“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road;
make me a fork
, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” - Jim Elliot

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Precious Ethiopian Knitting Protégés

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter Eight - Knitting in Ethiopia

My Precious Knitting Protégés.
Don't you love how they picked yarn colors to match their outfits?!
One of the gals is wearing my pink hat because she hadn't completed hers yet.
She wouldn't pose for the photo without one!
Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 

I knew from the moment I was going to Ethiopia that I would be teaching knitting.
Linda told me so.

I remember e-mailing Linda in November of 2012 while she was in Ethiopia.  She said something about needing me to come to Ethiopia.  I laughed.  But she meant it.  And so I began to ponder it in my heart.

Linda is our Vice President of Petros Network and the Redemptive Lift / Relief and Development Director for Petros Network.  She is also Portland Christian Center's Communications / Adult Education Pastor.  Our senior pastor's wife.  And a friend.  She and Anthony have traveled with a team from Petros multiple times together.  Now, it was my turn.  And she knew what she wanted me to do.  She wanted the widows to be able to knit a hat so that they could keep warm on the cool nights that 10,000 feet provide at Gojo.  And perhaps even make knitting a trade that they could market.

As I prepared for my trip to Ethiopia I knew I needed to find a pattern for a knit hat that would use straight needles.  Normally, hats are knit on circular needles and are specific to hat size, yarn type and pattern.  And they are beyond a beginner knitter.  And they are beyond me teaching them through an interpreter and beyond me being able to communicate how to keep all the stitches straight and not twisted.

And I wasn't sure how many widows I would be teaching or what materials would be available to me.  So I needed a hat pattern that was easily altered dependent upon yarn and needle size.  Fortunately, we have a knitter extraordinaire at our church, Jan R, who went to work on creating such a pattern.  She's brilliant!  And even gave me a sample hat to take along.  And then I needed donated materials which came in through other knitters at the church:  Jan W, Jan B and Donna L.  And Barb P donated yarn and an easy knit shawl pattern.  I had yarn, needles and finishing needles.  I thought I was set!

One special donation came from Gary B.  At first I didn't recognize the name, but then it came to me.  His wife had passed away about two years earlier.  He had actually gone to Ethiopia about a year ago and dedicated one of the churches to his wife.  She was the mom of a dear friend, Leila C.  Leila and I had shared many memories because our husbands would travel together multiple times to Ethiopia.  And I had always thought she might go before I did.  But now I was taking some of her precious mom's knitting supplies to help widows in their distress.  It was a sentimental moment for me.

We arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Friday morning.  We would then head to Gojo on Sunday.  And Monday was the big day for me.  I knew I had 11 widows arriving at 1pm.  Fortunately, I had some time to prepare that morning.  I realized I only had 11 sets of the suggested size 8 needles I needed, but I needed to make a hat, too. So I grabbed a set of size 9 needles and adjusted the pattern easily!  And there was some hot pink yarn.  PERFECT!

Then I realized I didn't have anything to cut the yarn with!  Scissors are not easy to come by!  Fortunately, there are plenty of bottled carbonated sodas that were consumed.  I asked everyone to give me their bottle caps and they became the yarn cutters.  The widows actually laughed about my ingenuity.  Necessity is the mother of invention, right?

Binyam, Kari, Linda and Me
Monday, February 10th, 2014

On Monday afternoon eleven Petros Network sponsored widows arrived at the guest house to learn how to knit a hat.  Linda knew I was nervous, so she grabbed my hand and gave me a warm introduction.  Now, I had to use the interpreter.  I had NO idea how difficult it would be.  Specifically because it was a man.  A man who did not know anything about knitting.  And was a bit baffled when after teaching them to cast on and then knit a row, I needed him to explain how to purl.  Of course, they didn't need to know the word PURL they just needed to know how to do it!

Some of the widows picked up the pattern quickly.  They had remembered what they had learned when Suzi S had went in November 2012 to teach them how to knit a simple scarf.  What a blessing when they started teaching and helping each other.

Me teaching Tolesh how to cast stitches on to a needle

On the second day, the widows arrived at 9am and would be there until 5:30pm.  And this time I would be teaching them without an interpreter.  Some of the widows had completed the knitting portion of their cap, so one by one I showed them how to seam the hat together and then finish the piece.  And then those who finished helped others.  But they were ready for more.

Then - without an interpreter - I began teaching them advance knitting skills.  I started with the widow who had finished her hat first and somehow managed to tell her to cast on 22 stitches.  Pointing at the pattern and speaking English - although they could understand none of my words.  
Cast on stitches.
Knit for 6 rows.
Purl, Yarn Over, Purl Two Together for 6 rows.
Then repeat pattern.
Bind off.
And they did.  And it was beautiful.  I hadn't even thought that they might run out of yarn for their scarves, but they didn't.  And we would sit and knit for hours.  They were content.  And so I sat and knit alongside them.

Tolesh's 14-year old son, Benjamin
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Most of the time I spent with the widows I was exhausted and sick.  
So at the time it was difficult to even grasp and comprehend all that I am writing now.
Linda kept reminding me that I was doing such an important work.  I wasn't so sure at the time.

But one of the most precious moments of the trip for me was when we went to visit the homes of some of the widows on Wednesday.  When we arrived at the first home, Benjamin was wearing the hat his mother had completed just the day before.  

I have to admit I had wondered all along what might happen to the knit creations after I left.  
Seeing him proudly wear the hat 
gave me a sense that I had taught 
a life skill 
that would be a blessing to the widows and their families 
long after I arrived back home.

For more of my thoughts on my trip to Ethiopia and Uganda visit here.

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