Little did I know that, visible from that very place if one were to look for it, is one of the worst and saddest neighbourhoods in the city. We went there the very next day, (Mr Chuck, Malachi, Josie, and I), and saw it first hand. Children stood in the doorways of houses that were not fit for animals, watching our SUV as it bounced along the bumpy and dusty road. The dirtiness of the place was such that I would find hard to except in my own cellar. People looked up at us with sad eyes, many of which looked unwell. Their sadness, even given the state in which they lived, seemed unfathomable.
Josie told that there were abundant prostitutes in that neighbourhood. “These women you see,” he told us sadly, “Sit in their doorways, waiting for men. Many people die from HIV.” I looked out. I saw despair all around. People, sad, sick suffering, yet through all that, they were walking down the street, trying to pull through their normal lives. I couldn’t help wondering, What do they think? How are they getting through this?
Up to that point, most of the Ethiopians I interacted with, though I understood little of their language and culture, I had the most important thing in common with them: Christ. Even in America, we think of suffering differently. If we have not Christ we cling to something, whether that be religion, or whatever. But what is it that they cling to here? What empty thing are these people looking to? For some, as I saw first hand, it was “drugs”. Little street shops here and there sold a type of plant which was the equivalent of what Americans would call dope. I saw mostly old men, but even women, and children, with handfuls of the stuff, eating away. “It’s not the taste,” Mr Anthony commented. “but the effect it has mentally that they are addicted to.”
But what else? Not everyone would eat drugs, even if they could afford them. What was there to turn to? Honestly, I don’t know. These helpless, hopeless people, who are easily ignored simply because they live on the other side of the world, really don’t seem to deserve our help. I mean, they alone can be held responsible for their state; that’s a conservative philosophy, isn’t it?
That’s right, they don’t. I know that just to look at them. But Christ also knew that. He knew that you and me, and them, and everyone, didn’t really deserve any one of the steps He took up that hill, or under that cross, or any breathe that He painfully breathed. But He did it anyway. But God didn’t send His Son because He wanted to ease His conscience enough so enjoy paradise in peace. That’s our way, but it is not and never will be His. Christ gave all from a fountain of love, not guilt. Love for those who were not lovely. Love for those who, like the Ethiopians, didn’t think He cared. But we do. We do. We know He cares. Why don’t we?
God has given me a greater understanding since I started the book Ploughed Under. I believe that there are “Stars” in Ethiopia. Girls, boys, men, women, who are looking for something more. Something that only Christ can give.
A conversation I had with Mr Anthony shortly before we left, and what he said really help me. He reminded me that we were not limited to Ethiopia. That God had called him there, but there was a need for Christ all over the world. In Addis Ababa, and in New Albany, Mississippi. We need George Muller’s in America as much as we need Amy Carmichaels in India, or Ethiopia, or Sudan, or wherever the case may be. God, please lead us to souls prepared.