I don't really have the words to describe the kind of love I saw in action the past two weeks in Ethiopia. I've heard the term "Jesus with skin on" tossed around, but I'm not sure I ever really grasped its full meaning until I watched my two friends Yemamu and Sisay in Korah. God has uniquely positioned them to minister to this community. They both grew up in Korah. Yemamu's parents both suffer from leprosy - his father can't see most of the time and his mother lost her leg to the disease. Sisay lost his father many years ago to sickness. They can relate to the pain and the suffering that exists in Korah because they have lived it. They have scavenged at the trash dump from the age of 12 for food or metals to sell. You might think this would harden them, but in fact, the opposite has happened. These men care deeply for the community they grew up in and have chosen to stay and help the people in Korah.
The people in this community are oppressed by disease, death, hunger and poverty. Korah literally means "cursed". These people are outcasts in their own city because of their poverty and disease. But through their actions, Yemamu and Sisay are helping to break the power of the label that has been put on this community. They are breathing life into dead things, bringing beauty from the dirt, filling emptiness with love and hope.
I was in awe of the humility and gentleness that Yemamu and Sisay exuded. They were never in too much of a hurry. They crossed busy streets to greet people, taking the time to ask how they were. They stopped walking when a little one pulled on their arm, wanting their attention. They bent low to look the children in the eyes.
They carried with them any leftover food they had and gave it to the beggars on the street - always. They wrapped their arms around the suffering.
They gently led blind women to chairs. They cleaned gaping wounds day after day.
They looked a young, raped girl in the eyes and offered her hope when everyone around her offered her judgment. They rolled up the hem of my jeans to protect them from the mud. They walked through a garbage dump to find boys who needed food.
They gave shirts off their backs and belongings out of their own home to those who needed them. They went straight to the people who no one wanted anything to do with.
In a community full of outcasts they were present and engaged. They radiated love and spoke value and worth to hearts who were convinced they were garbage.
I witnessed Jesus with skin on. Again and again.
Before I start sharing stories I wanted you to know where it all started - with two men dedicated to sacrificing for the least of these...giving all they are for the sake of the vulnerable, that the "cursed" would have hope and live in the abundance of joy they were meant to have. Simply beautiful.
Together, they run a feeding program (and so much more!) called Hands for the Needy Ethiopia. What God has done in just one year to bring this organization into being is beyond words. There have been so many hurdles and difficulties along the way, but last week they received the final piece of paper they needed to officially begin feeding the children. I am amazed, humbled and privileged to be a part of the work they are doing in Korah. And I know the best is yet to come...
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor...to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance.
- Isaiah 61