Today I want to write about a couple of experiences I’ve had over the last 2 days. The first is meeting Wendeson. You may have read about him before. Wendeson was born healthy but at some point contracted an illness that caused physical and mental challenges. But when I think about my experience meeting Wendeson, while his challenges are significant, the challenges aren’t what I think of first. The first thing that comes to my mind is his huge, joyful smile. As soon as we stepped through the door to greet him, he had such a beautiful grin on his face. I’m not sure how long we hung out with him, but I can’t escape that smile. I can’t escape the joy that was on his face. We are going to spend some more time with him before we leave, and I find that I can’t wait. I’m excited about seeing that joy again. It’s infectious and addictive.
The second experience is meeting the young woman we sponsor through Compassion International. Her name is Wudnesh (which gave us a chuckle when we found out the name means “expensive”). She is a beautiful 16 year-old, and we found out she wants to be a doctor. In 2 weeks she has an exam that the government administers to determine what a student’s future path is. If she does well on the exam she will get to go to professional school and can indeed pursue a career as a doctor. If she does not, then she will go to vocational school to learn some sort of trade. Needless to say, we will be praying hard that she does well on her exam. It was a great experience meeting her, seeing the Compassion project she has been a part of, and meeting her family. What sticks out to me the most from that experience though is a re-enforcement of how great a sense of community there is here in Ethiopia. We participated in a coffee ceremony with her family. But I realized while sitting there that the central part of a coffee ceremony is not the coffee. It’s the community. The ceremony is a chance for everyone to gather and talk about whatever. And this isn’t once a week or even once a day. It is done as much as 3 times each day. There is even a tradition in some ethnic groups that when someone must leave the sitting area for any reason, when they return the others stand and welcome the person back to the group. That intense sense of community is amazing. And it’s something to strive for.
I’ll leave you with some verses that have been particularly important to me on this trip.
1 Thessalonians 5:14-18
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do you “Rejoice always?” Have you even taken joy in something one time today? Have you focused on someone else? Encouraged the fainthearted? Helped the weak? Have you even spent time with anyone long enough to know they need help and encouragement?
These are the questions I’m asking myself. I hope you’ll ask them with me.