humble grace (africa3)

After walking the dusty, rocky streets with no names among the chat (old books spell it khat) sellers, vegetable vendors, and small herds of street goats, we returned to the home of my host where I was oh so graciously served a lunch of misir wat, gomen, and beef tibs. Misir wat is a dish of lentils with tomatoes, onion, garlic and salt. Gomen is ethiopian cooked greens, and beef tibs are bits of beef cooked with peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic and rosemary. Misir wat ends up as a paste similar to refried beans in texture, and if you take a little of each in one bite it is delicious, especially the way our friend “E” made it – with love.

We thanked God for the food and ate heartily, talking of mutual faith and family and then culture and customs. Just after lunch I learned that the house was out of water. This is a foreign concept to me as an American, but I learned that there are two tanks at this – and many – houses. The lower tank that you fill, and the upper tank to which you pump water from the lower in order to let gravity then provide the running water for showers, faucets, and flushing. The tanks were empty. Water was not coming from the one water hose at the edge of the property today, as it often doesn’t, and that meant we needed to img_2816find a mule and cart to bring water. That’s just what we did, and in a short time we had water in the tanks again. Don’t assume that means a nice hot shower with good pressure though. That means lukewarm water at whatever pressure is gained by coming from the roof.

Just this made me rethink my thanking God for the food, and prompted me to thank Him for more than I usually do. And be thankful to my hosts for giving when the resources from which they gave were unreliable. In East Africa and especially in the United States. I take so much for granted. Yesterday it was God’s presence and today it’s His provision. Come to think of it, if we grasp the idea that our resource is God, we can’t even call it unreliable. It’s tempting to let this conviction translate to guilt, but that’s not His purpose.

He doesn’t convict towards guilt, but towards change.

Only we or the enemy move this toward guilt.

img_2820After filling up the tanks and correcting and re-correcting my spirit, we took a trip to the one of the local malls. Here we found a sewer’s paradise. The fabric stores to which I’ve accompanied my wife over the years have nothing on the Horn of Africa. Alleys after alleys of nothing but clothes of every color and texture. If only that did something for me. I wished my wife was there, but then I thought about how long it might take her to go through it and dismissed the thought. In other narrow covered alleyways were candies, vegetables, household goods, pre-made clothes, shoes – just like a mall, only not. Upon leaving, we found the opportunity to get above the fray and see the roof of this market, just in time to hear the haunting same haunting call to prayer I had heard so many times in Jerusalem.

This, honestly, is where some prejudices starting collapsing. I learned that both the Muslims as well as the Orthodox Christians use a call to prayer. I learned that some of the people that were dressed like Muslims in the market were likely Christians who maintained their eastern culture. I learned that Arab speaking Christians call Jehovah – Allah. I simply never understood this. Oh I knew that “Allah” was the Arabic word for “God.” But my prejudice had blocked this from sinking in. I looked across the tin roof of this Eastern Market toward a minaret in the distance and my mind struggled with growing pains. But this was only the beginning.

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Before we headed “home” for the evening, we stopped at the neighboring market, called “Hoodide.”  My friend explained that this is where the Ethiopians trade American charitable donations with one another, and to recognize one of the common and likely sources of the goods, they gave the market an American name, phonetically, anyway. Say it again: Hoo Dide?

I had a lot to ponder, and I laid down in my room, on my bed, and did just that, until I drifted off to sleep, to be awakened again by monkeys and parrot calls.

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