Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Just Be

When among the suffering we find that they do not so much need the skills of our hands or the knowledge of our minds as they do the compassion of our hearts. It is as if the suffering person extends an invitation to us saying ‘Before you do anything FOR me, please come alongside me. Enter into communion with me so that you can BE with me in my pain. Walk alongside me as my friend and companion.’ – Trevor Hudson

I love this quote because I think it houses a very important truth for us: Compassion is ultimately about presence. An outflow of compassion can be giving of our finances, resources and skills, but at the end of the day while those things might help display a compassionate heart, compassion is really about relationship. Compassion is about coming alongside someone in the midst of their pain and struggle and just being there. Pain involves discomfort. Entering into someone else’s struggle IS uncomfortable. But, it’s how life is meant to be lived. It’s how we know that love is genuine…we intentionally enter the murkiness of someone’s situation because that’s what love does. It gets dirty. It is willing to suffer with someone.

I don’t know about you, but my instinct is to fix whatever situation is causing pain. And sometimes, we CAN do things that help fix a problem. But I have come to realize that there are just some situations that I can’t fix (yeah, I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes!). There are many difficult circumstances in which I can’t offer anyone anything but myself. Problems caused by extreme poverty like I’ve witnessed in Africa can send me running to put my head in the sand because they are so overwhelming. But it’s precisely my interactions with people in some of those extremely difficult situations that have helped me to see that Trevor Hudson is right on… People in pain want our presence. They want to know that someone cares. More than they want us to DO something for them, they want us to BE with them.

I saw this played out in Africa so many times. I would visit with people in impossible situations and they wouldn’t ask me for anything. Not a penny, not a drop of water, not a bit of food. Nothing. They would simply thank me for coming and spending time with them. It was so humbling…so astounding to me.

I find myself again about to go back to Africa. A leper colony called Korah in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has captured my heart and I can’t get back fast enough. Most of the trips I have gone on in the past have rushed me from one community to another, and I’ve tried to take in as much as possible in as little time as possible. These trips have left me with crucial glimpses into the realities others face in the world, but with little time to just “BE” with the people that I met.

So, that is what this upcoming trip is all about. Just being with the people. I have no intention to run from once place to another trying to fit a bunch of stuff in. Aside from providing some clean water filters, doing some fun activities with the kids in the feeding program, and providing some basic medical attention, I don’t really even have big plans to be “doing” things for the people I spend time with. This time around I just want to be present. I want to hear their stories, share meals together, hold their children, laugh with them, cry with them, pray with them. I want them to know they are valuable. I want to KNOW them.

Yemamu and his father
My friend, Yemamu, is Ethiopian and runs a NGO (non-government organization) called Hands for the Needy in Korah. He grew up in Korah with his parents who both have leprosy. His father begs in the city and his mother embroiders trying to make a living. Yemamu has chosen to stay in Korah, despite opportunities he has received to leave it. He wants to help the people in his community. He has just started a feeding program in Korah and so we are going to serve alongside him and get to know the people he is helping in hopes of establishing long term relationships. I hope to come back with some very practical ways that we can help partner with Yemamu in the work that he is doing in Korah. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to spending an extended period of time in one place with one group of people.

So...who, you might ask, am I going to Ethiopia with??  Well, I wish my hubby could go with me this time around, but he'll be getting back from a trip to Swaziland the day before I leave for Ethiopia.  So, not this time. But, I am going with some GREAT people!

Meet Lindsey.  She's a fellow adoptive mama to two precious little Ethiopian angels (and soon to another girl from Thailand!), a children's author, an attorney, a blogger, an orphan advocate, an Africa lover...and I could go on and on.  While all those things are great, I just love her because she knows how to love God, love people.  We are lucky enough to have her fireman hubby, Le, come along with us too! Poor guy...the only male among us crazy women! I am so glad he will be joining us!  Hope he feels the same way by the time it's all said and done!   

Meet Abbey.  She just moved to Colorado Springs about a month ago and she is a nurse who wants to use her skills in Ethiopia with me.  I truly can't tell you what having her along on this trip will mean! Medical help is invaluable!! I met her right after she moved here and asked if she'd be interested in joining us and she willingly jumped right on board! Love that!  I’m not going to go into all the details, but suffice it to say that we both have some unforeseen, crazy, God size financial hurdles to overcome in the next week.  However, this past week I have seen God provide in some really cool ways, which is so encouraging!

My church has set up a way for funds to be donated that are tax deductible that will go directly to my Ethiopia trip. It’s really humbling and frankly more than a little embarrassing to be an adult fundraising for a $2,000 trip to Ethiopia but I feel like I just need to humble myself and put the need out there. These people are worth it!!  If you feel so inclined, you can click HERE and donate online, being certain to note “Amy Savage Ethiopia Trip” in the notes section. If you prefer to mail a check, please indicate “Amy Savage Ethiopia Trip” in the memo section and it can be sent to:

The Movement Church
PO Box 62891
Colorado Springs, CO

Oh, and just in case you come away with the wrong idea…we can practice the gift of presence anytime, anyplace and with anyone. You don’t have to go to Ethiopia to find someone who needs you to come alongside them (although I highly recommend it!).  I’m learning that if we just slow down and take the time to open our eyes, we’ll see that there are lots of people in need of a little presence. They may be in our families, down our streets or through the doors of our workplaces. They are there. And they need compassion in the form of companionship and presence.  I hope we choose to see them.

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