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.