Friday, December 3, 2010


Climbing Entoto Mountain we saw this:
Elderly women collecting fallen Eucalyptus leaves from day break to day end, only stopping to carry their large loads down the side of a mountain on their contorted backs in hopes of collecting 3-5 Birr, the equivalent to $0.25/load.  Their lives are a meager existence.  But their joy is not lacking.

At the top of the mountain and on the front side, this was a common scene:
Children and adults without shoes, shoes so small their toes bleed and curl, with only one shoe they were fortunate enough to find on the side of the road, shoes breaking apart and held together by a string, are common place.  

We knew to expect this.  That's why we were prepared to deliver the 30 pair of Crocs we purchased in the states:

What we didn't know was God had a better plan.  A plan that involved the Spirit inclining our ears to hear, our hearts to listen, and our hands to obey.

These women, carrying their load of fallen wood, crossed our paths:  

We stopped together to share bread when they asked if we would like to try to carry their loads, their burdens.  The 140+ lb. weight, which explained why many are crippled in their later life,  deterred us from taking more that 10 steps as the twigs from the wood dug into our backs.

Realizing the true weight of these women's burdens was from the Lord.  He quickly paralleled in my heart the burden of hurt I try to carry for Ethiopia, her needs, and my inability to shoulder it on my own.  

With my head hung down to hide my tears, I noticed the feet of these women...bleeding from shoes too small and with a shoes filleted at the toes to accommodate growth...I felt the Spirit direct me to remove both my shoes and the shoes of the woman next to me, to clean her feet, and place my shoes on her feet.  I didn't take notice of the 2 men watching us from a far (in a picture above).  Shortly after, these men and many others began to follow us, talking loudly and gathering others.  A bit worried, but absorbed more in what had passed, our friends soon told us what the crowd was saying, "Their are billionaires in Ethiopia, who have never done this.  Surely the Lord reigns and Jesus lives if He has sent these women to serve and sacrifice for us."  My heart was wrenched, but thrilled.  1.) Because the Spirit directed my steps.  2.) Because we could NEVER have scripted affecting those around us in this manner for HIM. 3.) Because the testimony left behind was of HIM, not us!  We walked down the mountain barefoot but rejoicing because He brought glory to himself in the midst of me.

On my first trip to Ethiopia, I left carrying a mighty burden.  A burden that almost strangled me in my sleep, in my dreams, in my daily life, as I cooked, as I shopped, as I lived.  God knew the burden I was trying to carry was too heavy to assume on my own.  He had never intended this.  He used this trip to rivet me to my soul and teach me that He alone can bear the oppressions of the world; but His plan for me, for believers, does involve sharing in the burdens of those hurting, in need, starving, and dying.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

LoPa LLC.'s Premier

As three moms, who fell in love with Ethiopia, we were compelled to find a way to empower the giftedness of the Ethiopian people.  While in country, each of us understood the artisans we met had true gifting; but we also realized they lacked an audience for their products.  Thus, after thought, prayer, and dreaming, the inception of LoPa occurred.  LoPa has been kept under wraps for about 7 months as we've worked out details.  Finally, after our return trip to Ethiopia to network and purchase for the local artisans, our micro-enterprise business is preparing for the first show.

The idea behind LoPa is to network with gifted artisans and artists, who lack a rostrum, purchase their products to sell in the USA, and then donate the proceeds to humanitarian relief in Ethiopia to create life change for the country we love.  LoPa sells stand alone product and art, which don't require the story of the artisan for promotion...their story is the bonus.  Each artisan we promote is Ethiopian, gifted in their venue, and committed to quality products.  None of LoPa's product are from a factory.  Each product boasts the handiwork of the locals.

Upon our last trip, LoPa was able to select our humanitarian relief organization, which was more difficult than one might realize.  Two of us visited Korah with group.  Korah is the city dump, which has been forged into a community of 75,000 people for the poorest of the poor.  It is said that Korah is the most densely populated Kebeles (neighborhoods) for prostitution (mostly children), brothels, and "bars".  Korah draws from the lepers, those infected with HIV and living with full-blown AIDS (most without meds), child prostitutes, orphans, the starving and dying elderly beggars, and families, who know nothing else and struggle through starvation each and every day.

The smell of Korah proclaims to visitors you have arrived.  Smoldering trash mountains loom in the horizon.  Trash rivers stand between the homes and the working part of the dump.  Birds of prey constantly circle above searching for dying flesh that is too common at Korah.  Each night the people of Korah must stand watch for the hyenas that feed from the dump and the parishioners of Korah.  The scenes from Slum Dog Millionaire come close to expressing the sentiments of Korah- but only close.  The hopelessness of seeing a mother feed the baby strapped to her back from the putrescent food she finds foraging through trash juxtaposes the smile and kindness she offers as she engages you.  There are no words to explain the sentiments of the heart or the impact of visiting Korah.  I cannot imagine the impact of living in Korah.

Thus, LoPa has decided to couple our efforts with two NGOs on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who are introducing a long-term feeding program and scholarship program in Korah.  LoPa will donate the proceeds directly to Korah's relief.  Come help us help those desperate, but hopeful for change, at Korah by attending the first LoPa show on December 8th and 9th from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Paula Brookshire will host the show at 5925 Brixworth Drive in Tyler, TX.  She can be reached at 903-372-9866.  You can also check out our merchandise on our facebook page:  LoPa Art.