As I approach the finally week of my stay in Ethiopia, I can’t help but feel a bit melancholy! My heart is torn between going home to family and friends and leaving behind the patients I have grown to love. I have been here 5 weeks now and have one week left. It is an overwhelming feeling and filled with mixed emotions.

I was here last February for a 12 day stay. I worked with the Hospice program and knew at the end of my stay, I had to return. In fact, I did not want to leave. It was a true blessing from God that I was able to return within the same year. I was able to reconnect with some of the previous patients and also get to know some new ones. I made my stay for 6 weeks this trip and thought that would surely be more difficult and plenty long. As I approach the final week, I find myself feeling the same way I felt after the previous visit and torn over leaving.

The program I have worked with and grown to love is an amazing blessing for so many cancer and HIV/AIDS patients in the Kore area. The nurses and workers in the Home Hospice Care Program are amazing people. They show the love of Christ through the home visits, caring for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patients on a daily basis. I admire them all for the love of the Lord they spread throughout the community.

While I have been here, I have been blessed beyond words. I have met several women who have shown me how they live my favorite passage in the Bible. Philippians 4:4-9. They have shown me what real strength truly looks like while facing their immortality. They face life and the chance of losing their life with grace, dignity and strength that has no comparison. They face the thought of leaving young children behind but seem to trust the Lord to take care of them. Many of them sleep on a blanket on their dirt floor. The ones who have decent water have it because they carry heavy 5 gallon containers for miles to their home, without complaint. All at the same time they are dying of cancer or HIV/AIDS and most also have TB. Some of them are dealing with the issue of AIDS and Cancer. It is something impossible to grasp, for I don’t think I would have a fraction of the grit these women have. I see it in their smiling faces that greet me at the door when I visit them. I asked myself many times where this perseverance comes from and as I get to know them, I see it comes from their faith in the Lord. They are constantly praising Him throughout this storm they find themselves in. They love Him with all their hearts, souls and minds and praise Him with all their strength. It is an amazing thing to witness and a blessing to experience. Here is the passage I find them living each day I visit them. I am truly blessed!! Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

As I prepare to leave, I find myself wondering what else I can do for them. But at the same time I know the blessings given during this stay were blessing I received from them rather than what they received from me. Then I start planning how and when I will return. I think about the weaker patients that are so dear to my heart and fight back the tears knowing they may not be here to greet me when I return. But I also can rejoice knowing there are no more tears and no more pain in the life that awaits them and I will surely see them again.

I thank the Lord for giving me this new journey and mission for my life. I couldn’t ask for anything more. My cup overflows with joy from the gift He has given me with this experience. I am grateful beyond words.

written by Sami Kleppe

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