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Changed Heart, New Choice

14 Sep

Circumstances dictate decisions, perhaps more than faith, for many people.  Thoughts originating in the mind bring about selections that lead each of us toward what we think will be the best option for the days still to come.  But this thinking process often is dramatically affected by something we call the “heart”.  Emotional needs and personal preferences based on what we feel will satisfy those needs often prevails over what we would call convictions.  Choice…the Creator’s free will gift to mankind, as the ultimate proof of the love of that Creator.

What happens then when those circumstances are the worst of the worst.  Malignant poverty.  Being all alone due to loss of family and community support structures.  Being pregnant.  Societies cast away.  No safety net provided by government programs.  Can choice take a person in the wrong direction in relation to that life-loving compassionate Creator?  What powers choice for a young lady in those conditions?  Convictions?  Convenience?  Condemnation?  Chances for happiness and well being?  Circumstances affecting continuing existence?

Tirunesh came to that exact place in her life.  She came from a family background of faith and faced a decision that she thought would affect the continued existence of two lives.  Hers and the baby she was carrying.  She faced a choice.  She chose to have an Ethiopian abortion early in that pregnancy.  For some miraculous reason, it was unsuccessful.  She gave birth to a little girl one month ago and found her heart changed in the moment of holding her little girl for the first time.  Even surrounded by the hopeless circumstances of her situation of life on the street of Addis Abeba, one thing was clear, being this little babies momma was the new conviction that would dictate any future decision regardless of desperation.  She came to our drop in center to ask for our help two weeks ago.  She knows that for her little girl to have a chance, she must make choices from the place of a changed heart.  Some call it rehabilitation, some call it reintegration into normal society.  We call it sharing hope with hearts.  For Tirunesh, she will come to call it Compassion…coming from the source of True Compassion.

When It Rains…

11 Sep

…it pours.  Feast or famine.  “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…A time to get, and a time to lose; ,…a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together,..a time to keep and a time to cast away.”  

In Ethiopia, the year 2005 has just roared to a close, gone out like a lion.  You have heard Kidist’s story in the last post.  Two days later, Ababech returned to our clinic.  It was not her first time there.  On the first occasion she came in the early morning and entered our emergency room.  She had obvious scratches and bruises .  She was 8 months pregnant.   She was having some contractions, but no dilation or broken water, and experiencing some symptoms of anxiety and perhaps mild shock if there is such a medical term.  Our staff administered oxygen, treated her wounds and did an exam to determine the status of her pregnancy.  There was a heartbeat.  We listened to her story and the contractions subsided.  She was relieved to know the baby had survived.

Now she was back.  In advanced labor.  By noon we were taking pictures of a healthy little boy and celebrating the blessing God had brought into Ababech’s life and the opportunity we had been given to minister in her experiences.  In her “time to keep”, her “time to get”, according to the purposes under heaven.

There will be a future, “the-rest-of-the-story”, for Ababech and her son and God knows that story.  He must have something in mind for the potential of this little boy’s life that almost wasn’t.  I am glad you wanted to know more about the details leading up to the first time Ababech came to the clinic one month ago.  She was on the street.  She got into a car with a man.  When he found out she was pregnant, she was taken to a remote place, beaten, and thrown out of the car like garbage.  Her famine, her time to experience being cast away.

Now, we can minister in her time to heal, her time to be built up.

So for us at the end of 2005,  it is pouring opportunities to share hope with hearts.  It is a feast.  Not food.  Opportunities to love.


What Goes Up…

7 Sep

The stock market.  Hot air balloons and home-made rockets.  Politician public opinion polls.  There was a lyric line made famous by a group called Blood, Sweat, and Tears when I was a wee lad still wet behind the ears.  Its reference was not to gravity but to the emotional roller coaster of life.  The cycles, the ebb and flow of success and failure, of happy times and strife, of sailing through the heavens and drowning in the sea.  The spinning wheel of life would be in constant motion and the merry-go-round ride on the “painted pony” carried one though the isolated times of just hanging on.  “You got no money, and you, you got no home, spinning wheel, spinning all alone.”

But what happens when the music doesn’t start, or the carousel never turns.  For Kidest, her life was like that.  In labor, no husband, no suitcase full of necessities for after the delivery… just sitting on the bench where beneficiaries wait for an entrance card when I walked into the clinic waiting area at 7:00 am.  She would become our first OB ward patient as soon as the midwife arrived.  Twelve hours of labor later with no progress she became our first referral to a hospital.  Two rejections at two hospitals with no empty beds after that, she was given a chance to be admitted to a third hospital if she could pay 5000 birr.  She had only 300, which was the equivalent of two weeks worth of her potential earnings.  LSM put down the advance payment.  All through the night she toiled.  The next morning the baby was delivered by C-section because of suspected pelvic dysplasia.  A girl.  Still in recovery, two days later Kidist had made no attempt to feed the baby and the OB doctor called and said, “We think Kidist is planning to abandon the baby at the hospital.  You better come and talk with her.”

“Do you want to keep your baby, Kidist?”

“How can I?  I got no money, and I got no home, and in life I am all alone.”  The spinning wheel had ground to a halt at Hopeless.

“Kidist, God brought you to LSM and with their support He allowed your daughter to be born alive and healthy and for you to survive your delivery.  If you had enough money for food and shelter, do you want to keep your baby and be her mommy?”  The music softly started again and the tears began to dry.  “We can support you with $40 a month.  That will buy food and pay your rent and you won’t have to go back to street-life.”  Hope’s assent was betrayed by the wistful look on her face that asked, “Why are you doing this for me?”

So…what is going up?  Another opportunity to share hope with hearts.  When we left I said, “Tebareku!” and motioned with two fingers.  It is the plural form, “God bless you…both of you.”  She smiled.

Dare to Care

2 Sep

A couple of months ago while I was recovering from shingles and had trouble sleeping at night, these song lyrics came to my mind based on an experience that occurred on a night visit.  For some, it will be too raw.  I am very sorry, I am not trying to cause offense so please forgive me if it is a step past your comfort level.  Actually, it really ought to be more than a step past.

Dare to Care

1.  She lived down on the street by the bus depot, near Addis’ biggest shoppin’ district, Mercato.

Her eyes were dark as coal and as deep as a well, but they had to hide the secret of her own private hell.

She fluttered to the window of the van I rode; a beauteous butterfly in flirtatious mode.

One hand on her hip and the other in her hair, “Don’t you think I’m pretty, Do you care to dare?”

She should be playin’ dollies and with teddy bears, she should have a momma doin’ her hair,

And she should have a papa protectin’ her fair; when people hear her story, do they dare to care?

2.  Her eyes were dark as coal and as deep as a well, but they tried to hide the secret of her own private hell.

She flaunted and she primped with ‘perience past her years, but behind those smoldering orbs; I could see all the fears.

I rolled down the window and I beckoned her there, I asked, “Where are your Mom and Dad,

Do you care to share?  Do you care to share?”

She should be playin’ dollies and with teddy bears, she should have a momma doin’ her hair,

And she should have a papa protectin’ her fair; when people hear her story, do they dare to care?

3. Her eyes were dark as coal and as deep as a well, but they could not hide the secret of her own private hell.

A tear ran down her cheek as she started to say, “Mommy died of HIV and Daddy ran away.

My brother’s only four, hid behind that seat, and if I just pull a trick, he’ll be able to eat.”

With burning eyes starin’ into I don’t know where; “Just to be curious, what is the fare?”

She should be playin’ dollies and with teddy bears, she should have a momma doin’ her hair,

And she should have a papa protectin’ her fair; when people hear her story, do they dare to care?

4.  “I know that my body’s not what it will be, but I have hidden treasures I am sure you will see.

Delights that pretend men want me to bare and share.”

Hardly able to breathe, I asked, “How old can you be?”  When she said her answer, I heard Holy terror.

“I am 16, good Sir; I’ll have you to know,” but those deep dark pools said it just wasn’t so.

She should be playin’ dollies and with teddy bears, she should have a momma doin’ her hair,

And she should have a papa protectin’ her fair; when people hear her story, do they dare to care?

5.  I asked again kindly, “How much younger is your frère over there?”

Her eyes were dark as pools and deep as a well.

How much older would they get?  It wasn’t hard to tell.

She answered my question.  I did my math then; to my horrification, she was only ten.

She should be playin’ dollies and with teddy bears, she should have a momma doin’ her hair,

And she should have a papa protectin’ her fair; when people hear her story, do they dare to care?

6.  For food worth two bucks, she took the HIV dare; another mouth to feed, …for love; she had to share.

How much did it cost her to strip her soul bare?  What if it was my granddaughter standin’  there?

When I share her story, do I dare to care?

Really dare to care?

She should be playin’ dollies and with teddy bears, she should have a momma doin’ her hair,

And she should have a papa protectin’ her fair; when people hear her story, do they dare to care?  Please.  Dare to care?

Life’s Work

15 Aug

IMG_4259Interior Column of Rock Hewed Church

Go back in time.  Before the Pinta, Nina, and the Santa Maria.  Continue on back another two hundred years.  Select your favorite hammer and chisel from your tool box.  Its the first day on the job.  Your vision and your commitment for the next 40 years or so is to come to work every morning and listen to a slow beat of, clink, clink, clink.  You pause every little bit to haul away the gravel and then pick up the hammer and chisel once again.  Slowly, you work your way into a hollow spot you have formed in the mountain.  After years of toil, the hollow spot becomes a room and after more years of toil, the room becomes large enough to need a column to support the ceiling.  Maybe,…maybe others have joined in your vision.  So you carve around being careful what you leave and what you cast away.  After more years, the column and the arches above your head appear.  Your hope is to create a place of worship, but you know that someone else will have to pick up your vision for soon your time will be over and the vision left for the next generation.  And every day you pick up your hammer and chisel.  Sometimes it is not clear whether the man with the hammer is shaping the rock, or if the rock is shaping the man with the hammer. But the light of hope in your heart never dims because you sense the God who formed the rock is the same God giving you strength to transform it and that all along He had a hammer and chisel in His hand as well transforming you.  Each day you glory in the Creator and His Creation and each day you trust that in some small way, what you leave behind will be a glory unto that Creator.  In the end, your secret wish is that the room you carved with your life’s work could have been bigger…His Glory was always, and will continue to be worthy.


9 Aug

IMG_3760When we passed through this small rural Ethiopian town we saw a large number of Orthodox women walking in the same direction.  We were traveling a road toward a church which had been hewed out of solid rock many centuries before.  As we passed one group another appeared not far ahead.  The road was rough and we could not go fast.  We arrived at the church eventually; it was apparent that everyone was gathering for a funeral.  We took no pictures out of respect, but the crowd was enormous.  From culture to culture, when we bear one another’s burden, in sorrow and pain, community shares hope with hearts.  In this community, women walk together on the way to the church, the pattern of dress is consistent: coverings on their heads, white gabbies on their shoulders, long one stands out drawing attention to themselves.  Four out of ten of the women in this picture are carrying babies on their backs…family is important.  From generation to generation there is not much change.  Rubber shoes have replaced leather sandals, colored head scarves and printed dresses rather than plain fabrics, yet tradition is still the fabric of community, and community is the fabric of support during the difficult struggles in life.  Before they discard a tradition, they consider what happens when a thread is pulled and the unraveling begins.  On the other hand, tradition can also create bondage and repression through the fear of change.  Community that was meant to provide a haven of refuge, then becomes a prison.  The hope that could be shared then drowns in the sea of, “Endeza naw, beka!” (That is the way it is, discussion over.)

Down on the Corner

6 Aug


This is soapbox derby, out in the street, Ethiopian style.  “Willie and the poor boys are playing”, having fun without even needing an electronic gadget.  School age children must buy uniforms in order to attend government school which is free.  However, in Ethiopian education, a child gets exactly the quality his parents can afford to pay for.  Private schools are out of reach for most.  This photo was snapped during school hours.  No uniforms mean these boys were not in school.  Parents sometimes cannot even afford the small initial expense of uniforms allowing their children to go to government schools.  Lack of education will condemn these young guys to the recycled hardships of poverty as adults with only the memories of the fun times of youth.  This is why LSM is active in children’s lives helping with school fees,uniforms and educational expenses.  Practical hope and spiritual hope sometimes ride in the same wheelbarrow.

25 Miles to Persecution

29 Jul


Find Ethiopia on the map.  Look at its surrounding neighbors.  Look to the west, northwest, north, northeast, east and finally southeast.  Six of eight compass points.  You will find countries where religious tolerance for Christianity is rare to nonexistent.  In the center horizon of this photo, approximately twenty-five miles in the distance is Eritrea.  It was part of Ethiopia before a civil war 1998/1999 and provided coastal access.  After that war it became independent.  Now it is 98 percent Muslim and has one of the strongest records of Christian persecution in the world today.  If religious tolerance fails in Ethiopia, its refugees have to travel south or southwest. As politics of the region stand right now, it would be their only hope.  Please pray for the Horn of Africa.

Main Street, Downtown

26 Jul


It is not Side Walk Sale Days, but it is the downtown shopping district of one of the rural towns in northern Ethiopia.  Where are the cars?  They belong to people passing through.  Everyone else walks…every where.  Most of the shopping is done in open air markets on market day.  The markets are usually close to the church or mosque and so the downtown will have combinations of small souks, hotels, bars, and  an occasional coffee house or cafe…maybe a cell phone shop.  You can tell it is downtown by the street lights; some will come on when the sun goes down…maybe.  The streets; when it is dry…dust, when it rains…mud.  Can you guess what the Ethiopian dream might be?  On an honest day, way more than half would say, “To go to America.”  Except for the lottery winners, most will be staying in Ethiopia, some making a difference for their people.  Most just fill up their lives working so their children will have it better than they did.  Sound familiar?  If we can help children reach their God-given potential, we have shared real hope with hearts.

Expressions of Love

22 Jul


We show our love for family and others in many ways; often within a cultural context.  A husband leads a horse to town carrying a sick wife.  A daughter carries enough wood to sell to pay for medicine for a sick mother.  Love has many expressions.  We show our love for God in thankfulness for opportunities to love and be loved. There are many times in life that the love we have for other individuals God has gifted into our lives for a short season; that this love is gifted back to the Giver and laid before His Throne.  The more we love that person, the harder it is to give that loved one back to God as a gift, but in that giving God is glorified in the trust it implies for His ultimate care. We can also express God’s love by sharing hope with hearts that have not experienced love’s expression from the limited opportunities of their lives.