Coming Home

I wrote this on the way home, just catching up and thought I would post it now so I can remember what was on my mind those last few days in Africa.

What have I learned here? What will I do with everything I've seen and felt? I'm not sure. I haven't begun to sift through my emotions much less the photos and video I took in the last 10 days. It will take me some time, but I do know that this trip has had a profound impact on my life. 

There were so many things I didn't get a chance to write about,
- how wonderful Nardi from our guest home is (she made smoothies and gluten-free breakfasts)
- how she accepted a bouquet of flowers as if each petal was made of gold
- the sound of morning prayers waking us each morning at 4 or 5 AM, how loud they were!
- how passionate the people are here and how welcoming and how deeply religious
- the way the views from the roadside were different from moment to moment
- about when the power went out and we used flashlights to eat by
- Teff the superfood and how delightful it has been to eat in away that makes my body feel great!
- being affected by the powerful stories of mothers who went from not being able to feed their children to feeling a sense of worth and pride in their jobs
- children who are well-fed but still starved for attention, the need for more help
- the silly jokes and laughing that kept us upbeat in the midst of seeing so much darkness
- how sick I got on the last day, so sick I could barely hold myself together
- how neat it was to learn to say Amesayganalu and Sime Mano? (Thank you and What's your name? in Amharic) and Denje and Befano (good and beautiful in Sidamo)
- the delightful worship and praying together on the rooftop with two girls from Texas who liked me as much as I liked them, and whose love for God made me want to know Him better
- the construction process going on everywhere using long acacia wood beams, and the variety of building structures made from wood and grass and mud
- the barbed wire on every homes' fence in the city, and the outstretched hand of every person without a home and without a protective fence
- the love we felt for a man begging at our window needing to escape his circumstances so badly that he huffed glue while he was speaking with us
- the disparity between those who have and those who do not
- watching a whole busload of people stop for bathroom break in the bush
- holding a scarf as a curtain around each girl in our van who needed to do the sam
- the beauty of the Blue Nile River Gorge, the peacefulness in that mountainous place
- so many more things that are already fading

Reading and thinking

What does poverty mean? One of the basic questions, posed to us in our required reading for this trip (When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert) and it has my mind working through ideas that I am not ready for…things that my heart doesn’t want to confront.

My initial answer is this: not being able to nourish your physical body and a lack of the ability to provide for (feed, wash, clothe, shelter) one’s self or dependents.  The author asks us to consider some notations from a large research project that asked homeless people directly about the difficulty of their situations. Their responses detailed their feelings of shame, humiliation, a lack of human connection, of not being heard, and of being cut off from community. This small window into their lives allowed me to recognized that I had described a physical, logistical and material poverty while they identified a deeper emotional and philosophical need. The author asks us to consider that poverty goes beyond the material; that it is actually a brokenness of relationships. A brokenness of foundational relationships; a brokenness in our relationship to our Creator, to ourselves, to others, or to the rest of creation.

If poverty is rooted in the brokenness of relationships, then . . . who are the poor?

This next question allows me to consider this: are we all impoverished? Do I suffer from relational or spiritual poverty? Yes. I know that I do . . . do I look to the poor and believe I am not one of them? I do. Relative to others, I have an abundance of the material, but is their poverty in being economically rich? What does it look like?

We try to help based on our own limited understanding of poverty, but here I learn that it is imperative to step backward to consider the reach of poverty. If we are all suffering from poverty of some form, and I believe that we are indeed suffering from relational brokenness even if we cannot identify it, then the idea of humanitarian work moves from a mindset that we are the well helping the unwell to a whole new way: the unwell and the unwell connecting with each other with compassion. While I have been believing that I was qualified to come here to this place and offer help based on my own material abundance but I have missed something. I also have a deep need for brokenness in my foundational relationships to be restored. I will not be able to truly help anyone until I understand that I am in need of relief from relational brokenness too. I am not okay, you are not okay, but God can help us both. In just two days, the truth of this is made real to me in each interaction I have here.

There is a joy in these people that I have seen but not felt. The incredible level of their reliance on God for their every need, and the joy they express in doing so is astounding. I pray, I place my cares at the foot of the cross. But because I have the means to do otherwise, I often believe that I am the one who solves my worries, that I have worked for what I have rather then seeing that everything I have has been given to me. There is a freedom here, in this place of thought and knowledge that I am desperate to know more deeply.

Travel Updates

When possible, I'll be posting travel updates + photos + prayer requests here, thanks for following along. It is so encouraging to have your support!

I finish packing on Thursday and then I fly out from DC on Friday morning and will arrive in Addis Ababa the morning of Saturday January, 13th.

And truly, THANK YOU to everyone who has prayed for me + bought art or donated to fund this trip, I literally could not do this without you!