by Joy Casey (in Ethiopia)

May 19
Jeff Burns and Mark Wolbert, YWAM’s Mission Director, have had a fantastic time with a group of people from the University of Kentucky. They are top caliber folks with servants’ hearts. The strong muscles of two strapping UK football players came in handy while landscaping the Widows and Orphans Home in Adama. Palms and other plants were installed to add beauty to the front wall of the newly constructed building. There is much landscaping yet to be done, but we have begun!

Out back, in addition to an existing vegetable garden and some fledgling mango trees, the team got the privilege of planting three special apple trees that one of our adoptive families bought in honor of their baby girl who they are adopting from our orphanage. The garden area is now officially referred to as “Ch’s” garden. (Sorry, we cannot use her name until her adoption is final.) The days were hot and sticky, but the evenings cool off nicely and the satisfied and weary team enjoyed dinner outdoors at the hotel and slept well!

May 21Yesterday was a long day and we were all very tired as we drove into Addis Ababa from our jaunt to a rural village where we have a small kindergarten and are beginning to build a worship center for the new believers in the village. The team from the University of Kentucky brought brightly colored shoes for the children and pop rock candy which they dearly loved! Candy exploding in their mouths was quite a new experience for these village young ones and I couldn’t help but laugh along with them. The team brought soccer balls for the kindergarteners and also gave the government school (grades 1-5) balls. The head teacher was so appreciative!

The team gave a gift of seeds and fertilizer to the elementary school so they can plant a huge garden as a fundraiser to offset school costs. As the head teacher was talking to me about needing this crop to sell to raise money for the school, her predicament sounded very much like those of American schools I am familiar with. The students’ parents supply the ox and the students themselves plough the field, work in the fertilizer and plant the seeds. When the crop is mature, they take it to the nearby town and sell it so they can then afford new books and other necessary supplies. Same concept as in America, just done Ethiopian style! Thank you, Kentucky team, for making this plan possible.

As always, the children were the hit of the day and we all enjoyed playing with them. The athletes from Kentucky got a rousing game of volleyball going with some of the young evangelists and older village boys while the littler ones were pushed on the merry-go-round or played on the slide or teeter-totter. Because of the generosity of sponsors, twenty children get a nutritious breakfast and lunch and a half-day of school (it is too hot to have school in the afternoon). And kindergarten is not all play in this stick and mud schoolroom in the middle of an African savannah. They are learning their ABC’s in both English and Oromifa as well as some sophisticated math skills.

The group from Kentucky left today and felt their jam-packed six-day itinerary was rich in every way. They had varied experiences – from urban squalor to working in the orphanage to seeing village life up close and personal. Their hearts were captivated, as mine has been, by the amazing spirit of the people from the great nation of Ethiopia.

Mark returned home safely today, resting up and preparing for his next trip to Ethiopia in June with a team from Virginia Beach, VA.  Joy and Jeff are headed to Nekemte, Gimbie and Dembidollo this week.  Your prayers for all three of these servants are sure appreciated, as well as for our in-country staff who are unquestionably some of the hardest workers on the planet!  Thanks so much for remembering to pray for them!