Jemo Fence Project COMPLETE!
A short two months ago, Team Hope from BCC set out on a journey to East Africa; to be exact, a community called Jemo in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. None of us knew quite what to expect on this trip, only that God was in the lead. Our anticipation was great to say the least! We were looking forward to seeing and spending time with the 150 children that our church congregation and others had sponsored over the previous 8 months. We longed to start the process of building lasting and meaningful relationships with these precious children, their parents and the Jemo church and community leaders. Our hearts and minds were open to learning from our Ethiopian brothers and sisters, especially how they can be so deeply devoted to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when it seems as though they have been given so little.
There were two specific events/projects that our team was briefed on prior to leaving. We knew that we were going to help put on a feast for the children on our last day in country. The celebratory feast was to include lamb meat and other traditionally prepared food, a complete meal that these children rarely receive but for special occasions and holidays. It went off without a hitch. The children’s faces and actions were full of joy on this day as were we watching it all play out. The preparation for the feast is a story in itself to be told another day.
The other project we tried to prepare for was the construction of a fence along one side of the Jemo compound. We received a proposal from the Children’s HopeChest staff in Ethiopia for this fence project a little over a month before leaving. In their discussions with the Jemo church and community leaders, this small project became a priority when it was deemed clear that the old fence was inadequate in providing the necessary security and safety for the compound. With more food being stored at the church, security was an issue and during the rainy season a properly built fence, foundation and drainage system would provide safety from flash floods. We were excited about the proposal, but were unsure how we were going to raise the funds ($3,700) in such a short time frame.
It just so happened that we were having the first Jemo Banquet in April, a month before leaving; but the purpose of this banquet was to raise funds for the travel expenses of the mission team members not the fence. We needed a little over $9,000 to cover the rest of the travel expenses. We thought we could raise a good portion of that at the banquet, but were prepared to do more fundraising if necessary. We really wanted to raise the money for the fence project as well. Raising $13,000 from the banquet was not expected, but that is exactly what happened! We raised enough to cover the remaining travel expenses and the fence project. God is good! The fence project being authorized for this trip brought another element of excitement to the mission team, especially the men. We were looking forward to working alongside the community members on this project. We were looking forward to getting dirty! We were looking forward to accomplishing this seemingly easy task. What we found, was we were dead wrong on the “easy task” part, but dead right on how fun and fulfilling it would be to work with these incredible hardworking men of God.
On our third day in country, the fence project commenced. We were fresh off a beautiful day of worship in the Jemo church. On Sunday, the pastor’s messages, the music and the intensity of the worship were something to behold. Our cups were full! We needed them to be full! We showed up that morning to a very organized worksite. There was a large rock pile, a concrete making station with sand, mix and water, and string lines were already stretched with precision marking the outer boundaries of the future fence foundation. First task, dig a trench 20 inches deep, two feet wide and over a hundred feet long. No problem! A backhoe could probably get the job done in less than an hour. Big problem! No backhoe, just pick axes and flimsy shovels. We were in for an adventure! The soil was hard, rocky and filled with roots. Chad, Colin, Mike, Bob, Jim, Troy and Grant were very inexperienced on the pick axe, but with the help of some very skilled men we learned that there is a right way (efficient) and wrong way (inefficient) way to wield this primitive tool. Digging the trench was hard and seemed like endless work. We were probably producing less than half of the output of the Ethiopian men, but they were very patient and tolerant of our less than stellar work. At first they did not want us to do the hard work, thinking that it was work below us privileged Americans. With persistence and mediocre attempts at verbal communication, we convinced them that we were there not just to be onlookers but to be full participants. Over the next few days we became more and more comfortable with each other. Both the Ethiopians and Americans were working as true partners on this important project. Chad, being an experienced general contractor, formed a special bond with these men. At one point, he stated that he would love to have a crew back home that was as dedicated and hardworking as these gentlemen.
By Thursday, most of us were wiped out, and we only worked half days or less. The Jemo men continued on tirelessly making amazing progress. They were eager to show us everything they accomplished each morning that we showed up at Jemo. The trench got dug, the foundation was coming along, and even some of the masonry wall above ground was being formed. We helped with each phase of the project while there, but ran out of time. Thankfully, the money we raised for the project (thanks to all of you in the congregation and the banquet attendees) sufficed to pay for the materials and labor needed to finish the project. A huge side benefit of this project is that it provided temporary jobs for many men in the community allowing them to earn some much needed wages. Leaving the project unfinished was not ideal, but we were confident that the amazing crew that we were leaving in charge (actually they were always in charge) would do an exemplary job.
In late June, we were informed that the fence project was complete! We have now received pictures as well. When the mission team saw them, we were in awe of the beautiful work that these men had accomplished. I am sure that everyone who sees them will agree. Chad, our guest Ethiopian contractor, stated that this fence and drainage system was built with such quality that it will last 50+ years. We are so thankful that the Jemo community has men that take so much pride in their workmanship!
The fence project was a small part of our trip, but a very important one. Cooperation, partnership, the value of hard work and most of all, God’s love for us and us for one another was prominently displayed during the time we spent together building towards a brighter future.
So how is it that projects like this, on short notice with no funding, come to fruition? If we look closely, God’s handprints and footprints are all over this community. In a city of 4 million people laden with abject poverty, there is hope in a small community called Jemo. Although material poverty is a serious issue for Jemo, it is far removed from spiritual poverty! In fact, spirituality and faith are the strongest components of life in this burgeoning community of believers half a world away. We can and should learn from them in this regard.
At times, we can feel worn out from the busyness of life. Sometimes we battle feelings of uselessness and insignificance. There are times we feel lost and alone in the wilderness. In this bubble we live in called the United States, protected from material poverty and true hardship, these are not uncommon feelings. The best remedy is to indulge in the word of God every chance we get. The practice is life renewing. Short of that, try building a fence in Ethiopia. It has a rejuvenating effect beyond description!
Glory be to God!