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.

You Keep Me Hangin’ On

2 Aug


You have heard the expression, “Children raising children”.  In American culture, it can refer to a young unwed mother giving birth before graduating from high-school.  Sometimes it is an older sibling daily caring for a younger sibling while a single parent is at work.  In Ethiopia, it can mean an older sibling caring for a younger sibling because the parents and grandparents are dead.  Imagine your life, if at the age of 9 or 10 you were left with no adult relatives and the responsibility of a three year old brother to support.   Imagine if the keep-me-hangin’-on was not just a ride along a rough path, as in this picture, but to life itself.  It gives another perspective to the phrase, he aint heavy, he’s my brother.  LSM’s work includes sharing hope with hearts for kids in this same situation.

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.

To Market, To Market

18 Jul


Its only 6 miles to town.  The donkey carries the grain to sell.  Maybe her husband has the mini-van.  Not.  Our young mother has the steering wheel/accelerator/brake in one hand, the air-conditioner in the other and her baby on her back.  After selling the grain, the next stop is “Walmart”.  Then back home in time to fix the evening meal.  She will not be bringing home, a fat pig, even though she will be bringing home the bacon; the orthodox Christians do not eat pork.  For most caught in the web of rural poverty, meat is only for rare holidays.  This mommy has a donkey and an umbrella; she probably has more financial status than most.  It is the abject poverty that steals hope and shapes every dimension of life for rural families.  It is a cruel master and offers only false hope’s promise in the words of any evil panhandler talking of gold over the rainbow behind the next hill.  Young girls risk life and all trusting in the lies that lead them to the city for a supposed better life.

Water Brigade

13 Jul


Trekking home.  Each girl has a yellow water container of approximately five gallons tied on her back.  You can tell they are 40 pounds full by the girl’s posture.  The direction they are headed…its uphill for a long way.  Would you guess their ages to be 14-16 years old?  This is their daily journey, school has to wait or maybe they just never get an opportunity for an education.  Their duty is to serve their families on the water brigade.  No education and no job skills is the foundation for the difficult lives we see as a backdrop for our beneficiaries.  When they end up in Addis, maybe pregnant or with a young child in tow, on the street with no certain future, we reach out and offer an opportunity for hope.  Sharing this hope in their hearts with health services, job skills training, and education support if those children are of school age.

Planting Season in Ethiopia

10 Jul

IMG_4387Farming is a grueling profession.  

Especially when you take away the 48 row planter and the GPS controlled guidance systems.  Maybe this steering  is not a global positioning system but instead, a good prodding switch.  While there is some mechanized farming done in Ethiopia, the two ox tillage technique comprises a vast majority of the agriculture production.  So as you sit in the air-conditioned cab listening to your favorite stereo music with a productivity apparatus capable of feeding the world, pray for your agricultural colleagues here in  Ethiopia who are putting in long days just to feed their families.

You’re Kidding…How much?

6 Jul

Sometimes you just know it is not the news you were hoping to hear.  I watched as our friend descended the stairs with, hands in pockets, chin on chest, one step at a time, always leading with the same foot.  This time the “forienge wagga” (price for foreigners), was just too high.  The gatekeeper assumed that we had driven a long way and that we would pay an exorbitant price rather than walk away.  He was wrong.  We walked.  But even the exterior shots and the landscapes made the trip worthwhile.




All was not lost.  We were able to see the interior of a rock-hewn church at the next stop.