Addis Ababa, July 2018
Addis is a bustling hub of Ethiopian life. Everywhere you look there are people, animals, cars, and trucks going about their daily lives in an indescribable harmony that becomes oddly comforting after soaking it all in for a third year. What I’m struck by this trip as we go about our travels are the walls, and the gates. Houses, huts and businesses are stacked side by side and back to back separated by a wall, and a gate. Everywhere.
I look and wonder. Wonder why all the walls and gates? To keep things in? To keep things out? To indicate ownership, to define boundaries, for privacy? Yes, I realize, all the above.
The families of Bring Love In (BLI) live in houses behind walls and gates in the neighborhoods around BLI headquarters. This creates a sense of family independence while, at the same time, proximity (walking distance) to allow the incredible staff at BLI to do their critical work helping the kids and families thrive. And, thrive they do. It’s inspiring, humbling, and evidence of God’s hand is everywhere.
But, I wonder what God thinks about all these walls and gates? I suppose that depends on what they protect, what they keep in and what they let out.
Back home, someone on our team shared they wanted to feel the God they feel when they’re in Ethiopia. At the time I thought it was a nice thing to say, but, really, isn’t the God in Ethiopia the same God in America? The answer is yes. But, He has a lot more competition for our time in Bozeman than here. We’re very busy people with deadlines, calendars, bills to pay and Jones’s to keep up with; not all bad of course, unless all that stuff gets in the way of our relationship with Him. I suppose that’s where walls come in.
Lord, build walls in my life to keep the busyness, competition and desire for more away from my heart as I long to know you the way these families know you.
We are here with these kids for two short weeks. But in that time with intermittent electricity and dial-up speed some-of-time Internet, you feel many of the distractions of life back home slip away. You rejoice when there are a few drops of lukewarm water in the morning shower. In fact, it’s praise time that you get a shower! But, what fills that void left by the absence of TV, smart phones, pets and Facebook are relationships. Relationships with the people around you, the families you spend time with, and, most importantly, God. There is a difference between how I experience God here and how I do back home. But, I realize now that He’s been the same all along, it’s me who’s different. It is, at the same time, wonderful and a bit sad. I need a few gates to open and close.
Lord, I pray that you will close the gates to distractions and things that keep me from knowing and following You in a more meaningful and intimate way and, to open the gates to meaningful relationships that really matter with family, friends and You.
So, what’s my plan? It’s simple but difficult; prayer and choices. Prayer for strong walls and well-oiled gates that I open and close as the God I experience here in Ethiopia desires me to do back home.
Here we go.