From Hunt Valley, MD to Addis Ababa

In August, a team of 6 from my home church, Hunt Valley Presbyterian, came for a week-long vision trip to learn more about the AIDS Care and Treatment Project (ACT). We had a wonderful week together, visiting our beneficiaries in their homes, art camp for some selected kids who had shown an aptitude for art, health teaching for adults and kids, and Community Bible Study.

The latter happens weekly and when teams come, we ask them to lead the study and discussion. It always amazes me (but it shouldn’t) how God takes what is taught and uses it specifically in someone’s life. The teaching and discussion that week was from the Gospel of John, Chapter 4. Here, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the local well at mid-day, not the usual time to collect water because of the heat. But the woman is an outcast in her own society, because of multiple husbands, so she goes to the well at “off hours”, so she won’t have to experience the pain of being taunted. But Jesus gets to the point of her life quickly, even though she tries to change the subject. The story has all sorts of cross-cultural images””Jews vs. Samaritans, men vs. women, worshiping on the mountain vs. in Jerusalem. But ultimately she comes to realize that Jesus is the Messiah and can’t help but tell everyone around her whom she has met.

When the Bible study was over and the women came out, I was surprised to see one of them, Beza (name has been changed for privacy). I asked her how the study was, and she was effusive in her praise of it, which really surprised me, as more often than not, she is unhappy.

A few days later, someone left some papers at my door, which “just happened” to be the story of Beza’s life that one of our staff had written after conducting an interview with her. Beza was that woman at the well, and in reading her story, I realized why that particular Bible study resonated with her. She has had several husbands””the first was married to someone else but she didn’t know it when she married him. She had twins by him, but they didn’t survive; she was still a teenager. At age 20, she was married in an arranged marriage, to a man in the Communist army (Derg). When the Derg army lost the war in 1991, many of the soldiers fled from Ethiopia, including her husband, and she never heard from him again. She has one son by him. She then met a M**lim man and lived with him for 14 years and had 4 children by him. She found out she was HIV positive when she was pregnant with her youngest child, who is now 4 years old. Her husband refused to be tested, so they separated. He doesn’t live with them, but occasionally visits his children. During this time, she also raised her brother’s daughter.
After finding out she was HIV positive, she went to the local government office to seek help and was referred to the ACT project. A home visit was made and she was accepted. Beza is so thankful to the project, for it has meant that her children are able to survive and get an education, which would have been impossible otherwise. She attends a Protestant church regularly.

Such are the many stories that we hear week by week. Some have more or less happy endings, as this one does, though life is not easy for Beza, despite the relative improvement in her life because of being part of the ACT Project.

There are also difficult endings, such as the widowed mother who died at the end of July, leaving 2 daughters. The older was already being cared for by a ministry for street children and they graciously took in the younger daughter, T, until we could find a place for her. She is now living in a residential home for girls, which is sponsored by SIM, our partner mission here, and by all reports is doing well. Just as I was editing this letter, T came in to the office to greet us and said that her new living situation is “wonderful”. What a great way to end the week!

All this to say, the challenges are many, but so are the joys of the work I do here. I went to the local souk (shop) the other day to buy sugar and eggs. On the way, I ran into some project kids, one of whom knew where I could find sugar, when a couple of places I tried didn’t have any. Then on the way home, I met another family and got a nice, sloppy kiss from the little girl! As you can tell, I really like the kids, even though initially, I found the idea of having to care for kids with HIV to be a pretty challenging thought, since my nursing background is not pediatrics. What was one of my big fears has become one of my greatest joys!

My house in Baltimore went on the market to be sold as of October 10th. I am so thankful for a man from my church, someone I’ve never met, who organized all the work that had to be done to get the house ready to sell””and it was a lot. Please pray that the house would sell quickly, that it would be owner-occupied and that I would get the asking price, since I’ve had to lower it from what I agreed to last spring and spent a lot to get it ready to sell, after the tenants vacated.

Again, thanks, as always, for your partnership with me in my work here. It is a joy to be here doing what I love and I couldn’t do it without my “home team”. And special thanks to Tigist Workineh, our staff person, who had written out Beza’s story in English, so I could share it with you.

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