It has been quite a roller coaster of a month. Despite the wide range of emotions we have experienced, we are finally starting to feel somewhat settled. Our house is coming along and we are getting accustomed to being here. The kids are really enjoying homeschooling with Mary. She does an amazing job and really takes her job seriously. They are getting an amazing education and we are so grateful to have Mary in our lives!
Shane’s work has been unbelievably busy. He is the Camp Langano Business Manager which means he is responsible to keep the entire camp up and running. Sports Friends Camps are getting ready to start in one week and there is so much to be done! The most pressing need right now is to find a cook… fast. The cook we have now, Genet, is leaving at the end of the month, and there is no one to take her place. It’s about to be a big problem, so be praying that we find someone soon who is excited about coming to work here at Camp Langano and who also has great managerial and culinary skills.
We have had quite a few challenges over the past month. For one, the main generator (which powers all of camp) broke a month ago and we have been waiting for it to get fixed (we now have three broken generators). It seems everything takes WAY longer than we think it should! Having no main generator is a big issue for us since we depend on the generator for electricity from 6:30-9:00 at night. We also need it to pump water from the well into the main water tank.
Water is a big problem for us right now. We only have one water tank for the whole camp and we run out of water about twice a day. Someone came last week to install 4 water tanks to get us ready for camps this summer, and we found out that the tanks that were here waiting to be installed won’t last. Despite that bad news, they went ahead and installed the tanks anyway, knowing they would have to change out the tanks when we got the new ones in. Then today, we noticed that the metal towers that hold these water tanks were sagging so badly that they were about to break. So we had to empty all the tanks to save the towers and now we are back to square one! Ugh. Why are things so difficult here? Did I mention that camps start in one week? So, no cook, no electricity, and no water… please be praying!
Our church had its first “conference” last week. It was so much fun to see their excitement while preparing for this event. They were running all over the place and hitching rides from everyone trying to gather everything for the conference – mattresses, a keyboard, speakers, plates to feed everyone, etc. Dan spent a week working on a sign for the church so they would look really official – it was great. Our church is fairly small, but it has started growing significantly over the past couple of months. We had to move everything outside since so many people showed up (around 300).
Adonach (a nurse from the clinic) and Kalkidan (the pastor’s wife) getting water from the well to cook for the conference.
Cleaning the chickens for the meal at the conference.
Moses and his friends also helped prepare the food by bringing pitchers of water to clean the chickens.
The conference went from Friday through Sunday. At the end of the service on Sunday one of the Ethiopians got up to share his testimony. It was a guy named Fayissa, who was the stabbing victim that Shane drove to the hospital on Christmas day (if you don’t know the story you can read about it in our blog entry “Christmas in Ethiopia”). Fayissa shared that the Monday prior to the conference he had a dream/vision late one night. He immediately woke up and went to find Dekkabo, one of his Christian neighbors. It was midnight, but Fayissa woke up Dekkabo and told him about his dream. Dekkabo started to explain the meaning of the dream, but Fayissa told him he didn’t need to know the meaning of the dream, he just wanted to know how to become a Christian! Dekkabo couldn’t believe this was the same Muslim man who used to persecute him for being a Christian. We were so excited to see how God spared Fayissa’s life on Christmas and then brought him to this point. What an honor to get to play a small part in his story.
A couple of days ago, after really long days at work, we returned home to be told that our houseworker was being baptized at the lake in 5 minutes! We hadn’t heard anything about it, but we gathered everyone up and headed towards the lake. Our local pastor, Mulatu led the ceremony right on the beach. The whole event was really special, but there were also some humorous moments. Each of the 2 people who got baptized had an “escort” who walked them out to be baptized. Sarah’s (our houseworker) escort was in his underwear. We couldn’t resist including a photo! It just struck us as so funny.
Just down from where we did baptisms Hannah found some hippo footprints!!
Allyson’s work at the clinic has been really exciting. It has taken many months to begin to earn the trust of the local people and to get them to speak honestly about some cultural issues. For example, Allyson has been trying to figure out why the women here want to deliver their babies at home when the mortality rate is so high. (Hence the need for House of Hope, our home for babies whose mothers have died in childbirth.) The clinic sees about 100 prenatal patients a week, but 99% of these women deliver their babies at home either with the help of a neighbor or a traditional birth attendant. The only deliveries that end up at the clinic have historically been emergencies. (Like breech deliveries, twins, obstructed labors, etc.) With the help of the female Ethiopian nurses, Allyson has been really asking these women what keeps them from accessing good medical care for their deliveries. Is it financial? Distance? Little by little, they have shared that they are very modest people (almost all of them Muslim) and delivering in the clinic is totally shameful to them since they have to be exposed. They would rather risk their lives than be embarrassed by delivering in a western way. So Allyson has assured the women that she will deliver them as close to their traditional ways as possible. The women have requested that she do the entire delivery “with no eyes” like they do it at home. So… Allyson agreed that she would do the deliveries by “feel” only, unless there is an emergency. Last week, Dawe Kebele (like the town council) called a meeting for all the townspeople and told them they needed to start delivering at the clinic since they can now birth traditionally there. The day after the meeting the clinic had its first “traditional” delivery. The woman delivers on a mattress on the floor with all her clothes on, covered in blankets. Allyson sits on the floor with the woman and her family and does the delivery right there on the floor, allowing the family to participate as much as they want to. Here in Ethiopia a woman’s worth is measured by the amount of children she can bear, so it is not uncommon to be delivering a woman’s 10th baby. One of the biggest risks these women run is the potential for a postpartum hemorrhage. Their bodies are just plain tired after that many babies. So, at the clinic there is lifesaving medicine available to help with postpartum bleeding.
Left to right: Allyson, a traditional birth attendant, the new baby’s grandmother who is also a traditional birth attendant, and MuluAlem.
The first “traditional” delivery Allyson did on the floor was really special. The woman was in labor at the clinic for 12 hours with her 7th baby. She began running a fever and was exhausted. Allyson was able to treat her with antibiotics and coach her through labor. Finally an 8 pound baby girl was born and the family was so grateful for the care they had received. Due to the mother’s fever, the mom and baby stayed at the clinic another 2 days for observation. As she was discharging the family home, Allyson asked them what they had decided to name their baby. They replied that they wanted Allyson to name her. Allyson asked if they wanted an “Habesha” (local) name or a “Forengi” (foreign) name. They requested a Forengi name. Allyson knew immediately that this baby’s name was to be Susan, after Susan Harris, a midwife friend in the states who has been such a huge support to us while we are over here. She has also helped collect many supplies to be used in the deliveries. Because the Oromo language adds an “i” onto almost every word, Susan became “Susani”. The family was thrilled with the name since the meaning in Oromo is “wise one”. Allyson was so excited to be able to tell Susan there is a baby here in Ethiopia named after her! Having the community so enthusiastic about delivering in the clinic is wonderful, and we are excited to be having a direct effect on maternal mortality, but we are also bracing for some LONG hours!
Allyson with Susani and her family.
Melanie Jutte, a nurse from our church, came for a short term trip to work at the clinic. She was such a great visitor and pitched in wherever we needed her. She was determined to be an encouragement to our family and she WAS! We loved getting to know Melanie. She became our official dishwasher while she was here (amen!) and she was the kids’ hero playing Monopoly with them all the time!! Melanie endured many days of no electricity and really was such a trooper with everything.
While Melanie was here we got a patient at the clinic who was nine months pregnant and very sick. She had ascites (fluid in her abdomen) and could barely breathe. We took this patient to an Italian mission hospital that is 2 hours away. After staying there almost 2 hours getting her evaluated, the doctor at the hospital announced that we needed to take the patient to another hospital since the surgeon was on vacation that week. So off we went to the next hospital, another hour drive. We were advised by the doctor at the mission hospital to not give the next hospital any report in case they refused to take the patient. Melanie really got a dose of life here in Ethiopia! It was such a dilemma. On one hand, it felt like we were the worst nurses in the world to not give report on the patient, but we came to the conclusion that not giving report was the best decision after all. If the second hospital were to refuse the patient (tell me how a hospital is able to do that??!), there would be no other place for us to take her, so in the end we decided she was better off there than nowhere. We pulled up to the hospital, paid her admission fees, told them she was in early labor, and basically left. It was hard. This week we found out that the baby ended up being stillborn and the mother is still doing terrible. She can’t get out of bed or even talk. They think she has disseminated TB. It’s hard to understand why life is so hard for the people here.
Allyson’s mom, Ramona (Momo) came for a 3 week visit. It was great to be able to really share our life here with her. She was able to experience a lot during her stay. In fact, her second night here, she and Hannah were both sick in the night having to take turns in the bathroom… and we were out of water that night! It was lovely. What a yucky introduction to the realities of life here. On a brighter note, she got to be in one of the deliveries which was so special for her. She was also a big help in the preparation of the food for the gibsha. All of our Ethiopian friends have been eager to share their culture with her, so she has been able to “enjoy” many coffee ceremonies and lots of Ethiopian food! After seeing all that each day holds for us, Ramona said today that her job at home is looking better and better. 🙂 We really enjoyed having her here – the kids were in grandma heaven.
Momo holding one of the babies from Mana Abdii. This little girl has a cleft lip and palate and is waiting to gain weight so she can go to CURE for surgery.
We wrote earlier about our camp cook leaving. In Ethiopian culture, it is good to have a “gibsha” or party to say goodbye to someone when they leave. So we planned this huge gibsha and invited the whole community. We cooked for around 80 people! It was quite an experience. Somehow Allyson became the one in charge of organizing all the cooking which was really interesting since she has no idea how to cook Ethiopian food. She recruited a bunch of help from some of the locals and also from 2 of the nurses at the clinic. We spent all day getting ready for the big party… peeling potatoes, chopping carrots, onions, garlic, etc.! Allyson slaughtered one goat and Shane got the honors on the second goat. Moses was all pumped up to slaughter one, but after he saw Allyson do the first one, he handed his knife back and said it was too sad. We were actually kind of happy to see that he still has a heart after seeing so many animals get slaughtered here. Well, we say he has a heart, but he ended up naming the 2 goats “hamburger” and “fries” so he may be warped after all.
Moses all geared up…
Helping prep the food for the gibsha – we have never peeled so many potatoes in our lives!
The guys butchering the meat.
Cooking in the outdoor kitchen – wow is it hot!
Hannah wore her goggles to chop onions so she wouldn’t cry so much.
Mia helped make injera…
Momo helped chop veggies…
Today was one of the most difficult days we have faced since we’ve been here. This morning one of the guards showed up at our door saying that someone had died at the clinic. Allyson went to the clinic and found that it was a four year old boy (same age as Moses) who had just died of malaria. His mother had brought him in because he had a fever and he died just as she got to the clinic. The mother had brought him by herself, not realizing how sick he actually was, so when Allyson told her that her son died, she was at the clinic alone grieving. The little boy looked completely healthy – malaria can be such a quick killer. It was horrible. Shane borrowed the Wetzel’s truck to take the mom and the child’s body back to their village. While driving to the village Shane saw the father walking toward the clinic to check on his son. It was there on the road that the father learned that his little boy had died. The loud wailing began as they entered the village. It was hard for Shane to see the family going through this, and to watch the community run up to the car to find out who had died. It was pretty traumatic, especially because we could relate to them having a 4 year old ourselves. It just hit really close to home.
Remember the sign for Challa that our friend sent from the states? It has been quite the topic of conversation around the community! The last time I went to Tayiba’s, she took the sign out again and was asking questions about it. This time MuluAlem was there, so she was able to translate. It was hilarious. As she was trying to explain what it said and what it meant, people started coming from everywhere and crowding around Tayiba’s hut. There were at least 40 people there. I asked MuluAlem why everyone was there and what they were saying. She said that someone had run out to tell everyone that I was there explaining the “meaning of the paper”. It turns out the “paper” had made its way around the community for many weeks with everyone trying to figure out what it was. Tayiba and others had taken it hut to hut asking if anyone had any ideas or knew anything. So all the people were murmuring outside the hut that they were about to find out the true meaning of the paper! I explained to them that in the U.S. when we care about someone, we give them a card to show them we care or to give them a special message. I also explained that in the U.S. when you give someone a handmade card, it means it is even more special. So… this card was handmade to show Tayiba and Challa that they are very special and the message says that they are being prayed for. The idea of greeting cards is just completely foreign here. It’s funny the things we just totally take for granted – things we assume everyone must understand, but things that are just so western! So now I think the community finally understands that the “paper” is just simply meant to be an encouragement to this family. No weird voodoo or anything!
Some other snapshots of our life over the past month…
The kids playing with the balloons Christine sent… you should have heard the squeals!
Moses and Daniel, one of our neighbors.
A few of our resident cats 0 the orange and black one is pregnant – help!
Deeta, our gardener in front of the house he’s making for our generator (to help drown out the noise).
The garden Deeta built for us… but just as the lants started sprouting, the baboons got in and ate most of them!
The guys filleting the fish we buy form the lake twice a week.
Hannah painting the wall in our kitchen.
Ants in our water!
Shane in a huddle with his volleyball team at Sports Friends leader training – when we asked him what they were saying, he had no idea!
We carved our initials into a tree to celebrate our 15 year wedding anniversary!
As you can tell, things continue to get busier as we get into the summer. The Scheels are in the states for 7 weeks so Allyson is in charge of the clinic. At the same time, we are about to kick off Sports Friends camps for the next 8-9 weeks. Everything is pretty overwhelming, but we can totally feel your prayers. We feel so supported! The hardest part of living here still seems to be the inability to connect well with home. We never expected to have such troubles with internet and communication. We also really miss our friends and the depth of relationships we are blessed with at home. It has been difficult to cultivate new friendships here since the area we live in is so isolated. Thank you for all the love you send our way. Any snippets of news from home are always a welcome surprise. Also, thanks again to all of you who take the time and energy to gather things to send with our visitors. We are overwhelmed with your generosity.
*Some of you have asked about our ability to receive emails. We love to hear from you! Here’s the deal: We can receive emails as long as they don’t have have high resolution pictures or cute email stationary. Also, please take us off of any group email lists where you forward funny YouTube videos, stories, etc. They can clog up our email for up to 3 days. Shane tries to check email once a day unless the internet is down which unfortunately happens quite frequently. It is easy for us to receive your emails, but it is much harder for us to email out due to limited time on the computer and no electricity. So, please keep emailing us! We love to hear any news from home. We just don’t want to offend anyone when we don’t reply or only reply with a couple of sentences. So… hopefully that answers some of your questions about emails.
Also, we thought it might be fun to let ya’ll ask us whatever questions you want and we will answer your questions in our next blog. Just leave your question in our comment section below…