Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ethiopia 2013: Ninety Tons of Love and Hope

“I am heading to Ethiopia: Atlanta to Amsterdam to Frankfurt to Khartoum to Addis Ababa. Just landed in Khartoum. When the flight attendant opened the door my breath was taken away by the shock wave of 110 degrees: a brisk spring evening. We aren’t allowed off of the plane so I am sitting here thinking about what lies ahead and mentally preparing myself for the sights, sounds, and smells of disease and death.” (From my journal, April 1) After doing this work for over 40 years, the fact is nothing actually prepares you for what you are going to see, either mentally or emotionally.

There is a fine line between isolating your feelings from what you are seeing so that you can get the job done, and turning your feelings off, altogether. One of the things I learned 30 years ago was that the gift of your full presence is as valuable as the aid you are bringing. The suffering feel invisible and worthless: if I deliver this food as if I were offloading feed for cattle, I dishonor them and the God whom I serve.  

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor … but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

Look this mother in the eyes: do not turn away from the terror and grief you see in her demeanor, as she thrusts her infant into your arms. “Please care. Please help. Please give me hope.”

Don’t walk around in a bubble: touch people. Hold the screaming malnourished child in your arms and speak words of love and hope to her as you would your own daughter.

Sit down in the mud and play with the children. Make them laugh because there are few things more medicinal for all of us than hearing the laughter of children.

I think of all of this, as we drive down into the southern mountain region of Ethiopia. Day one, we spent over 8 hours traveling 200 miles. These are nerve-wracking roads with people, children so malnourished that they have lied down and fallen asleep in the middle of the road, cattle, donkey-drawn carts, more children, goats, dogs, horses, and truck drivers crazed with chewing chut, all “sharing” the road.

When we pull up to the field for our first delivery, we get out of the truck … and begin fiddling. My friend Derek Hammond fiddles with his camera while I walk around the truck as if I were looking for something. We both know what we are doing: “Suck it up, these people need you.” And then we walk around the building and see what we have seen scores of times: hundreds of desperate mothers and weeping children.

On this trek, we are bringing 90 tons of love and hope for 5 villages. There is 56 tons of wheat that families will use for making 100 gram loaves of bread: 25 kgs per family, 2260 families at a cost of $23 per family. They will eat for months! Yes, a meal out here consists of bread and water.  The response of the people is such that you’d think we were passing out steak dinners.

We also are delivering 34 tons of seeds to 152 farmers. These farmers will reap 228 tons of wheat this year. They will give a percentage of their harvest to “the less fortunate,” keep enough to support and feed their families for the year, and have enough seeds to plant again next year. (Imagine planting 2 ½ acres, one seed at a time, measuring from finger tip to elbow.) Talking with these men each of them noted what, for them, was the most exciting thing: they will be able to send their children to school. Hope for the next generation! Such love and hope only costs $29 per family.

These photos are of a handful of the suffering people we encountered. Remember: there are millions of such people, not only here in Ethiopia, but across Africa. 

Mother and Child

The Face of Suffering 

This girl is 10 years old 

Twin girls! 

Make 'em laugh!  

Farmer: "Honey, you're never going to guess what I am bringing home."

"Thank you for the love and hope. Do come again!" 

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

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