We all know the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This is Ethiopia: its land, smells and people in a nutshell. When I first arrived, smells were the first thing I noticed. Some were hard to place, a few were new, others were much more obvious. Since I’ve been here, I’ve grown accustomed to what I’m smelling and understand a majority of them. Ones I didn’t like or were hard to place now remind me of food and customs I’ve shared with new friends while bonding over mutual appreciations and smiles all around. Ones that I know, I can spot and brings back a smile to my face over memories made. Coffee for instance and invaluable memories made learning the importance placed on friendships and the honor bestowed upon us to be welcomed into their homes.
Beauty is everywhere in this land if you take the time to stop and appreciate it. Where there is a small flower growing next to a garbage pile, beautiful trees against dilapidated corrugated metal long forgotten or in bright green hills contrasted with the red dirt beneath. The beauty of the trees here are nothing like I’ve ever seen, well except for in iconic “this is Africa” in a National Geographic. This land is beautiful!
But the people steal the show and they steal our hearts. We were exposed to many ministries in Ethiopia while we were here, whose hearts all beat as one. Taking care of the widows, the sick and women and children. They are helping these people by giving them a hand up, not a hand out. These directors and leaders literally have a glow about them. The beauty from within is blatantly abundant and obvious. Their crowns will be amongst the most beautiful in Heaven.
In addition to the ministries, the people of Ethiopia are beautiful as well! I’ve noticed that it’s easy to make eye contact and keep it with them. In a world where I don’t know the language, I have absorbed the greetings they make with their eyes and eyebrows. I have really absorbed the looks, kindness and fascination that they have with making eye contact. I feel an immediate connection to them through that simple act and it’s one of the happiest moments of my day. The joy that spreads from their eyes to their lips knows no bounds, no class separation or language division. My prayer as we interact briefly as we pass by each other is that they will not see me, but see Jesus loving them. Like I see in my fellow Ethiopian brothers and sisters.
We sing the song Beautiful Things, with the children and it’s a perfect way to sum up Addis Ababa and all of Ethiopia.
All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You
If you have the blessed opportunity to come here, I pray that you won’t judge this book by its cover. Open it up and immerse yourself. I feel as if I’ve just begun to crack open the book and it’s titled, Ethiopia and its Beauty!