Wow, where do I begin? I left San Antonio with a heavy heart as I said goodbye to family and friends on Monday. I definitely want to be in Africa and I surely looked forward to returning, but it is still sad saying goodbye right? I arrived in Houston for a five hour layover and so I ate lunch and checked email and creid just a little between bites and then and just sort of wandered about, as one does in airports, trying to pass the time. About twenty minutes before it was time to board my plane for the other side of the ocean I decided to do a last minute email check.
There it was, “We have decided to finance the publishing of your book. You have an incredible story and we can’t wait to get it to the masses!” Thank you everyone who wouldn’t let up pestering me to write a book.
I want you to know that when God says to do a thing, we should do it and let Him take care of the details. I submitted my book to one publisher and it is a Christian organization, and God took care of the details! Unless the publisher changes it (which I don’t think they will) my book will be called, “FOLLOW ME, Knowing His Peace in The Hardest of Places”. I will also soon have my very own website which they are creating as part of the deal. This year has only just begun and it is taking off like a rocket.
I have been praying and meditating every single day on Psalm 23. The Lord has been speaking to me about, how through the years, so many have thought of this Psalm as the “funeral prayer”. He has been showing me that it is so full of life and that it covers our every need. The last line tells us that His goodness and mercy shall follow us around all of the days of our lives. His favor chases me down and overtakes me. Every day I say that God’s favor follows me around. Just today, in the dirt streets of Addis Ababa, as I was walking, I found money lying on the road right in front of me! That DOES NOT happen here!!! There are more poor and destitute people here than anywhere in the world and I find money lying in the street!
Of course, I am not keeping the money. There are so many places to sow it right here in Ethiopia. I am staying with a wonderful family who, like me, gave up everything to give themselves to the poor. They have three children who love Jesus and love those who need love. This family stops for the one every day. I am watching it in action. God’s faithfulness is so astounding. If we could hear every story ever written about this, the ocean would not be deep enough to contain it.
Just in my first day here, I met a teenage street girl with a newborn whom this family has sort of adopted and found a place for her to live and makes sure her rent is paid. She is off the streets. I met some precious Somali brothers who are right now being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. This family has stopped for these ones and brings them together in their home to give them a safe place to fellowship and to be encouraged in their faith. There is a street lady who literally sleeps in the ditch at night and because this family loves her everyday and helps her a little bit financially, she is smiling and allowing her heart to soften toward mankind, all because they are stopping for this one.
That was yesterday. Today we went to visit an orphanage and I was so overwhelmed the entire time I was there. It was very clean and the children were clean and looked healthy and such. But I have never seen so many small babies in one place ever. I couldn’t believe how many babies were left orphans. I am estimating that there were about 40 infants under the age of three and only five mamas or so to care for them all! This is only one of many orphanages in Addis Ababa. We drove past another place called the Mother Teresa House (I think) where the sign out front said, “Home for the sick, dying and destitute”. We came back for a visit the next day and there were probably about 400-600 people staying there. They have another place in the city where 500 AIDS babies live!
There are so many homeless women here and the ONLY way they can survive is to sell their bodies for food. Ethiopia is one of the leading nations for homelessness and AIDS victims. I call them victims because many are teenage girls who have no alternative. And so, the orphanages are overrun with children. There is so much need here that one would easily be overwhelmed as to where to even start.
Today, at the orphanage, I walked into the first room and there were I think five cribs, each with two babies, all under four months old, and another couple of beds with a few more small babies. One baby I know could not have weighed 4 pounds and looked like a teeny skeleton. It took every ounce of will power for me not to cry, seriously. She couldn’t even make a noise to cry because her voice was so weak and frail. The next room had wall to wall babies with barely enough room to walk by the cribs in the aisles.
Again, they all looked well fed but they also looked so sad. There just aren’t enough mamas to love on each of them like they need. My heart felt so heavy inside and I almost couldn’t move because so many NEEDED to be held and soothed. I just stood there dumbfounded, seriously. Rachel says that when the babies first arrive, some are cheery and bubbly but after a few months it seems as if they lose all hope and just sit there listless because they know their cries will not avail much.
I would look at all these babies crying and sitting there looking defeated and thinking how they cry and wail and soon it becomes a whimper because no one comes and then they just sit there with no emotion because they already know that there isn’t going to be a quick answer to their deepest need to be held and cuddled and loved. When you pick them up they cling and lay their heads on your shoulder to get what they can as soon as they are in your arms, knowing that soon it will end and it could be a long day or night until the next holding and cuddling. No one can imagine the emptiness they must feel. I was so undone as we drove away. I could not speak for want of weeping.
And so I had to remember today to just do what I could for the short time I was there. I would look for the most desperate eyes and hold that one tightly for a good ten minutes or so while patting the back of one or two others here and there and giving them eye contact and a human voice to go with it. I couldn’t even talk when we drove away because I had to fight back the tears at the injustice of it all. It is very, very hard to walk away from this, very hard.
Another day we went walking around the neighborhood and there are hundreds of Orthodox Churches in Ethiopia. They are very, very religious and have religious articles for sale everywhere. Ethiopia is known for the Queen of Sheba and it is believed here that when she went to visit Solomon, she got pregnant by him and so carries the line of David. There are also hundreds of Mosques competing with the Christian church. Many times when the call for prayers plays over the loudspeakers throughout the city, the Orthodox church will also play their stuff. It is a city vibrant with people from every culture and traffic and life. Definitely different from quiet Sudan.
So as we were walking we went onto the grounds of one of the big Orthodox churches and there was a small village high up on the edge of a stone quarry. We went up there to say hello to the people and they were so extremely poor. Their clothes were ragged and dirty and they lived in tin shacks. They were so excited that we would come up and shake their hands and say hello. It was really humbling. As we were walking home, we saw a lady on street with stumps for her hands and feet. We stopped to give her money and were just going to leave when both Rachel and I felt pulled to go back to her. The Holy Spirit moved each of us because we didn’t say a word or even look at each other, we were just there.
We bent down and held her and prayed a short prayer and said the name of Jesus many times and the lady had tears in her eyes. So did we. I wondered when was the last time anyone even touched her because she was so moved that we would hold her and touch her with love. This was probably one of my most moving experiences in Addis Ababa. It was a powerful moment with Jesus.
We also went on Saturday to a street boys church service. The boys basically live on the streets and have been brought together over the last few years by an American couple who minister to them every week. We were blessed to come and join them and after the message and shared testimonies, we were able to pray a father’s blessing over these young boys. They were so sweet and involved in what was going on. They weren’t promised food or bibles or anything. They were just offered lots of hugs and love and encouragement and this is what keeps them coming. It was another amazing day on the streets of Addis Ababa!
So, the two things that the Lord really spoke to me this short five days in Ethiopia is one, “the worst poverty is to know the poverty of not being loved” and “Jesus is calling. This is your calling. Love. Everyone is called. We decide whether to answer or ignore the call.” Every day God gives us endless opportunity to bring people out of the poverty of lost love into the abundance of His love. We have it to offer but if we don’t give it away freely, poverty continues on and on. Freely you have received, freely give.