Sidenote: Believe it or not, there are times when I’m completely speechless. I’m completely blown away and just can’t seem to find words. Today is one of those days, so please excuse the lack of ‘description and beauty’ in this post. My mind has been wrecked, and I’m still trying to process…
We’ve spent the last three days in Ethiopia, at a place called Korah. I should have known walking into the ET airport, wearing KORAH shirts and being asked by the locals what Korah was, that something was up. Korah is a place near Addis, we call the Trash Dump. And apparently is a ‘hidden place’, the gov’t likes to keep a secret.
And before I went there, I thought that was a dramatic way to describe it.
Visiting Orphans partners with an organization called Project 61. We have been blessed to be able to work with Sumer Yates, the staff, and the brothers of this amazing project for a couple years now, as Sumer began this organization after a VO trip to the Dump. When I say words can’t describe, I mean it.
I can’t do their bio justice; please visit http://p61.org/ to find out more about this wonderful organization and how it all began.
Coming from such a structured and ‘clean’ environment at Canaan’s, I wasn’t sure how to prepare myself mentally for the 3 days. And after yesterday, I realized, there was not a single way TO prepare. Our time at Korah was spent rebuilding and redoing 4 of the homes in the area. We were also given the opportunity to do VBS with the children in the program, feed the children and the lepers meat from 6 goats, and visit ‘Alert’—the hospital in the area that treats leprosy.
When the teams finished plastering, hardening, painting and dressing the walls in the newly refinished homes, we were able to participate in their very special Coffee ceremonies. My fellow team member, Don Henry said it best when he said, “It humbles me that they give us their very very best”. Mulu and Mercy ground the fresh beans and hand prepared each delicate pour. It was nothing short of heaven in a little cup. And it was such a blessing to be a part of.
And as the day grew longer, my little ‘heaven’ drastically changed into Hell on Earth.
We packed up the 4 vans of Man Up’pers and headed out to the dump. The real dump. We were told that because the government in ET is pretty corrupt, that only a few members would be allowed to actually step onto the grounds, in an attempt to limit the publicity. Because we have the film crew and the guys shootin basketballs with Dude Perfect—they were ‘picked first’.
But God had a different plan in mind.
When we pulled up, the stench started filling the van immediately. Our leaders asked our guides how many could actually go…. And he said, “Everyone. Please. Go.” We were all anxious to go, so we filed out of the vans like robots. As if we were being led to our persecutions. I’m sorry to be blunt, but that’s honestly what happened to me yesterday. I died.
And this is where I struggle to find the words. I struggle to describe what happened to me yesterday. I just struggle to keep the tears from falling every second I think about it.
The Trash Dump was not a couple garbage bins the street children scavenge through to find their dinner. It wasn’t a place where the locals sleep under newspapers and eat ‘rich peoples’ To Go boxes they leave behind. It was MOUNTAINS, MILES full of sloppy, wet, messy MUSH. Hills of garbage. Mounds of dirt as far as the eyes could see. Caterpillars and Bobcats barely making it thru the murky terrain to dump yet more ‘nutrition’ for our Trash Dump families.
Being selfish is the only thing that came to my mind as I trudged through it all. I didn’t want to go any further. I didn’t think I could handle seeing it. I was literally choking back the vomit that was coming up from the smell. My eyes were burning from the sting. Inside my rainboots, my feet were cold and wet from the slop. Had it not been from another team member that grabbed my elbow and said, “You’re not supposed to stop here Amanda, keep going.”…. I’m still not sure I would have seen it the way God intended.
So I walked. And I climbed. And I broke down every barrier, wall, and shell I had around my heart during the past 3 days and let God in. Cory Cotton and Cody Gordon, another two members on my team said, “That’s when you get broken, you let them in.” and “He knows what we need the most, and sometimes just puts it in front of our face. I didn’t expect to be changed. He brought me exactly what I need.” And that’s exactly what he did. He put me in this environment so I could FEEL what they lived. So I could experience first hand the struggle they face every day of their lives.
I was a mess. I couldn’t hold back the tears even if I tried. I was literally shaking. And a little boy, an all too familiar age of 7, came up to me and said, “Dry your eyes. Don’t cry.” And proceeded to give me a hug and wipe my tears. Why was HE holding me? Why was HE comforting me? Wasn’t I there to be doing just that?? He bent over and picked up a package, and under all the mud, dirt and slosh, I read the label by Ethiopian Airlines. A package of salt. And that was his dinner. A package of salt. From the very same airline that got me there in the first place. That could have been my package of salt I just ‘threw away’.
What I saw yesterday at that dump has been permanently placed on my heart. I can’t shake what those children go through each day to just find a scrap to eat or a place to sleep. The mothers carrying over 100 pounds of garbage on their backs to take ‘home’ to their starving families. Kids screaming and fighting and scrambling to get any piece they can, and then hiding it under tarps and plastic to consume later.
I was a mess.
The team started to leave and we prayed. We prayed on top that mess. We prayed for those children, for those families. For answers. For understanding, wisdom, discernment, and knowledge. We prayed for the spark to spread. We prayed. And prayed.
And I cried.
Through the tears, I looked down to the ground between the mess of rainboots and garbage and saw what appeared to be a small white cross. Made out of some piece of trash, of course…but I saw it and recognized it. My teammember then lifted my head, and slowly pointed to the rainbow above. And I felt it. God WAS there. He WAS with us, instilling a spirit of inspiration and brokenness at the same time. And one of the Brothers came to me, one that had been born and raised in this very rubble. And he hugged me. He held my weeping body in the most kind and gentle manner. And he said to me, “Don’t Cry. Just Pray. Our God is a strong God.”
Yiesmachew, Sammy, Maste, and Brothers, P61 and staff…. I pray for you. You are a BLESSING to have in Korah. You are a light in the dark and a Rae of HOPE to these helpless and innocent children. I can’t help but keep reading Psalm 23 over and over … and over and over. You are their shepherd. Thank you…