Remember the Village


When I arrived ten year old

Fetlework was busy cooking dinner, preparing sauce for the spaghetti with little help from her mom. She chopped and mixed.
Her tall slim body was clothed in blue jeans and a tee shirt. Her head, topped with long, beautiful black hair was gathered into something like a pony tail in the back, and shrouded by the steamy mist as she dropped the pasta into boiling water.

I marveled at how she has changed in two years, from the shy, undernourished wisp of a child into the promise of a beautiful young woman.

Tired of watching, I went to the sofa and opened a map of Ethiopia. Soon she came and sat beside me and together we searched for the location of the village where she was born. It wasn’t there, but the nearest town was.

I surmised that when I visit her brothers in the fall it would probably be a grueling ride on the bus and a long walk to the village.

“Yes, a long long walk” She said.
I wondered. When I visit will the distance I must walk be as great as her young mind remembers?

She thought for a while and began to remember some of the details of her young life with her mother, father and brothers, before both parents died and she had become deaf.

We discussed her past in sign language and voice. She has an incredible ability to communicate.

“The house was made of sticks and had small windows. The windows did not open and close with glass but wood.” she said.

“Was the house round?” I asked.
“I don’t remember.” She replied.

When asked, she said: “My bed was like Yonatan’s ( her brother’s bunk bed) but some slept on the floor. “

“Did the house have a fire in it?” I asked.
“Yes, it was rocks in a circle.”

“Was the fire near the door?”

“I think so, and at night the windows were closed. We could hear the hyenas. They were very loud and sometime I could hear them chew the bones. There were potatoes in the garden but I don’t know if they were sweet.”

She vaguely remembered the other houses where members of her father lived nearby.
We discussed how many years ago did she live there and decided about six. A lifetime to a ten year old.

Her dad and brother returned from their errand and it was time to go to the table.

There will be other times to discuss the village when I have returned with pictures.


At Agohelma Orphanage in Addis Ababa she was the very best friend of Fetlework, our “favorite” adopted granddaughter who was the only deaf girl at the orphanage.
I still remember the two girls holding hands during the farewell ceremony when more than 100 children “goodbye, we love you.”
It was a magical moment, packed with emotion. Tears flowed as the children sang with feeling.

She is no longer living at Agohelma. Her illness is better cared for where she lives now, with her aunt Tsehay, a very attractive woman whose name translated means sun, and surviving sister.

I was able to contact the aunt and visit with the two of them last fall.

We met on a street corner. I suppose the aunt was too embarrassed for me see where they live. The driver took us to a little sidewalk cafe where we talked for an hour or so and I photographed them.

The street was filled with auto traffic, throngs of people were walking past, taxi horns were honking, the not so appealing aroma of burning garbage filled the air.Pedestrians and patrons of the cafe  openly  stared. attThe lady, the young girl, the taxi driver and the old white man (ferengi).

The curiosity is obvious on the faces of the passers in the background of the photo above. I wonder what they thought, but no matter.

Waizero Zeleke wore a blouse and long skirt, and her head and shoulders were covered in the traditional style which most mature women wear at such occasions as a sign of respect.

Her life story was written on her heart shaped face. It described the hardship and sadness of the troubled times she must have experienced.

Feven was dressed in a pink and white hooded sweater and pink sweat pants. They probably came from donated garments at Agoheld. She was heavier than at the ceremony, the combined effect of care by her loving aunt and financial help from the orphanage. There were scars on her smooth young face. How did they happen?

I wouldn’t ask.

We were able to communicate mostly in English with the occasional assistance from Daniel, my ever helpful driver/interpreter.

When the time came to leave, Daniel drove to a place where they could get a ride home. I gave them money for the bus and told Tsehay: “You take good care of those girls.”

“You come back. You will see.” She replied.

Feven poked her head through the open window, kissed me on the cheek and Daniel drove away.

It was hard to not cry.


Neal and Rebekah Neal and Rebekah Payne have been separated for two years and recently reunited in Ethiopia for a brief time.
Rebekah lives in Addis Ababa Ethiopia where she operates LeaMcD Educational Services for the Deaf of Ethiopia while Neal stays in the USA and drives a truck. He sends all the income he doesn’t need for survival to Rebekah for operation of the school.
The deaf youth are taught by deaf teachers and have a much better rate of success in passing national exams than those who only attend government schools. At the present time students receive tutoring and augment the teaching they receive from mission and government schools.
There is also employment training, employment placement and many other programs dedicated not only to deaf young people but also the “older” deaf including a deaf pastor, sign language training for families of the deaf,  and a classroom opened on Sunday where the deaf conduct their own church services.
Rebekah lives in a room at the school compound and Neal lives in the sleeper cab of his truck.
“No good deed is left unpunished”. Is an oft repeated phrase some would apply to Neal and Rebekah. They, however, subscribe to a different way of thinking. God’s Word. “Let us not be weary in well doing.” (Galations 6:8) is much more appropriate to them.
Recently there have been several unfounded legal “attacks” on LeaMcD of a very personal nature to Rebekah, the result of the necessity of removing several nonproductive, rebellious staff nearly two years ago.

For about seventeen years Ethiopia was a communist state. It is also the fourth poorest country in the world. The prevailing attitude among so many is: “White Americans and white Europeans are rich and we deserve some of their money.”

Bribes paid to judges and other government officials is an almost routine way of doing business. A few weeks ago Rebekah was hours away from a jail sentence because of this. Legal adviser Ejigu (say eh jee goo) Gabre-Michael has done a superb job of defending LeaMcD and getting the complaints removed one by one as they surface. He also has been very patient to wait for payment.

If you can, please help with this.Otherwise it will be necessary to stop paying rent on one of the two compounds which will result in the loss of classrooms and opportunity for the young deaf.
There is further financial burden due to the loss of Neal’s income while he visited, plus the travel costs incurred.

The current need to cover these issues is $6,000 U.S.