* This is a personal blog series about my time in Ethiopia. Some photos are snapshots and are included to tell the story. If you are looking to view newborn, baby or family posts, please see the drop-down ‘Galleries’ on the toolbar above. Thank you!
In Addis Ababa food is bought in roadside open-air shops. Fresh vegetables and fruits are set out for purchase. Shepherds with flocks of sheep, ox and donkeys (donkeys aren’t for food) are often walking down sidewalks and across streets. Its not uncommon to see an ox walking on its own and the people generally (it seemed) know whose ox it is. People purchase sheep and can have it on the table for a meal within 2 hours.
So late Friday afternoon we had stopped and purchased 4 sheep and with their feet tied, took them back to Korah so they could prepare the meal in time for lunch Saturday. Protein is rarely purchased because of it’s price, so this is a special gift for them so these kids can have full tummies. It wasn’t the easiest thing for we girls to do, but it’s life in Ethiopia.
When we arrived Saturday the Enjura was almost finished. I also remember when ‘Freedom’ (below) walked up to me and slipped her little hand into mine. Her little hand was chilly in the morning air. And the following hands that came up to me were also cold.
‘Freedom’ and her little brother
The kids lined up by boys and girls to enter Great Hope Church. We chuckled at the little guy all snazzy in his red jacket and sunglasses.
We introduced ourselves (with Aki’s translation to the kids into Amharik) and after some songs a couple of the ladies on our team read a book about Jesus’ miracles to the children. Then we passed out small coloring books and ziploc bags of 3 crayons. The kids don’t know how to open ziploc bags so we open them for them. How funny how we take for granted the things, like ziplocs, that we use in America. Necklaces with crosses were happily collected by kids as well as little bracelets. Kids are kids, and sometimes some of the kids hid the necklaces or bracelets so they could get another one. There were some children ,however, that reminded the others to only take one. As a former elementary teacher and mother, this didn’t surprise me. Especially since these children have nothing. The only place I ever recall seeing a toy was at the orphanages or an old soccer ball outside of ALERT. Imagine the excess our children in America have and then these kids in Ethiopia – korah, countryside, street children … with nothing. So to empathize with their excitement to receive something small like a necklace, sticker, piece of candy… you can understand.
The two boys below are best friends. The kids in Korah (and its basically true of Ethiopians) are very affectionate. It’s perfectly normal for friends to hold hands. Men hold hands all the time and it just means they are friends. Friends hug and lean on each other all the time. Its a society built on relationship. It’s awesome.
After the time in the church (this is the church where the shoes miraculously multiplied the year prior) we had the smaller children go into a different room and the older children stay in the church. The Injera that had been cooking was then dished out and served to the children. The Injera is the flat fermented bread made from Teff (an iron-rich grain). The blood of the sheep and water and spices make the sauce – which the kids called ‘spicy’. The meat from the sheep is served on the unrolled bread with the ‘spicy’ sauce poured over the top. The bread is then ripped into pieces and is used to pick up the meat to eat. The children devoured the food quickly with orange sauce covering their mouths and chins. Deep breaths could be heard as the kids tried to cool their tongues (the ‘spicy’ is spicy!). Some children asked for water and sadly we didn’t have any.Water is typically gathered in jugs at a communal spout. I remember seeing a man walking on the street with his water and it was brown and very yucky. That’s the type of water the people drink.
* between the buildings and just a few feet from the kitchen area
The kids were hungry and they ate well. I can see my special little girl watching me in this picture below…
The ceiling of the room the younger kids ate in.
Our next visit was to a place I’ll call ‘Ararat’ (because I can’t remember the name of the village, but Ararat is the another name for the church, I believe?). The night prior during our devotions (1 or 2 women share from the bible and then we discuss our high/low of the day, discuss our plan for tomorrow and pray) Diane explained that we would be visiting Ararat. This village is on the outskirts of Addis and is a place that God called us to.
Jody, our team member from Virgina who has been to Ethiopia a few times before (not with Soles for Jesus), mentioned to Diane that there was a place that she felt we should go to while we were in Ethiopia, but she couldn’t remember the name of the place. Jody sent Diane a link to her blog and when Diane opened the blog she saw the exact same place where she had been when she got the call to begin Soles for Jesus. With all the villages and places in Ethiopia, this was immediately more than coincidence. Diane knew we were to visit Ararat to wash the feet of the people.
For a few days before our trip and the first day in Ethiopia I had a sense that while we were there we would be involved in a spiritual battle. I know this sounds odd to some, but it was a feeling in my spirit. In America we often deny the reality of good/evil, but it is very real. Satan is real. Evil is real. I read a lot. One book that was extremely eye opening (and I finished it in about 6 hours or less because the story grips you so well) is a new book called, ‘Ascent from Darkness‘. Highly recommend it. Anyway…
So when Jody and Diane explained that the people in and around Ararat outside of the church were involved in Satan and idol worship, this affirmed why I had been feeling that way. Friday night and Saturday morning I spent time reading verses in the bible about God’s protection against evil.
“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” 1 Thessalonians 3:3 and Psalm 91
As we traveled up hills and exited the city it became more rural. We eventually turned onto another dirt road which took us into the village. The skull of an ox perched upon a fence as we drove slowly. We hit a rock that seemed to damage the underside of the van as we got closer. The people that live in the countryside are very poor as well. I almost think they had more ripped clothes – perhaps because mission and aid groups come more rarely – if ever – to these outskirt areas. The church in the village is surrounded by a high solid wall made of rocks/mud/metal. Inside the wall is the church, some rooms and the pastor’s home. As we parked the vans and got out a few children stood shyly aside with smiles. Very different from Korah where the children run up to you and grab your hands and reach out to be picked up. Pastor G came out greeted us warmly. We walked through the metal gate into the courtyard of the church. He asked us into the church where we were able to hear the A (teenage) and B (child) choir sing. Kids in Africa sing with all their might. Five children have the volume of Forty. Pastor G spoke while Aki translated.
One of our team members, Quianna, spoke to the congregation about Jesus washing the disciples feet. Quianna made it clear that when we wash their feet they aren’t to see Americans coming to serve them, but Jesus coming to care for them through us. In Jesus’ day the lowliest servant washed feet. And yet, Jesus, washed the feet of his disciples.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:13-17 NIV
You can see the gate to the outside in the following picture. Here we are set up with a washing station & drying/measuring station. Once the person is measured the shoe runners find a pair for them and we fit them to the new owner. Our team really wanted to open the gate and allow the villagers in, but the Pastor insisted we serve the members of the church first.
Pastor G had the members of the church come to have their feet washed and get new shoes. The smiles of the people when the shoes fit was amazing. It really is greater to give!! One of our members, Melva, gave each person a little foot massage. As she massaged one woman’s feet the lady yelled out, “Praise Jesus!”.
Diane washed Pastor G’s feet and he lifted his arms in praise.
Meanwhile the villagers peeked through the hole on the bottom of the gate. We were going to be washing the feet of street children later on in the week and as the sun began to sink in the sky, we had to end. It’s so difficult to end when there seems to be a never-ending need. I know villagers were allowed in at the end and were asking for shoes and we sadly had to say that we were finished. That was not easy. I believe one little boy asked Melva, “What about me?” and she did all she could and he was able to have a pair of shoes.
A man who looked like an old shepherd came in the gate (the villagers came into the courtyard) and Caryn asked if she could give him a cross necklace. His face lit up.
With apology of not being able to give everyone shoes, we passed out bible tracts (which are small paper booklets sharing the gospel, likely John, in their language), cross necklaces and Jesus bracelets. You can see the bible tracts being held in the photo below. The photo shows the villagers and ,I believe, members of the church. I’m in the photo but I am just hiding behind someone I suppose. ha!
After the group photo we were invited by Pastor G into his home for ‘tea’. It was actually soda and some baked goods. We welcomed the soda and laughed as we were offered plates of cookies, biscuits and such. It was very gracious of them to host us this way. Pastor G explained that a few kilometers from him there were people who worship Satan and idols. He wants to reach them and asked for prayers to do so. I think he likely has Idol/Satan worship closer than a few kilometers away, it seems. He explained that the people are so poor that one day a child fell into a ditch and when they ran to help and asked what was wrong the child said he was just so hungry that he fainted. Diane suggested we pray and the Pastor and his lovely wife dropped to the floor. The people close laid their hands on them and together we prayed for his ministry, the people and the surrounding areas. As we exited his home it was already dusk and within minutes it was dark. The gate was closed, but we could hear banging on the outside. Aki with us, we counted our duffles and all of us and knew we had to quickly exit the gate and get into the vans. We could just sense from the banging and commotion outside the gate that it wasn’t a good situation.
As we came out I noticed that there were large rocks placed in front of the van tires. I gently moved one away with my foot and a child smiled oddly, picked it up and replaced it in front of the tires. Children came up a team member and began poking her and saying profane words (in english). Another child began muttering something under his breath at one of our team members and she commented that his eyes were scary and didn’t look right. As we jumped into our vans a couple children reached their arms in the van and tried to pull out the duffle bags of shoes. We had to close the windows and as I looked out my window we saw 2 children pretending to shoot us with machine guns while they laughed. Then we realized all the white bits of paper blowing in the wind and scattered everywhere on the ground were the bible tracts we had given them. This was the battle I had felt was coming. And in retrospect, it wasn’t just at this exact moment, but throughout the time at Ararat. I took very very few pictures there and I think perhaps it was because there was a very ‘off’ feeling there. It was unsettling and looking at our following days now that the trip is finished, it was very different.
As we pulled away children hung on to the 2nd van as they drove. We drove towards the end of the dirt road and someone had placed huge rocks in the path so that we wouldn’t be able to leave. However, one was moved enough that we could exit. We do not recall those large rocks being there when we arrived hours before.
We were relieved that we were safe. Honestly, I wasn’t afraid at all. I don’t recall feeling any fear. I wasn’t surprised this had happened. We talked a lot about this night with our team. THIS is the place where Jesus is also desperately needed. Its a place where it takes a lot of faith, strength, courage and persistence to remain. We were unable to meet the physical needs of many of the villagers, so how can we then meet their spiritual needs? The people of the church needed shoes too, but the villagers who worship anything but Jesus ,perhaps, needed this experience more in our opinion. However, we were not able to meet the physical needs of all people we met in Ethiopia and they did not react in the way these children did. For the most part these were children reacting this way, not upset adults. Normally when you give a child a gift they don’t swear at you. This was indeed a spiritual attack through these children towards the Christ they saw in us. We pray for these people to be saved and for these children who are being used by our adversary. Satan is understood to be very real in Africa and also in most parts of the world. Perhaps the greatest achievement of our adversary in America, is many of us not believing he exists.
We all continue prayers for the release of the evil stronghold in this village, direction of the church in Ararat and the salvation of the people and for their needs to be met. When Jody was in Ararat last she felt that things were unsettled there as well – a darkness. We sensed it as well and definitely confirmed as we left that night.
Tomorrow, Sunday, will be our one day of rest. The last two days seemed way way way longer than two days. Sunday we are going to a church that has an English interpreter and later on a traditional restaurant. Today sure was a day to remember…