never be the same, part 1

It’s not just that these people are poorer than we are: they have an entirely different way of life. There aren’t just Americans with a different language: they are their own people. It’s not just another country: it’s another world.
Well, I guess when I first went to Ethiopia, I was expected to talk non-stop about how I felt, what I thought, the effect the experience had on me emotionally and spiritually, et cetera. I think a lot of people, myself included, expected it to have a (short lived) emotional impact rather than a long-lasting spiritual effect. I was taken by surprise. I guess I went over there thinking, “Okay, I’ll be hungry, I’ll see life changing things, I’m going to have a ‘Paul on the Damascus road’, I will be thoroughly deprived of the luxuries of America, and then I will come back to the states and want to become a monk.” well, that didn’t happen. I had to cut back on a lot of things while I was over there. But, in the long run, I didn’t feel as un-American as I had hoped. I guess you could say we had been stripped down to the bare necessities ( meaning things like a toilet, clothes to wear, food to eat, lots of water to drink, a place to sleep, etc.) and we stripped up to the bare un-necessaries (Movies, laptops, MP3’s, iPhone’s). But don’t get me wrong, the whole experience was both life-changing and enjoyable.

It took a long time for my mind to wrap around it all. There are so many things I learned that I can’t even begin to name them. No, I doubt it was what I or anyone else expected. I mean, since seeing things is the great key to writing about them, I guessed it would be easier to sit in the air-conditioning in front of a computer and gripe about materialism in America. But I just haven’t felt like doing that yet. I have at times, felt myself irked about certain things we say we can’t do without. And I don’t mean running water, or electricity, or good food, or time spent with family. I mean just those things which seem so completely goofy, but that we find easier to complain about than the more needed things. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I learned a lot about the differences between blessings and distractions.

Along those same lines, God showed me a lot about the riches we have in Christ. I am weak enough that it doesn’t manifest itself as well, but I learned a lot about what Amy Carmichael believed: “Nothing is important but that which is eternal.”

But God was not content with only that. He has shown me more of what it mean to love, and to serve, and to reach out to theses people, of whom many young Christians dream of reaching, than I could ever have learned form reading articles online or in a War and Peace length book. I never was good at opening up to people that I didn’t know (if I do, it’s just a matter of trying to get me to shut up). Thankfully, the Ethiopians I met were. I met one guy at the PTI while I was waiting in the Tea line. He looked at me and said, “Jacob?” [yeh-cob], and I nodded. He pointed to himself and told me his name. Immediately I felt as though he had been a best friend, because he was so friendly and welcoming. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I felt impressed to show the love of Jesus to the best of my abilities. The Ethiopians, and especially those at the PTI, made that easy. I got really nervous about taking pictures because I felt to much like a tourist.

It has taken a lot of thinking and praying to sort through the conflicting emotions and thoughts that have been running through my head. I feel there are so, so, so many things which I would do differently if I went now. I once thought, “Next time, I am going to spend a whole lot more on gifts.” But when I think about, really, I think how many would be fed just with what I spent. I know I’ve talked about the ways Mr Anthony discussed how to respond to beggars, so I probably wouldn’t be handing all that much out. But sometimes I think, it would only take a few birr, which are the equivalent of ten American cents, to feed somebody for a day while we, though most of our meals weren’t overly extravagant, spent eleven hundred just to feed ten or eleven at a Dinner Theatre type restaurant. I don’t say that was wrong, or at least I liked it, but it puts things in huge perspective.

I love writing. But proof reading this has shown me something: words have their limitations. There is no way I could express I that I feel, either in speech, or on a blog, or writing a really long autobiography (by the way, I am not doing that). All in all, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything, because I believe it was what God knew was exactly right for me at that time.


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