I will not update anybody on the center, since you can read about that on the Strong Families site. Is it running like we would like it to be and what we anticipated? Yes! Are local relationships and way of doing business here different from what we are accustom to? Yes! We are learning. We are learning that fine balancing act of accountability, culturally sensitive, living where we are serving, yet always going to be the outsider.
The families that we serve are for sure why we are here. They are fantastic. They are sweet. We are hopefully gaining their trust. We also have a larger responsibility and that is to our staff. Most of our staff are from the exact same neighborhood (Kore) as our families. So not only are we serving the beneficiaries (families) but also the staff. These are our caregivers that mostly did not have professional jobs before this opportunity. Cleaners, cooks and guards did not have steady work before the job here. And our upper management did not have the positions they had at previous jobs and are now able to get more experience under their belts. It is great to see all of these different groups of people grow throughout the year.
When we came back after our wonderful time back in the states, it was sad to leave our family and friends. We knew what to expect when we came back here. It is like we have 2 homes now. We loved coming back to our own beds and space. But after the busyness and fun from this summer, we now settle back into life here. It makes us reflect on how much we miss and how fortunate we are at the same time. Being here is the experience of a lifetime. We would not trade the fun, laid back, “being a kid” atmosphere you get here, for our children. They are seeing how simple life can be and how fortunate we are to be in the family we are in. But I would be lying if I didn’t also share the guilt that comes into play of what they are “missing” and that is being around family and close friends. That is tough to swallow, as kids only get older each year and so do family members. But it makes us take advantage of the time we do have and probably spend it a lot more wisely than we did before! Leaving our own comfort as well, with our friends and conveniences of the US was hard, as well.
So, onto our next year here. This year, we are expecting to be different, for the better. Mark volunteered his expertise to help Bingham last year with their computer network. Technology is complicated here, with the lack of equipment, power outages, and slow, spotty internet. Bingham is the mission school we applied for the kids to go to school, but could not get in, due to class size (only one class per grade). But we were part of their homeschooling program which was our absolute saving grace! Not only for guidance in teaching, but resources (having access to libraries) and social/spiritual support as well. This was the nicest, most welcoming group of people I have ever come across. So this was a HUGE part of our support while here last year.
Bingham had been praying for the past couple years for a network person, like Mark, since they lost their person a while back. This is a school that is here for missionaries to send their children to for a good education, so they can do their mission, as well as educate other students that are not missionaries, but international students. This is a school that we would, hands down, send our children to in the states. It is not a second choice because we want the kids out of the house. It is a great school. And we are thankful that we have private funds to be able to send them there this year. Yes! This year, the 4 youngest will be going to school there. They are able to attend since Mark will be part time staff volunteering to manage their network. It is what his gifts are that he can use to train the locals that are employed there, to keep this system running for future years, as well as benefit our family. It is a phenomenal group of missionaries that serve there. Everybody is so passionate about being able to serve the missions that happen here and around Ethiopia.
Mary and Abeba will remain at home with me for school. I am excited about getting back to just the 3 of us for school and give them the attention (although they are great independent students, as well!) needed so they can continue to advance in grades and prepare them for life. The kids are transitioning well at Bingham, with one having a tough start, but hopefully time will help. The teachers that all 4 kids have are phenomenal. We are so very thankful they are there for school.
With this big shift of roles, I will still be busy (what mom is not?), but will feel like I am not being pulled in so many different directions. I cannot wait to pour even more into the center and things that need to be done there. Guilt free, too—knowing the younger children are at Bingham.
We arrived home here at about 3am. That same day, as soon as we had a touch of energy, the 3 oldest girls and I, headed over to the center. We couldn’t stand NOT seeing everybody! The huge, long, tight hugs from the moms and 5 million kisses was all I needed as confirmation to know God has us exactly where we should be. It is not an easy place to live, but it is where we are called to serve right now. The children at the center, as well as our own immediate children are growing and blossoming in ways that we could not be happier about. It is an absolute privilege to be here, to be a mom, a wife, a friend, a medical expert, pharmacist, driver, handicraft seller, teacher, missionary to such a fantastic community of people.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support for us all. Don’t forget us! We certainly have not forgotten about you!
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PS. Please pass the word that we still are need of sponsorships. There are a few families left that are not sponsored and the center needs these sponsorships to keep going.