It is early morning and we are on the porch watching the sun come over the eastern mountains, listening to the rooster’s crow and the small birds twitter in the thorn hedge and acacia trees that surround and dot the front yard. The small scrawny white cat that shares our domain has just popped out of a storm sewer with a mouse for her breakfast.
We are waiting for our breakfast and are enjoying a cup of the best coffee in the world. Today we will go to a nearby Christian church and participate in a service that will be completely in Amharic (the local language; incomprehensible on one level but completely understandable on the level that means the most.)
Last night we had the opportunity to watch and participate in the grinding of the coffee that will be used in the next three days. At home a pound of beans is ground at your favorite bistro or grocery in a few minutes. Here it takes an hour or so. The process involves a mortar made from the stump of a sizable eucalyptus tree hollowed out about 12-16 inches and two pestles made from smaller logs about 4 feet in length with rounded ends and shafts polished to a soft patina through years of hand use. The beans, which have been roasted on wok-like plate of iron over an open fire oven, are placed in the hollowed stump. One person sits holding the stump to stabilize it while two more bring their pestles down on the beans in a two handed motion similar to driving fence posts. Alternating with each other, a rapid rhythmic thumping is established that results in pulverizing the beans, and with some skill, no broken or skinned fingers. Periodically the grounds are poured through a screen and those too course returned to the mortar.
Three people (two if accomplished—each pestle pounder places one foot against the stump to brace it) and an hour or so of time. This and many other examples make one pause and think about the pace of life and “patience.” Time and life here move at a pace that we might find frustrating and at times disheartening, unless we take the opportunity to see what is accomplished with the right attitude, understanding, willing hands, and patience. Much more than a great cup of coffee.
Church in Yetebon
Today is Sunday. Every few weeks the three local churches gather for a combined service at one of the churches. Today’s location was a bit of a distance so we were given a ride on the Project Mercy bus; several of the house kids came with us. In an effort to share our experience with you, I thought I would try to “paint” a picture of our morning.
We loaded onto the bus around 10am (4 Ethiopian time) and traveled down a very bumpy road to the church. Zodu, our driver, stopped short of the church, as the road became more challenging. We walked on a rocky road along fields of enset (false banana), tomatoes, chat and several small homes. We walked around a horse on the road grazing and drinking water from the irrigation ditch, which we had to step over to get into the churchyard.
The church building was made from eucalyptus trees, which is the main building material for homes in this area and the roof was covered in corrugated steel. The walls were vertical sticks covered, sealed in mud and brightly painted. We were welcomed at the door by Dr. Fekadu. It was already starting to get crowded, but we did find some seating—to accommodate more people, three people sat on two chairs and more benches were brought in. After we were seated, I looked back and saw many people sitting or standing outside as well as looking into the wrought iron grates covering the windows.
Inside the church many people dressed in beautiful shirts and dresses met us. The colors were bright—orange, pink, purple, and blue. The floor and stage was very smooth hardened dirt. The stage also appeared to be hardened dirt covered with a piece of linoleum. The walls were a bright blue on the bottom and pink on the top half. In the front, the walls were covered with red and yellow fabric with beautiful designs.
When we arrived people were praying. Soon a small choir accompanied by a guitar led the congregation in singing. Everyone participated with clapping and dancing in place. After several songs, another choir came up, knelt on the platform and sang. This group was younger and appeared to have more students. Interestingly, both groups had green choir robes on. In addition to the music going on inside, we also heard birds outside as well as a donkey braying which added color to the unfolding picture.
After the offering was collected with a cloth bag on a stick, Dr. Fekadu came up and introduced our team. We stood and they warmly welcomed us with clapping. Our pale faces were quite a contrast to the sea of dark skin surrounding us; this was a beautiful picture of Gods’ people gathered together.
The pastor wore an orange shirt with a purple tie; he was also very energetic and animated on the stage. He preached his sermon from Exodus 3:1-4 and since our Amharic is a bit limited, we only understood a few words: amaseganalo—thank you, ishi—ok, ow—yes, halleluiah and many amens. Occasionally an English word slipped out that we understood; Senait and Hailu provided interpretation for those around them.
The picture is about complete. We decided to leave at 12:30 since we had been there for two hours, and the staff with us thought the service may last for another hour. This was another glimpse into the daily lives of those we are here to serve. We always consider it a privilege when they let us walk side-by-side sharing life with them.
Greetings from Project Mercy!
Saturday was an amazing day. It started out with Mallory, Devin, myself and our new friend Steven meeting at “euchre headquarters” at 6 am for our hike up the mountain. We were fortunate to have two of the house boys, Kedro and Maloubriham, lead the way. It was dark as we started out; however, as we neared the hospital Zondra told us all to stop and observe the beautiful sunrise behind us. With that she gave us well wishes, and we began our trek up. The terrain was rocky, to say the least. All of us with the exception of Devin had tennis shoes on, and as we continued to climb I began to think how ill-thought out it was for me not to have brought a good set of hiking boots. About forty-five minutes into the hike we reached the church. We all decided to stop for a quick breakfast. We had prepared a feast the night before of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with fresh bread prepared by the kitchen staff. Upon first appearance you would have thought we were going to be gone a week with the volume of food that we had packed. As we stood there observing the beautiful view, the boys pointed out the monkeys swinging in the trees. We all tried to capture them on film; however, as luck wouldn’t have it, they only seemed to come into view when the cameras were out of sight. I guess they didn’t feel very photogenic.
After observing the monkeys we continued our trip, the altitude was apparent the further we climbed. The boys amazed us with their agility and affinity for the terrain. We stopped to take frequent breaks to catch our breath while they waited patiently, no doubt they could have ran circles around us with hardly breaking a sweat. Along the way there were a group of people sitting roasting barley, fortunately for us they were very gracious and generous and offered us some which we happily and very gratefully accepted. Within time we reached the “grassy knoll” that Jeff so eloquently described as a scene straight out of the Sound of Music, and indeed it did appear that way. At any moment it looked like Julie Andrews should be running through the field singing, “the hills were alive.” We all tried to capture the beauty of the scenery around us but to our regret, the photos will never do such a breathtaking landscape justice.
As we ascended through the last leg to the top, I couldn’t help but think of the beauty in the struggle. How privileged we all were to have the two guides leading the way and to experience something that will last with us forever. Looking out on the world we all couldn’t help but feel a great sense of accomplishment.
The boys pointed to the sky and told us that the sun was beginning to get hot, and we should continue moving to make our descent down the mountain. Our trail down led us through several small “residential” areas. At every peak there was another home with livestock. Children would run out to greet us and they all seemed very eager to get their picture taken. A few cows and goats were even lucky enough to make it into the scrapbook. All of us continued to capture the moments with our cameras; however, keeping it in your hand while trying to climb down the mountain proved to be a challenging feat.
The trails were as rocky going down as they were going up. Many loose rocks made it difficult to not slip and slide in all directions. All the way you had to watch the ground to ensure your footing. I kept thinking that if I were to fall, headfirst would not be a good option.
There were many different types of vegetation that the boys pointed out. Some were used to make medicine as well as for consumption. By a small stream we saw some brightly colored flowers that were so beautiful that it was worthy of a photo-op; fortunately we did not engage with them as Jeff later told us they are extremely poisonous.
As we neared the bottom and had the hospital in our sights we discussed our long journey and thanked the boys for their graciousness in being such wonderful guides. At every turn they were there to help pull us up from some jagged rock or ensure that we didn’t fall behind; without them the trip would have never been possible. I am so happy that I made the decision to make this journey and would do so again for such a beautiful look out on to the world. I know that we are all grateful for this experience that we all shared and it will be one that I know will be treasured for many days to come.
As a side note, there have been many of you reading the blog that have asked if we wanted any updates from home. Wisconsin Badger basketball scores would be appreciated!
More greetings from Global Partners Project Mercy Ethiopia. Just experienced something known as a coffee ceremony. A king and a queen pass through trumpets while walking on a red carpet. They throw coffee beans to the crowd. We all bowed down as they passed. Just kidding! Really we did participate in a “coffee ceremony.” This is a formal way Ethiopians prepare and share in this wonderful drink. First fresh dry beans (handpicked on the compound) are hand roasted over an outdoor charcoal element. All steps of the preparation to final presentation of the coffee is performed in front of our team. The aroma is awesome. Once beans are roasted the beans are ground by hand. The coffee is served to each member of our team and this occurs for three rounds. The coffee was outstanding. A considerable amount of this jewel will be coming home with us. Do not plan on any ceremony, but you will enjoy the Ethiopian version of this drink. Soon to be at all McCafe drive ups. Kidding again! Hint: Just befriend a member of Team 1 and you just may have the opportunity to indulge. During the ceremony we all had the privilege to enjoy the house children of project mercy sing: rejoicing in the Lord. It was moving and a joy. These African voices are angelic. This event has been memorable for Team 1.
The History of Project Mercy Hospital
Project Mercy School was started here in Yetebon by Marta and Deme over 20 years ago. At that time, tuberculosis (TB) and other diseases were very prevalent. 95% of the school children in the first class had TB. Marta and Deme knew that sick children could not learn, so a small clinic was built near the school. However the nearest hospital was in Butajira which is a two hour walk from here. There were no roads, no electricity, people were sick and many died as they were carried to Butajira in baskets, seeking hospitalization. One man called Yetebon “the area of darkness”. A hospital was desperately needed here. The Yetebon community (government) donated land about a mile away from the school and in 1992 Project Mercy Hospital was built.
The hospital has 52 beds and employs 73 staff, including one surgeon (Dr. Fekadu) and two general practitioners. There is a medical, surgical, pediatric and obstetrics unit. There is a lab that can perform basic tests but many others are sent to the hospital at Butajira. Any pathology specimens are sent to Addis Ababa. Basic x-rays are done here and they have an ultrasound machine.
Attached to the hospital is an outpatient clinic where an average of 80 patients per day are seen by the two general practitioners. Thursdays and Fridays are slower days—people prepare for market on Thursdays and do not want to come to the clinic. On Friday everything closes early so people can go to market to buy or sell their goods. Even patients in the hospital want to leave for market.
The hospital also has a dental clinic with basic supplies; however, it has not been used in recent years since no dentist is available. Global Partners will change that when Dr. Farley arrives with Team Two.
Most admissions to the hospital are for surgery. For women the most common problem is a goiter which is very prevalent here due to lack of iodine in their diet. For men the most common problem is benign prostate problems. Medically, people are admitted for Typhoid Fever and Typhus. Occasionally there will be an admission for malaria or tuberculosis. Heart attacks and strokes do occur, but they are rare.
Project Mercy Hospital charges all patients a minimal amount for their care. The hospital must charge in order to continue to operate. In addition, they rely on Project Mercy donations. Surgeries can range from $20 – $50 (US) which includes room and board. The exception to this is childbirth. There is no charge to come to the hospital to have a baby! This includes C-sections. The area used to have a high mortality rate due to post-partum hemorrhage when women gave birth at home. To encourage them to come to the hospital, childbirth is free. The word is out and at this time there is an average of 5 births per week here.
Since the hospital has been open, it has acquired a reputation for providing wonderful care. People come here rather than go to a hospital that is closer to their home. Recently a woman came here all the way from Addis Ababa to have a baby because of the good things she had heard. Staff keep it very clean and someone commented that it is one of the cleanest hospitals in all of Ethiopia! Having worked here last year with Global Partners and again this year, I can confirm that the hospital is terrific! The staff are welcoming and friendly and wonderful to work with. They genuinely care about every one of their patients. Even though their resources are very limited, they are eager to learn new things.
Project Mercy Hospital is such a great asset to the people of the Yetebon area. Marta and Deme should be so proud of what has been accomplished through their leadership. I’m sure Marta would say that they didn’t do any of this—it was Jesus working through them and HE deserves the praise!