We visited another home in what is considered a neighborhood in the slums near the International Lutheran Church. Here, we were blessed to be with a new friend, Kurt, from North Dakota who would meet his sponsored child. His mother lives here in her home in the slums for about 6 Birr a month (about $.32 a month). Her home is about 5 feet wide and about 12 feet long, with the last 3-4 feet covered by a curtain with two small bunks built into the wall. The wall is made of sticks, mud, and dung and then painted. As we spoke with her, she made us traditional Ethiopian Coffee through what is known as a coffee ceremony where they roast the coffee beans over a charcoal fire, then hand pound them with a large mortar and pestle, and then heat water to pour through the beans which go through a small horse-hair filter and then are poured in small porcelain espresso cups. I’m amazed she’s doing this for us because the cost of this to her is probably a month’s rent. It is her gift to us.
This house is built on what she calls the river. It backs up to the area behind the bunk beds. It is, in actuality, the river of sewage that runs through these slums. There are no “toilets,” per se, but only holes in the ground that drain into this troughs that run along the roads. When the rainy season comes (which lasts 2-3 months), the “river” backs up into her home and fills the floor with sewage. There is no place to go.
Both of her sons are here, and myself and another new friend Swen from Minnesota and I are engaging him. His English is pretty good. He is attending high schools to learn technology and is fascinated with Swen’s iPhone. He plays games and asks questions.
About 20 minutes into the conversation, the mother and the child realized who had come. Up until this point, they had not realized that Kurt was the child’s sponsor. She began to weep and to tell them how she was able to afford this home and to have moved here to provide a better place for her children. She was moved powerfully, and said that were it not for the church and Compassion, she would not be alive. She had lost her husband several years back. It was such an emotional time, and Kurt expressed his love for their family and his commitment to this family as now a part of his own. This is a tangible way to live out James’ challenge of loving and caring for widows and orphans. I guess I just saw “true religion” in its purest form.
The room was small and a bit tight for the 5 of us on the visit, so I stepped out occasionally. I decided to engage with the neighbors a bit, and a group of women out doing laundry were a hoot. We laughed, and shared a bit of personal information because one of them spoke English quite well. When our group left, they came out with a huge piece of Injera (Ethiopian bread) they had just baked for us, complete with hot red pepper powder. I took a picture of them, and they asked me to send them a photo. I think I’ve got it figured out how to get it there, but they asked if I would visit again soon. I told them I hoped so, and I do.
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