Lessons from Ethiopia

Next to this amazing country of ours, Africa is my favorite place to travel. Once there, a piece of your heart stays forever. It’s a diverse continent with loving and warm people, so I was looking forward to returning for a third visit—this time to Ethiopia.

It’s been on my heart to expand our weekly TV program, Facing Life Head-On, to include international episodes. Thanks to the generosity of dear friends of the Institute, I was able to take the film crew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in February. It turned out to be a trip of a lifetime for all of us. We left while many friends and family prayed for safety and success. We certainly achieved success, as we went with the intention of filming two new episodes and came back with content for four!

After arriving in the nation’s capitol, we quickly experienced our first miracle of prayer. We managed to get all of our new, high definition cameras, lights and related equipment through customs with little trouble. Abebe Getachew, our local guide, was amazed and is probably still scratching his head over that one. He secured a driver and luxurious bus by most standards, which would be our mobile office for the next two weeks while filming.

We immediately drove to Nazaret, about 2½ hours away where there is a maternity home founded by Dinah and Mike Monahan. Dinah’s parents developed the 10-week baby feet pin which is now an international symbol of the pro-life movement. This and a plethora of pro-life materials are sold through Heritage House 76. The considerable amount of time we spent safely traveling by bus was further evidence of prayer. Driving in Ethiopia is a free-for-all experience. A particular style of truck was dubbed “Al-Qaida” by locals because their drivers kill so many people.

Living Hope Maternity Home was the subject of our first episode. Twelve girls and several babies, with a few more on the way, lived in this safe and secure compound. It was a little oasis from the dirty and noisy streets of the city.

I love babies and old people, so this trip was tailor-made for me. The entire crew got to love on babies while we interviewed and interacted with the young women. And we learned that when Americans request the traditional dish of goat, be prepared for them to lead the “dish” into the compound and prepare a “fresh” meal! It was delicious and there were many leftovers, an extra special treat for the young mothers living there.
Living Hope teaches them to be resourceful in finding ways to make a living—something that’s very hard for an unmarried mother in Ethiopian society. Most have been shunned by their families and have no government programs to rely on. We were absolutely amazed at the beautiful beaded necklaces they make to sell. You’d never know they were constructed out of paper! You can watch the two-part episode on Living Hope Maternity Home at www.facinglife.tv. Or contact us through the website to purchase a DVD of the program. Both parts have aired.

After a brief respite that included getting up close and personal with baboons, ostriches and crocodiles, we traveled back to Addis Ababa, a city of about four million. Most every vehicle belched black diesel fumes, and traffic congestion was what you’d expect times four. However, we did see a couple of functioning stoplights.

Poverty is prevalent in many African nations, but we experienced a level of destitution that I had never seen before. Youth With a Mission arranged for us to interview several elderly widows who were being sponsored by the Christian organization through American donors. Most of the women had to scrounge through the local dump to feed themselves and the grandchildren parents had abandoned on some of the women. I wish I could have brought a couple of those dear grandmothers home with me. Their joy and enthusiasm for life, even in abject poverty, was contagious. This TV program aired the week of May 27 but will also re-air, so check www.facinglife.tv for details or to purchase a DVD.

We also interviewed those involved with a true rarity in Africa, the Ethiopian version of a nursing home, called Macedonia Center for the Elderly. It was founded by Binyam Belete, who had spent time in the USA but felt called to minister to the people back home. He converted his boyhood home into a safe haven for those considered the dregs of society—the downtrodden, elderly, mentally challenged, and those with Down syndrome and autism. After only 18 months, the home had 155 residents and was totally run by 35 volunteers. They literally went out into the streets and brought these people in to give them shelter, food, clothing and medical attention. But the most important thing they said they give to the residents is love. “For without love, you give them nothing.” I asked one elderly resident what was the best thing Macedonia gave him. His animated response was, “They gave me a family again! I was so lonely out on the streets.” This episode aired the week of June 3, but will also re-air, so check www.facinglife.tv for details or to purchase a DVD.

Ethiopia’s beauty is matched only by the beauty of its people—both inside and out. The most humble of Ethiopia’s society taught the crew and I invaluable lessons: be thankful for what God has given you and seek Him always. I can hardly wait to return to Africa some day.

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