My awe for Ethiopia and its people has not diminished over the past 16 days. The culture, the people, the joy in the midst of circumstances cannot be described. We've enjoyed time fellowshipping with the abesha, or local people. Relocated Americans, who we met at the beginning of our trip, offered to get together any time we tired of the locals. We haven't called them yet. I don't believe we would (due to tiring of locals) even if we lived here a lifetime.
Today, we had the privilege of visting The Hamlin Fistula Hospital. For those who have read the book "Hospital by the River", you could not imagine the beauty of the grounds, which Dr. Catherine Hamlin built and describes in her book. And although the words she writes are profound, there is no way to put into words the work going on at the hospital. As we found out today, at the age of 86, Dr. Hamlin still operates and heads up the gardening. In all of Ethiopia, The Fistula Hospital proves to be an oasis to the downcast, who are stricken by fistulas, both in beauty and for rehabilitation of the emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, and financial needs. Photography is prohibited. Pictures are engraved in my mind. I will never forget. The women. The sounds. The smell. The sadness. The joy. The hope. The loneliness of some. The friendships formed by common pain. God gave Dr. Hamlin a calling. She obeyed. He has touched so many through her. There is a new book, which was written by John Little after "The Hospital by the River." I believe is it "Catherine's Gift." I will read it upon my return to the US. I recommend both.
Tomorrow, we will return to the foster care homes. The children enjoy visitors. We love the children. It's always nice to hold babies. But, oh, to love on the older children and see the hope it gives them...priceless. Last visit, our group visited Gladney houses 3 and 4. We sang and danced with the kids. We shared candy. We took loads of pictures. The caregivers love pictures. We held the children and shared the little hope and love we could. What we offer is so little. But each hug and kiss is treasured. I trust the Lord will use it to encourage the least of these one day when life seems hopeless. He has used it to encourage me to continue to love in His name, in His perfect love, and His perfect way and timing. What I offer in my flesh proves over and over to be useless. What is done in His strength and love abounds beyond measure. I remain grateful, indebted, for His faithfulness.
Months ago, Ann told us she believed "God told her in her heart that she has a sister in Ethiopia, and she believes she will know her when she sees her eyes." We've prayed and asked for God's guidance in this. Not knowing what is ahead, no promises have been made. Ann approached me as we left the older foster care home and whispered, "Mom, I think the little girl I danced with and held might be who God has for my sister. I need to pray and see." Shock! I trust His leading. Ann continues to think of and pray for her sister. She is sure the Lord's word is in her heart.
Hunter and Mark's safari sounds fabulous. They wrote of chasing elephant, giraffe, wildebeest, ostrich, hippo, lion, grants gazelle, and many other animals (in a car of course). Their truck backed away from a charging elephant just in the nick of time. Supposedly, they visited a village, Massi Burma, and they met the chief. He holds ten wives and more children than he can count. Mark reported to the chief his one wife was more than he could handle. The chief enjoyed this. A village girl then tried to take Hunter as her boyfriend or husband. She continually pulled him back to the camp. Hunter was not as flattered as she hoped. They report top notch service and food and many bugs. Hunter's toe swelled up after a sting from a local wasp. This didn't prohibit him from climbing a stream to natural waterfalls where they swam. They will be hard pressed to top this adventure.
To all of you, we miss and love you. Our hearts are full. The letters you have written lift our spirits. The encouragement according to the word of the Lord could not be sweeter. We wait anxiously to join you again and tell you of the beauty of God's creation and the work He continues to do in us. He is faithful to all measures. To Him be the Glory!