Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I have a friend in Ethiopia whom I've not met. Yet.

I spent a day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, while en route to Djibouti for work.  I took a walk and met a young fellow shining shoes.  He asked if he could walk along with me and practice his English.  We made a few blocks, passed by Haile Salassie's palace, and came to the little community where he lives.  He asked if I wanted to meet his mom, so we made our way down the rough path to the little shanty he calls home where I met his dear mother and sister.  Mom is blind; the kids take care of her.  Dad was a soldier; died some years ago.

We talked for awhile; the kids made me coffee on a little charcoal stove.  They had me sit in the only chair.  When it came time to leave, mom took my hand and blessed me.  They hadn't asked for anything, but I gave them what I had.  The young fellow walked with me back to the hotel, and promised to pray for me.  I left him a business card because he asked if he might email me.  He doesn't have a computer or anything for that matter, but his older brother is a student in college some 400 miles away and has occasional access to the web..

A few weeks later, I get a gracious email from the brother.  We've been corresponding for awhile now.  He's finished his sophomore year in college and doing well.  We trade stories and thoughts.  We hope to meet sometime soon; he's home for the summer with his mom and siblings, and I may have a trip through Ethiopia in July or August.

So, I have a friend in Ethiopia that I've not met, but he and his family pray for me and mine.  What a wonderful world.

UPDATE: JUL '13 - Older brother graduated from college last summer and is now employed in the telecommunications industry; entry level stuff, but exciting.  Little brother has graduated from trade school just a few weeks ago; looking for employment.  Sweet folks.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oil Spills Make Exxon Valdez Look Like a Trickle

Amnesty International Photo from the Niger Delta.

From last week's news...
New York Times News Article

And a couple weeks earlier...
AOL News Article

And to broaden our view a bit...
CBS News story today.

Time for change?

Monday, June 14, 2010

My first African friend.

Her sister does her hair for her in about fifteen minutes, I'm told.
The youngster here was the first to greet me in Africa, Christmas a few years ago, back when she was a first grader.  I was at her school, delivering some books and school supplies.  While I was talking to the principal, I found her attached to my knee.  When I picked her up, she hugged my neck and kissed me on the cheek, then wiggled to be let down, and scampered off with the rest of the kids, leaving me absolutely undone.  I assume she was saying thanks for the school supplies I'd brought.  The principal explained that I'd shown up just a couple of days before their school Christmas party and that now he had something to give each student.  It was then, I think, that I began seeing Africa as individuals.  It's many countries, many cultures, and so many delightful folks.

The photo (right) was taken a few months later on Children's Day '08, but it was another year before I could pronounce her name correctly.  She'd speak so softly that I couldn't hear her when she corrected my pronunciation.  I finally had a teacher write it for me.

Friday, June 11, 2010

For minutes at a time ...

Looking at a picture I just took ...
I enjoy little children for minutes at a time.  A mother hands me her baby to hold, which I enjoy. They're on loan, though, and I give them back after a few minutes.

He's wearing my glasses, just for fun ...
I'm impressed by teachers and others who do what I can't, spending day after day with children, doing the hard work of forming their minds and shaping their behavior.

Africa affects me similarly. I enjoy being there for a few days or weeks at a time. After that, I lack the durability to face the real life circumstances. My wife accompanied me there recently and reported similarly that it was both a joy and a tremendous blow to her heart to meet people there and care about them.

So then, I have a short list heroes in Africa; they're are on the ground there, serving our brothers and sisters in such practical ways. They do it day after day, week, month, years. They do all the things I cannot, and they do it with grace and compassion.

Ned Seligman, for example. He's the director of a little NGO in Sao Tome that serves the communities so well, so practically, and with such insight. He's been doing it for decades; it's his life. It almost cost him his life, now that I think of it. I was with him a couple of months ago in his office; it was a wonderful help for me to hear him describe the practicalities of serving.

So here I am at the beginning of a long summer; hot and muggy.  All in all, if it's gonna be hot anyway, I'd rather be in Africa.