by Joy Casey in Ethiopia
*photos courtesy of Living Hope Ethiopia
I sighed as I took my first sip of hot, spicy Ethiopia tea. It had been a long two days travel and hefting 100+ pounds of luggage at several junctures left me drained.
Living Hope, A Beacon
The first few days of my time in Ethiopia were spent with my good friend Dinah Monahan, her daughter-in-law Dawn, and a delightful woman named Deana. Upon landing in Addis Ababa we headed directly to Living Hope Women’s Association in Adama, about 2 hours south of the capitol. Living Hope was the brain child of Dinah and me four+ years ago, and Dinah has done an excellent job building a wonderful program caring for at-risk unmarried pregnant women and providing schooling and job training so they can be good mothers when they are out on their own.
We were cordially welcomed by the staff, the 14 residents and 11 children.
Other women who had received care at Living Hope and now live independently in the community were on hand with their toddlers to greet us, too. It was good to see everyone, kiss sweet baby cheeks and over dinner plan the next several days.
Children, Dogs and Minarets
Exhaustion came early, unfortunately sleep was elusive. Our room opened up onto the courtyard and the mothers and children sat in the evening air laughing and playing with their voices dying down about 9 p.m. The happy noise was replaced with barking dogs. About 3 a.m. crowing roosters joined in and the cacophony was complete about 4 a.m. with the wailing of the minarets. But the biggest barrier to sleep was the buzzing of seemingly millions of hungry mosquitos swarming around my head and no mosquito net!
Sunday dawned brightly ushering in a hot day. The women, Living Hope staff, all the children and the four of us went to church and enjoyed the lively worship, and we Americans tried our best to stay awake during the sermon. Keep in mind… travel weary, no sleep, a very hot day, and preaching in Amharic.
Dinah brought six suitcases full of things for the maternity home. Each resident got to pick out new clothes for herself and her child and the suitcases were emptied of all the teaching materials on fetal development, pregnancy and childbirth, abstinence and abortion to be used in many teaching venues.
Another mostly sleepless night morphed into Monday morning which was a holiday in Ethiopia celebrating Ethiopia’s victory in ousting the Italians in 1896. Meseret, Living Hope’s director, had arranged for Dinah to give a presentation to a group of administrators and teachers from Adama schools. There were about 30 educators riveted to the ultrasound 4D images of a child’s development in the womb. Discussion was held on whether the images they saw were a human baby or something else. Was the baby an individual or just an extension of his mother? We passed around models of babies at the various stages of development for them to hold and look at.
Getting Real About Abortion
Abortion is now legal in Ethiopia and just about every clinic and hospital will accommodate a woman’s wish to terminate her pregnancy. Using fetal models, Dinah explained the various ways an abortion is done depending on the stage of gestation. She then showed an actual abortion that was filmed on ultra sound. I have seen this before and find it very hard to watch, so instead I turned my attention to the people in room. Their faces reflected the horror they were watching. They were stunned and very, very sober. I was once again reminded that abortion is a very brutal affair. Rarely are we faced with the viciousness of this act that is so sanitized and accepted that few of us even cringe today when we hear about millions of human babies killed every year. We are in the midst of a holocaust and yet most of our Christian churches can’t even take the time once a year (one Sunday in January is reserved for Sanctity of Human Life) to educate their congregations about the evils of abortion and the value of life, offer healing to the women who have suffered from an abortion, or to mourn the tiny individuals who will never experience life.
Two Good Questions
Out of a discussion time, two very good questions were proffered.
1) How can we advise a girl to continue her pregnancy when she has no support and most likely will be ostracized from her family?
2) How can pregnancy among unmarried women be prevented?
Dinah did an excellent job casting vision for alternatives to abortion using Living Hope as a model. She challenged them to continue building not only a pro-life platform in Ethiopia but a climate of value and self-worth among their students, especially girls. The attendees were invited to an open house at Living Hope where they could glean ideas and receive literature on ways to care for these vulnerable women in their society.
The nurse from Living Hope talked passionately about abstinence that ties into a woman’s dignity and value and also 100% guarantees protection from STDs and HIV. Emshaw has many opportunities to speak in schools about abstinence, and teachers report they are seeing fewer girls drop out of school because of pregnancy and many girls are declaring their determination to wait until marriage before having sex. Emshaw has a gift for engaging both male and female students, and his presentations invite eager questions and a willingness to listen and learn. Perhaps because of the success he has in many schools and the way he presents the subject matter, the audience of adults we had before us respectfully appreciated what he had to say.
Why Can’t We Talk About Adoption?
During these talks, I wanted to jump up and say “Adoption is also a consideration for women who cannot raise a child!” when an individual asked, “What if a girl gets pregnant from incest… should that baby be aborted? What if a girl is raped?”
Why should that child be denied life for the sins of the father? But how can a family be expected to treasure a child that reminds them of their gross sin? Or should a girl be expected to care for a baby that stands as a reminder to a violent, indecent act? These are hard questions with no easy answers, but adoption should be one alternative to be considered. Unfortunately, this venue was not the place to talk about adoption; but sadly, adoption is rarely broached on any broad scale.
That’s why our work through the Mana Gammachuu orphanage to help foster an adoption mindset, to educate Ethiopian Christians about adoption and to place abandoned babies into strong families is so exciting!