Monday, January 20, 2014

A Day in Korah

Today was a jam packed day 2 in Ethiopia.  I kind of want to summarize the end of the day before I go into the long list of events that have transpired.  Every evening we have a team meeting.  At our meeting tonight, Kelly spoke scriptures to us.  The first verse, is a common one however, today it hit me profoundly that this verse was spoken over me when I was 18 years old and on a mission trip to Mexico.  I had no idea at that time how much that verse would continue to impact me and essentially become a theme verse for me.  Time and time again over the last 10 years this verse has been utilized in my life!

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

It’s amazing how I can continue to learn new things with just one Bible verse.  For example, Kelly pointed out how the Bible never really talks about the different “religion” aspects of Christianity.  Religion can be messy, however this verse points out that pure and faultless religion is serving orphans and widows.  I think almost every person we have come into contact with over the course of these first two days fits that description.  Another point that she pointed out is that the verse says carrying for orphans and widows keeps us from being polluted from this world.  Our worldly flesh throws so much “stuff” at us on a day to day basis.  Being here, serving “the least of these” just helps keep life and this world in proper perspective.

This morning was a little bit of a late start.  Our driver got stuck in bad traffic because of the Epiphany celebrations that continue through the city. During that down time we were able to sort through all of our donations and pack our backpacks as full as we could with donations for the home visits we would be doing in Korah. 

Once our driver arrived to pick us up, we were off to Korah.  For those that don’t know. Korah is the trash dump community in Addis Ababa.  120,000 of the poorest of the poor live in a 1 ½ mile radius.  As it was explained to us, this community is full of the outcasts of the society.  It is full of lepers, HIV positive individuals, and many orphans and widows.  We met with the director at the church who ministers a lot in Korah. His name is Tesfaye. He told us his life story.  He was a child who grew up in the community and would sort through the garbage every day to try and find food and things to sell for his family.  He said when a new garbage truck would arrive, you would have at least 500 kids fighting their way through it to try and find anything of use.  One day, in his fight he got hit in the mouth with the hatch on the back of the garbage truck.  This got infected and caused gum bleeding and pain for 10 years of his life.  Finally one day, a man named Bissy (who now works for Ordinary Hero) stepped out and talked to him.  On that day, his life changed forever.  Bissy helped him find someone to sponsor him and get him through school.  He was extremely smart and got a degree in Physics and Engineering.  However, when he had the opportunity to get a high paying job and become very wealthy, he instead chose to give back to his community and try to help other children have the chance he was given.  He now runs an organization in Korah that provides sponsorship for families living in Korah. 

Just to do a bit of advocating here, a sponsorship includes enough to cover monthly rent, food, and medical needs for an entire family.  The incredible thing is that a sponsorship only costs $50 a month and literally will transform lives!

Now I must say, don’t ever pray for God to break your heart for what breaks his because I must say, he will wreck you.  I had seen pictures of Korah and I had heard stories.  While I knew it could be very difficult emotionally for me, I thought I was prepared.  I’ve been to Mexico and I’ve seen the “normal” poverty within Ethiopia, but I have never seen anything like this before.  This truly seemed like the poorest of poor conditions.  It stunk, there was of course garbage everywhere.  There were many children who had medical needs that need immediate attention.  There were children who were literally wearing clothes that were so worn that they were hanging off of them as rags.  The needs were desperate and it surrounded us on all sides.  It was very easy to become overwhelmed as we pulled bags of clothing and hygiene products out of our bags. We had woman who were just begging for anything for their children.  We all kept reaching into our bags just praying that we could find one more outfit for this child that showed up because they heard we were there. It got desperate and we didn’t want anyone to leave empty handed so we started handing out the few snacks we had stashed away in our back packs.  

Early on in our visit to Korah, Amanda who is one of the missionaries for Ordinary Hero in country came forward with a young woman who she had met in the village a few weeks earlier.  This girl was clearly very pregnant and they wanted to know if we had any baby clothes that we could give her.  We dug through our bags and found her a few things. As we talked with her more we learned that she is 18 years old and that her baby is 5 days past due. 

As we continued on and kept doing different things, I couldn’t get this girl off my mind.  I asked if anyone had seen her or if she had left. Fortunately she was still hanging around.  A little bit later, it seemed God had been working on Peter’s heart too because he approached me and asked what I wanted to do or if we had any leftover money in our budget that we could sponsor just one of these families.  We both knew that God was calling us to step in the gap and help this girl who had nothing, was very pregnant, and was all alone.  As I watched her, she seemed very scared and who could blame her.  

In a situation like Korah, the need is so daunting and it is so hard to stand there and feel so helpless.  This young girl, was just one of probably hundreds if not thousands of girls in very similar situations that live there.  As Amanda explained later, she met this girl a few weeks ago and felt moved for this young woman.  However, as missionaries to the area they are limited on what they can do and she felt very helpless.  She has prayed for this girl since that time and said how amazing it was that here she was in the area today and that we felt moved to help her.  This is where the Ordinary Hero motto took on new meaning for me.  The poverty level in Ethiopia is overwhelming.  We simply can’t help them all. However, as Ordinary Hero says “Change the World for One” and today we hopefully made the world a better place for one (soon to be two!)

 After our visit to Korah we headed off to a pizza joint for lunch and then did a bit of souvenir shopping after that. We went to the exact same shops that we went to when we were here for Malachi. However, this time we were armed with a very sweet girl named Hiwot!  She was willing to interpret for us and do all of the bargaining for us.  So we were able to get much better deals this time!  She was amazing! 

We stopped on the way to the guest house for ice cream. It was a very long, hot day where we all got sunburned.  So ice cream hit the spot.  Then it was back to the guest house for some dinner. After dinner we all trekked down to where the street boys play soccer and played with them for awhile.  It was a crazy little journey and we had to cross three river banks.  Some of the boys found out I had candy back at the guest house so they stuck close by me and helped me cross the river banks.  Showed me the easiest routes.  Showed me places I should not touch because the plants would burn me.

 Kept complimenting my soccer abilities (ha, suck ups!).  Then helped me walk back through the river banks in the dark. One was kind enough to tell me that I needed to turn my cell phone flashlight on because snakes come out after dark.  That sure helped speed me up!  They really were precious little boys even if they were only being kind to me for a piece of trident (they were very specific about that) gum.

It was another incredible day with so much in my head that I need to process.  But there isn't a whole lot of time at this moment as we prepare for another busy day tomorrow!