I have a few moments (and a working internet connection) so I wanted to update you on some of our activities from here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Right now I am with the advon team (military speak for advance echelon/guard), consisting of Mark (the YWAM Missions Director), Cheri and I and we're doing some scouting, buying gear, meeting people and prep work for the main group, due to arrive on Thursday. I will warn you up front that I am not going to sugar-coat these updates and will discuss in candid terms the things we see and experience. Some things will be joyous and wonderful while others may make you want to throw-up or sob.
First, praise God for a smooth trip over...no delays, no lost luggage, nothing broken, no import tax assessed against us on all the items we brought in for the widows and orphans, etc! We are staying at St. Matthews church and guest house right now. It's is simple by American standards but quite nice by Ethiopian - we are fortunate to have this as our lodging while we are here in Addis. Our hosts are wonderful as well.
Our first day was spent meeting with some key in-country team members and local saints/warriors for Jesus who are doing great things for those in need here in Addis. Most noteworthy on this day, we met up with a dear friend of Mark's by the name of Tesfaye. Tesfaye (pronounced - Tess Fye) is a young man who grew up in an area on the SW side of Addis called Korah. For a brief overview of Korah please see this video :
Video courtesy of MissionEthiopia.com
Tesfaye is both a shining example of God's love in action and a testament of hope for those still living within Korah. Through God's grace, Tesfaye's life was changed by a Christian friend named Bisrat (with his own amazing story) and by a American Christian family who sponsored him and his family. His friend, Bisrat, led Tesfaye to Jesus while his sponsor family has made it possible for Tesfaye to not only finish elementary school but he graduates from college here in Addis this summer! He is a math and physics major (he most enjoys fluid dynamics and integrating IT solutions and applications to this field) who currently and for the foreseeable future plans to teach and tutor in those subjects to other children. He spends most of his free time in Korah giving unselfishly of himself in a variety of ways, most recently: heading up a church building project that we partnered with Tesfaye and other members of the community on, building a weightlifting gym to attract young men to the area around the church and then share Jesus with them; forming an officially licensed charitable organization which reaches out to the area of Korah around the church and where his mother still lives - currently to over 300 widows, orphans, and those in desperate need. This is truly a young man living in faith, trusting God to provide where he could never dream of doing so on his own power and might but through God, he is sharing in some truly amazing moments.
Tesfaye took us around the area of Korah where he grew up, and where his mother still lives, and introduced us to the wonderfully gracious people who live there. We met scores upon hundreds of those living and dying from leprosy, HIV/AIDS, TB, various parasitic infections, etc as well as those simply so poor and desperate that they must live as outcasts from society as they try to survive and provide for their family by scavenging food and necessities from the adjoining city dump. Many live IN the dump... that is, inside piles of toxic, often burning, putrid garbage.
The rest live in crowded mud/dung huts built with material from the dump. These huts are so crowded that you can not walk through them without stepping on people and possessions. We talked with one group who currently had 18 adults and 12 children living inside of a room that might have been 12' X 20'...perhaps the size of many American living rooms...yes, they were literally stacked on top of one another! There was one elderly invalid woman in that hut who had not gotten up out of bed for more than 10 years.
You can not imagine the sights and smells of these places unless you have experienced them first hand. Those that are able seek jobs as laborers, usually making less than $1/day for 10 hours of back-breaking labor, perhaps breaking cement roads or huge rocks by hand with a sledge hammer or carrying construction material on their head or back, often loads weighing as much as they do. Those that cannot work due to blindness, illness, etc. either beg, scavenge through the dump, hope that someone has mercy on them or they die a lonely, miserable, excruciating death.
Part 2 of Oriah's update tomorrow
Photos taken at Korah in November 2010 by Jeff Burns
Our blog header is also a photo Jeff took at Korah