Sunday, August 22, 2010
Life Changing Day...........Part 1
Three weeks ago today my life was forever changed. I woke up very early and eagerly got ready for this day that I had been waiting on for months. Our family had plans to meet the team from UCF (our church) for breakfast at 6:00am in order to be out to Lake Zway to get on the boat by 7:00am to visit the island where Tia and Garrett were born and lived for the first four years of their lives.
I didn't sleep very well the night before as I wondered what the next day would hold. Would people welcome us, reject us or even care that we were there? Would Tia and Garrett remember their home, family and friends there on the island? Would their friends and family want a relationship with us and so many other questions swirled in my mind as I tried to sleep.
I wasn't able to eat breakfast and so I sat quietly and prayed that God would show up big as we visited the island. I prayed for protection for Tia and Garrett's hearts and minds as we faced a day that was so uncertain. I prayed that God would give me strength for the day and a very clear mind to remember all that we would see and hear. I long to share so much with Tia and Garrett about their birth family and their home for the first four years and I wanted to miss nothing. When everyone finished eating breakfast we all 29 headed out to the lake.
As we pulled up to the shore of the lake we drove down a very narrow rock path. Our van was in front and we were stopped by a young man who told Nicco that we needed to pay in order to travel out to the lake. Nicco spoke to the man and I saw no birr exchanged and so I am sure that Nicco sweet talked our way out of having to pay. As we arrived at the end of this gravel path I notice only two empty boats on shore. We had been told that the fishing association in Zway had a boat that would seat fifty people and so we had it reserved for the day. Neither boat that I saw would hold fifty people.
When we started to get out of the vans a crowd started to form. I looked around that there were many locals gathering to see why all of these foriengees (foreigners) were there. We had purchased forty mango seedlings to take out to the island with us and so as we unloaded those from the vans and gathered our things for the day the crown continued to grow around us. Mostly young boys carrying dead fish and might I add that Megan loved the sight of yucky, dead fish.
The smell became somewhat overwhelming as I walked over to the lakes edge to find David. When I found David he and Nicco were talking to a man who was out on one of the boats. I noticed that the man was throwing dead fish out of the boat as another man was washing out the boat with the lake water. It was then that I realized that this was our boat for the day. I moved a little closer to get a better look and literally thought that I might get sick from the smell. I then looked down to notice the large pile of dead fish by my feet and realized that the smell was not from the boat but from the dead fish. The men working on the boat covered the boat with a large tarp to shield us from the sun and/or rain as we took the five hour round trip out to the island.
As the men worked on the boat I and many others questioned if all 29 of us would fit on the boat. I had my doubts but when it was time to climb (and I do mean climb) on board we decided to give it a try. Just about the time we were to board the boat I noticed a man who was standing on what appeared to be a long log rowing towards us. He rowed his narrow log "boat" right in front of our boat and that is what we walked on to get close enough to the boat to climb up onto the back in order to get in.
We all managed to fit perfectly onto the boat and took off toward the island. It was a wonderful day to be on the water and that was something that I had prayed for. It was rainy season in that area and Nicco had explained to me how bad it could be to get caught out in the middle of the lake in a rain storm and so I was so thankful for the sunshine. The water was very calm and the boat was very slow! It took us about two and a half hours to reach the island and along the way we saw hippo, birds and God's amazing creation as we passed a few islands on the way. I continued to pray during the ride out that God would go before us and make this day an amazing day for all who were traveling with us.
It was such a joy to watch Tia and Garrett as we were on the boat. Garrett took his place at the front of the boat with our good friend and taxi driver, Eskel. Tia sat close to me and she seemed a little more unsure of the whole boat ride. Garrett was super excited and loved being at the very front of the boat where he stood the entire time being sure to miss nothing along the way. I cried several times just watching and seeing the anticipation on his face. I wanted to know what was going on in his little mind. Was he scared, excited, or nervous? I couldn't imagine what he must have been feeling and thinking during those couple of hours as the boat headed to the only home he had known.
As we got close to the island Garrett started speaking very fast to Eskel. I wanted to know everything he was saying and so Eskel was wonderful to translate for me as quickly as he could. Garrett was saying, "I remember" over and over. As we got closer we could see kids out on the waters edge and they started to run along the lake over to where we would "dock" the boat. As we grew closer Garrett said, "This is where we would bring animals to give them water." He also pointed out a place where he would play football to Eskel. Garrett was so excited and you could see the joy on his face. Meanwhile Tia was very quiet and really seemed to not remember much. She sat quietly beside me and just looked all around.
As got closer to the shore I noticed a group had gathered to great us. We literally pulled up as close as we could onto the ground in order for us to get off of the boat. There are no docks in Ethiopian lakes and so you just use long poles and literally push the boat up onto the ground as the local islanders pull the boat from in the water. All 29 of us had to move to the back of the boat in order to get close enough to shore that we would jump off of the front of the boat and land on dry ground.
I was the first to jump (literally) off of the boat because I knew that if I didn't jump quickly that Garrett would be off and I wanted to make sure of how his friends and family were going to react to him being there. As I jumped off I noticed that he was right behind me. As soon as my feet hit the ground his were hitting as well. He quickly recognized a few friends and they seemed so excited to see him. He was smiling from ear to ear and so were all of those who were surrounding him.
David came off of the boat soon after the two of us followed by Tia and as soon as Tia jumped off Garrett wanted to start walking and showing us around the island. We made him wait until most of the 29 people were off of the boat and then we headed off to what will always be a life changing day for all 8 in the Henderson family!