A verse that has been on my heart today is Psalm 73:23-26. It reads “Yet I still belong to you. You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.”
We went to the slums today. We have been in Ethiopia a little under two days and I feel like I have seen more brokenness and more poverty than I ever have in my life. The disabled were lying in the middle of the train tracks. The street kids were putting on a charade to gain riches. The children who had just gotten out of school in their ripped uniforms and tethered shoes ran along the side of our van saying “money, money.” I wondered if it was the only English word they knew. I wondered who am I God? Why am I so privileged while they have so little?
What have these eyes seen and what have these ears heard, that I never have to?
We met three women who have been beneficiaries and graduates of Sweet Sleep’s Heart for 1 program. They were considered by the government the poorest of the poor. They were all incredible. We met Shambell who designs clothing and sews for a living to provide for her family of three boys. One who is 23 and at the university and the other two the ages of 16 and 18. She also makes beautiful scarves, in which she takes cotton that has been freshly picked, turns it into yarn, and crochets these amazing organic Ethiopian cotton scarves. There was Rachel who sells fries for a living. She buys 100lbs of potatoes everyday. Peels and cuts them and then fries them to sell at the market (with the deep fryer that she bought with her start up money from Sweet Sleep). She smiled as she told us of her dreams to open her own salon one day once she finishes school. She started her own coffee business as well but she passed it on to her mother. Rachel is 18, she has started two businesses, attends school, and is the provider for her family of three. At 18 years old Rachel has more ambition and drive than someone twice her age. She clings to her dreams and not once was her beautiful smile absent.
The last woman we visited was Amit who makes brooms for a living. She welcomed us into her home with a huge smile and homemade bread waiting for us. She was so joyous to have visitors and to share her story with us. She grew up in a family of twelve, however nine of her siblings were killed by communists when Ethiopia was ruled by communism. She had tears in her eyes as she told us about how alone she feels in life. She showed us a picture of her late husband and told us about her sons. About how one one of them is at university and how the other chooses to sleep outside instead of accept that which she works so hard to provide for him. Yet she still fell to her knees in prayer and said Amen to Jesus despite her circumstances. Despite her living conditions. Despite how little she had in comparison to how much we have.
All of these women were such hard workers. All of these women had such joy in their hearts. You could see it in Shambell’s meek demeanor when she showed off her clothing. The dresses that she had made, never having taken a class on how to sew and never following a design. You could feel it as she showed us how she made the cotton thread for her scarves. You could see it in Rachel’s face. Feel it through her smile and her voice as she excitedly told us of her ambitions and dreams. You could see it in Amit’s wrinkles around her eyes when she smiled as she welcomed us into her home. You could feel it when she fell to her knees in prayer. Through her tears when we asked God to be her comfort.
They have all struggled so much. Yet they all cling to the hope that God will provide for them and their families. They have so much joy in the comfort that they belong to Him and that He is their strength. “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.”