Monday, August 12, 2013

Ethiopia :: Days 1 & 2

My first glimpse of Ethiopian soil felt something like historic. The wheels of the plane hit asphalt and the axis of my heart jarred. It was that different, that suddenly.

So, you know, my eyes welled up a little.

Two rows up a couple of dark-skinned chatter-boxes shouted, "Is this Kenya??!" And next, "We're at the very bottom of the world, where all the buried treasure is!" I started taking literal notes, because I don't know, it felt like a stitch sewn into my heart, something meant just for me. It felt like a secret message that there really was treasure waiting here with my name on it.

They began a vigorous round of chanting, "I wanna find buried treasure! I wanna find buried treasure!" All I could do was nod along, their wonderment contagious.

What locked in place today is that the treasure isn't buried. It's right here, out in the open.

The thing I guessed about Ethiopia and my time here was that there would be beauty behind the brokenness.

What I know now is that the brokenness is the beauty. And isn't that true of all of us?

Last night we crept down the streets of Addis, our heads wrapped in scarves, in moonlight. It was important for us to discretely see the truth about the lives so many of the women here are living, lives where there is no keeper, no brother to protect them, no husband to provide for them. We needed to bear witness to an aloneness so profound that a woman chooses to sell her self-worth for the equivalent of twenty-five cents. One quarter, in exchange for dignity.

All I could see in their faces was my own. I saw all the ways I had traded down. I saw the ways I had been redeemed.

I wouldn't dare pretend that I have suffered as they have. I'll never wrap my mind around why my marble rolled to a life of relative comfort and ease while theirs tripped down the rocky street of a life bent on ruining them.

But we're kin. We want and need the same things, often searching in the wrong places. Their shame is colored with a different kind of pen, but a rescue waits for them just as it waits for you and I.

I'm surprised that I'm not stunned by sadness or gripped with pity.
What I am is galvanized.

It is high freaking time for me to really understand that these people are my family. We are united in pain and in splendor, tied together as fragile members of humanity. This mutuality means that what I have to give is theirs. I cannot be okay with my young sisters standing on a street corner because they feel it is their last hope, their only chance.

So what is the true price of dignity? What is the value of safety? What would we pay for our own rescue?

These women are heroes in the making. They're living a story that feels to them like an ending, but I know better than that.

I know that every hand that touches them, every time they clamp their eyes closed in escape, every minute they spend standing in the rain looking for a quarter, they are one moment closer to redemption.

They are treasure right now, right where they stand, because they are treasured by their maker who created them in beauty, with a purpose.

You are treasure right now, right where you stand, because you are treasured by a maker who created you in beauty, with a purpose.

I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—
    secret riches.
I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord,
    the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.
- Isaiah 45:3

**Click here to see the hand-crafted leather goods and hand-woven scarves created by the women.