Mark Buerle, spiritual coordinator for the VLM in Bahir Dar, writes,
“Still having trouble taking everything in this year. I want to, but my mind says otherwise. My heart is trying, and I have been on an emotional roller coaster the last 3 days, and I don’t know why. Everyday I see the face of Christ, but still struggle to fully accept him into my life. The people here are so full of love and caring, that they make me seem like someone who is only thinking of himself. I just went for a walk yesterday with Kellie, and we sat on a boulder and watched people and animals walking by. That seems like very little, but this is a hidden (so to speak) part of Bahir Dar I did not witness last year. We really got to see the real side of humility. People carrying loads of wood, water, supplies, all falling nothing short of 50 pounds easy on their backs. They walk hunched over, making me feel the pain, physical and emotional, but they walk and move on as if nothing is happening. How they can live a life of simplicity without complaint is beyond me. I complained about having a hard time deciding what clothes I could bring to leave here before I left, and they are living in small huts and dealing with the storm season, hoping that their roof will not collapse.

I went to see the house of one of my students from last year. A real humbling experience. The house was of higher quality compared to most of the houses (cement wall with tin roof – measured space of no more than 10 X10, if that). However, what struck me was how happy he was to have his new house…but he lives alone! He is only a teenager, but he lives alone. Yes, he has friends living near by, but try and imagine having no family and going home at night with no one to tell you love them, say goodnight to, or make a phone call to say hi to. Really struck me at realizing he has, by far, more of a positive, appreciative, and strong willingness to accept life as it is and deal with what he has, or not has, and move on. I really missed my friends and family at that point.

One last experience I wish to share, and then I will close. During one of the reflection nights, we discussed, or thought about, what has meant the most to us, and where we have truly seen Christ in our experience here. At first, I was unable to think of any. But then it hit me like a rock…Christ was everywhere last week. The kids wanting to hold my hand and not wanting to talk at all, students from last year still remembering the songs we taught them and singing it for me for no apparent reason, seeing people from last year thinner and paler than I remember (which I didn’t think was possible at all as poor as they looked last year). All these experiences, and I realized it isn’t about having Christ say “I am hear, take a look!” But about seeing people here happy and enjoying our company without showing any worry or sadness or discomfort in their living arrangements. And the one thing that day that most impacted me, was talking to my students from last year. I felt at home, talking to them and seeing how they were doing. We were singing songs, joking about them having boyfriends/girlfriends (that really freaks them out thinking about that!), talking about their favorite subjects. We talked for almost two hours. I didn’t want to leave but stay there in that moment for eternity. They were happy to see me, more than I expected them to. It’s really hard to know the difference you make until you see it through the eyes of those you taught before. I really miss that moment already, because while I may enjoy further conversations, that moment’s originality and new-ness is gone…

I am already seeing my time dwindle to less than two weeks I will be out of Bahir Dar until God only knows when. That is disheartening to not be able to tell anyone here when I will be back. They really hate it when we have no answer to that question. But I hope to savor every last waking minute of this experience to its fullest and let as many people touch my life before I go. Have a great weekend, keep reading these emails and try and take in as much as can possibly make sense to you. I try and spread the importance of living a Vincentian life to as many people as I can, and I only pray that as many people try and understand and come off of these emails with a new perspective in life. God bless, and take care.

Ciao,

Mark

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