Thursday, July 19, 2012

The City Dump

Then (the hardest day for me) the dump. . . Korah. Soli took us to the Addis city dump where 100,000 people live in houses made out of plastic and trash. The "dump place" (as Soli called it) reeked of refuse and rot and chemical smoke and sewage, so powerful was the smell my eyes watered and my nose burned. The people who live there dig through the heaps and heaps of trash for food to eat and anything to sell. Children sit close by (or are strapped to their momma’s back) as their parents sort through rotten meat and bits of who knows what. Older children play together by the dump. They are filthy dirty. I have never in my 48 years seen or smelled anything like it. It was heartbreaking, surreal and completely overwhelming.
Aidan said later that day, “I thought God had a plan for everyone.” That was tough. The whole experience was tough. The reality of how people live, I mean really live in ways that I cannot explain to my children is tough. I realize that there is a place in my heart that really doesn’t want to know the harshness of that reality. It is not a pretty place (my heart). I think of Jesus and how he would respond to these people and how he probably would have hugged them and held the children. I, on the other hand, could not wait to get to my hand sanitizer and change clothes because I smelled the dump smell long after we left. I realized that it is a lot easier to talk about helping the poor and needy than really doing it. I mean I can help the poor and needy: I can adopt a little girl, I can do Meals on Wheels (at least I used to), I can sponsor a child (which I don't do anymore) . . . but this was different.
I met a family another day who go to Korah everyday to be ‘happy helpers.’ Everyday. The day before the mom carried a leper from Korah (on a pallet) to the leper hospital and watched as the doctors cleaned his wounds. And a few days later this same 90+ year old man accepted Jesus as his Savior. 
I have two friends who sell Ethiopian art and jewelry to help feed the people of Korah. They have such sweet hearts for this place.
I am so thankful for what I saw and experienced and I am even more thankful there are people who give their lives and hearts for the people of this place.
Luke 6:20-21, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”
And now I am convicted because I realized just now that I wrote “I am even more thankful there are people who give their lives and hearts for the people of this place.”
Dang it. Dang it. Dang it. God also says in Proverbs and really all over the place, “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” And in John, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and truth.”
Honestly, I don’t think I wanted to be changed or challenged by what I saw. But here we go. I don’t know where this will lead or what God is doing in my heart (I just hope he doesn’t tell us to move to Korah). But I do truly hope and pray that he will do something, soften my heart to the cries of the poor. I know they are not just in Africa or other parts of the world. They are right around the corner in my own city.
James 2:5, "Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love Him?"
I don’t understand it, but God is providing for these people. It is not a provision that I can comprehend, at least on a physical level. I pray that these people will know Jesus and that this is just a temporary home. There are streets of gold and feasts of plenty for them when they leave this place. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reflecting on our Court Trip

We have been home from Ethiopia for four sleepy days. I still have to pinch myself to believe I have a four year old daughter. Is this my life, or am I dreaming?
I have been dreaming at night of Ethiopia. The sounds and smells and Merhawit and Soli. It has crept into my soul, this place and her people.
It is hard to describe the assault on the senses. There are people everywhere in Addis. I mean everywhere. A sweet burning scent hangs in the air, as does the harsh smell of sewage. And it is not quiet . . . honking, constant honking. 5.5 Million people live in this city. The roads are shared with goats, cows and donkeys.  Poverty is every. where. you. look. The whole city feels like a shanty town. And in comparison to where I live, it is. But, here is the deal . . . the beautiful people of Ethiopia have different priorities, it seems. People mean more than things, relationships more than being on time for appointments, deep caring more than looking professional, and pleasing someone means more than making sure you are paid the exact amount for the time you put in. I saw it all in action. And to be honest it was . . . humbling.

There are so many pictures, so many stories
Our amazing driver (now friend) Solomon (the one who cleaned up my kids throw up) showed us nothing but pure love. His words stick in my head, "As you like" "We are family, no need for thank you" When Aidan was sick he deeply cared for him, driving us from pharmacy to pharmacy to find the right medication. He told Aidan to sit by him when I wanted him to sit by the window in case he needed to throw up. Soli said he would just catch his throw up and toss it out the window because he wanted to sit by him and comfort him. He called our room late that night to check on him. He told us to call him in the night if we needed him and he would be right there.
Solomon translated for Merhawit's birth mom, Soli held our little girl and told her in her language (that no one else knew) that we would be back for her. Soli was our advocate. He made our trip. I know the Lord provided Solomon. And what sweet provision. He made us laugh. I will never hear Johnny Cash again without thinking of Soli. Eight straight days. It was my husbands dream come true.

On our last night in Addis, Solomon took us all to the outskirts of Addis and we sat in his car from 9:00pm-11:00pm waiting and watching for Hyenas. Who does that?? I know for a fact that wasn't part of what we paid for, but that wasn't why he did it. He did it because he cares for us and he wanted more than anything for my kids to see Hyenas. Ahhh, the sweet heart of sacrifice . . . I know he would say wasn't a sacrifice at all. "For me, I swear, it is no problem." And when we said goodbye at the airport there were tears in his eyes. (And ours as well)
Soli and Josiah

The receptionist at the hotel called the night Aidan was sick, too. Just to check on him. I waited for her to say something about our room, or a bill we owed or anything, but nothing came . . . just concern for our son.

When the housekeeper saw that one of my children was sleeping on the couch, she immediately ordered an extra bed to our room at no extra charge. When I objected she said, "This couch is not comfortable for your baby to sleep on." That settled it.

Greg gave one of the housekeepers the equivalent of $5 and she literally bowed to him in gratitude.

The waiters in the hotel restaurant, the housekeeper, the doormen were all sad for us to leave. It was like they were saying goodbye to family. Hugs, blowing kisses, genuine sadness.  

It was all so odd, in such a beautiful way. I know their culture is different than ours. And I know we have it good here in America. But I can't help feeling that something is missing here and something is found there . . . and money can't by it, and things don't provide it. It is way deeper than that. I think Soli said it best when the beggars came to the window, "God will provide for you."  Do we have to know that here in America? I wonder if these sweet people have to know that and believe it? And is this why they can so freely give of themselves? 

I don't know the answer.

The view from the back of our hotel

Greg gave snacks to the kids who lived around our hotel. 

As often as they could Josiah and Aidan would go to the back of  the hotel and play soccer. 

The view from a window in our hotel

More reflections coming.