Today I visited the Koshe dump, stood on the edge of the trash and could not fathom that only two weeks ago I had walked up and down and through the village of makeshift shanty homes that now have completely disappeared, buried in an ocean of garbage. I watched excavators digging for bodies and heard stories from those who survived- how anyone survived I don’t know.
We sat with the bereaved in a huge tent, shared in their grief as tears ran into plates of injera and misir wot. Grandmothers held photos of their dead grandchildren, mothers photos of dead children, husbands photos of dead wives. It seemed everyone had lost someone and there would be silence followed by an outburst of uncontrollable sobbing. No one tried to lessen the sobs- they just let them cry or joined in. Silence followed by the sounds of a heart breaking.
When we left the tent and the site of the dump, we returned to my friend’s house where she noticed my feet – feet covered in dirt and compost, feet sunken into the garbage mountain, feet going farther to survey the homes that no longer were visible. And so lovingly she took water and soap and bucket and washed away the filth. A picture of what took place on a cross two thousand years ago , a vision of what could be possible- that this tragedy could be washed clean by the love and sacrifice and grace of us- the Christ followers, the body left to take up the cross and way of the son who humbled himself.
Everywhere we walked we saw a grieving community- a sea of black scarves and clothes. At the care center were hundreds of survivors- they had lost everything they owned – family members, their livelihood and they sat on mattresses side by side in a shock like state. Except for the children who gathered around me and smiled and practiced English and wanted a hug. We visited several of the new mothers in the DHI program. I was stunned to know that many had surfed down the mountain in their tarp structures – one with 12 day old babe in arm- being at the top of the mountain somehow helped in their survival. Everywhere I looked at the care center I saw young mothers nursing their babies. So many women and children among both the living and the dead.
As we left the government care center we were given a list- diapers, toddler toilets, new clothes, hygienic materials, formula, milk and sugar. This list I have added to my other list from yesterday’s visit with the pastor and elders from a local church: 100 mattresses, sheets, pillows, blankets, dishes, cups, buckets,wash basins, bars of soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, washing powder, clothes and food. And How am I to provide all this?
Yesterday I laid my hands on the tub of clothes I had pulled out of our closets and bags of food I had taken from our pantry- the few hundred dollars that was in my wallet- and I prayed God would multiply it as he did when he had compassion on the 5,000.
These people lived on a dump. A dump. Hundreds died a cruel death – their bodies trapped inside a mountain of rotting, stinking rubbish while their loved ones stood in darkness, trying their best to save each other. How can I sit by- a Christ follower- and appreciate my comfort and somehow believe I have the right to turn my eyes away because it’s too hard- too hopeless- too complex?
These people are not garbage. They are mothers and sisters and wives and friends and husbands and fathers and brothers. They are so much more than the poverty they were born into. They are people who work hard to care for their families. Mothers who return to the dump, leaving baby with grandmother, to sort through metal and plastic to pay for the tarp plastic tent they call(ed) home. People who pull together in hard times. People who give of their few belongings to help their brother and sister in need. People who sit side by side sharing grief.
My heart is so heavy and I pray Lord Jesus may you show us the way forward. May you multiply resources. May you raise up your body to be the hands and feet that are needed to bring healing and restoration to this tragedy. May you open our eyes to those in need and call our bodies to action. May We care less about our comfort and more about doing what is right, just and godly. May I be more like my Ethiopian brothers and sisters who hope and trust and depend on you.
Friends and family, DHI supporters- I know I continually am asking for help, for support, for money for our family and others. And now I humbly ask again. Can you help me multiply what God has given us? Can you help us with this impossible list? Can you share this burden with me and my brothers and sisters.
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