Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Waking Up Sad in Ethiopia

I woke up sad.

It was about 4 am last Wednesday, the third day of our eye clinics around Gondar, Ethiopia. I woke up sad, but not because jet lag was stealing my sleep.

I woke up sad thinking about all the eyes I had looked into the previous two days. The eyes of the very old and the young. The eyes of those encrusted in dirt, and those of the smartly dressed. The eyes of children with flies feeding at their corners. The eyes of those clouded by age and cataracts. The weeping eyes of those with problems beyond our capability.

I woke up sad grieving the spiritual darkness that shrouded their spiritual eyes. Grieving the spiritual strongholds of religion and tradition that chained their hearts. Grieving that whatever help we gave them would evaporate the moment they breathed their last breath if they did not put their trust in Jesus the Savior. Grieving that they do not have the joy of worshipping our Risen Lord, but instead bow to lifeless idols amidst the daily squalor in which many live.

Our wonderful team of 23 did exactly what the leaders in Gondar asked us to do—break the spiritual ice with humanitarian aid. Eye glass clinics in four villages. HIV/AIDS awareness training using our Hope Cube. And 220 free wheelchairs on their way in a few weeks. Several government leaders enthusiastically thanked us for this help, and invited us back. So our obedience served its purpose, and for that we give thanks.

We did encounter opposition, though. In one village, the local religious leaders convinced the clinic director to barricade the door of the room we had been using. From what little information they gave us, it seemed that a couple stories our team told offended them, including the one about the Good Samaritan. While we told it to emphasize helping others, they evidently focused on the part where the religious leader is the bad guy.

It was harvest time in Gondar. As an Iowa farm boy, I was fascinated by the techniques they use. Cutting the grain by hand. Using oxen and other animals to tread out the grain to separate it from the stalks. Throwing it up in the air to winnow away the chaff. Loading bags on donkeys to transport to local markets. Like first century Biblical passages coming to life (pictures in slideshow linked below). But while there was an abundant harvest of grain, we saw no spiritual harvest. Too early in the process.

I woke up sad last week, and my grief continues today. But it fuels my focus on continuing to pray for the people of the Gondar region of Ethiopia. To pray for that spiritual harvest to one day come to these sweet and polite people.

Would you pray with us? Would you pray for the seeds of compassion that were planted to ripen into a harvest of more worshippers for our King? Take a look at this short online slideshow, and pray as you travel with us through pictures.

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