called Shallom. It is a rescue center for street kids, run by a woman who, like the director I mentioned in my previous post, is famous in Heaven. In fact, she has been doing this, on her own, for 14 years. From what I understand, she has funded it herself as well. She told us that she takes the kids out and has them "work" by going out and witnessing to other street kids. Some also shine shoes. She does this to try to instill a work ethic in them as well as self-confidence. The main room, which had a dirty, splintery wood floor, is where the kids sleep. That's right - on a hardwood floor. Most of them cannot afford to go to school either.
Imagine, if you will, that you are scaling a tall cliff with no ropes. You reach a point to where you are exhausted, and your feet give way. You are holding on with only your hands, and you feel the strength leaving as your and arms begin to shake. Then, in the nick of time and out of nowhere, someone grabs your wrist and pulls you up to a ledge. You are given water, food and get some much needed strength to move on. This time, however, you are accompanied by partners who are encouraging you and sustaining you. As we talked with the director, she hinted around and said everything just short of "I'm done. I can't do this anymore." Our team left her with encouragement, hope, blankets and mattresses for the kids (which we bought and delivered on Thursday), financial assistance, and the very likely possibility of a stateside sponsor. She wept.
Here is some additional information on why her job was/is so difficult. None of the boys were physically affectionate like so many other places we have visited, and no wonder. They have lived on the streets and have had to fend for themselves, which probably consists of a pecking order, with the higher members getting first dibs on the trash heap. My guess is that they are between 9 and 12 yrs old. Most of these kids are HIV positive and many have been preyed upon by men who wait for them outside the shelter and rape them. One boy in particular had been raped multiple times by multiple people. Another boy had been beaten up and a cup was placed over his eye and then pulled off in an attempt to pull his eyeball out with the suction. His eyeball remained, but the fluid came out and his eye became useless. If you use your imagination, the implications of why someone would want his eyeball out are sickening. This is where I have a hard time remaining spiritual. If I see a parent slap a child in the grocery store, at the very least I'll give him or her an angry look, and sometimes I say something. I don't care what the child did, you don't slap a child in the face. When I imagine following one of those boys outside the property and witnessing a man attacking him, the kind of things that enter my mind are violent and scary. Forget justice, it would all be about retribution at that point...I have to stop there.
The director mentioned to us that she is trying to get out of that building and out of the area. The assistance that was given her will help her do that. I was privileged to be a witness to the virtual IV that pumped hope back into her. I hope the move happens soon.
***I'm sorry, but I failed miserably on this one. My words fall far short.