I looked up through the holes in a blue tarp roof into an overcast, Ethiopian sky. The dark clouds draped a gray covering on Addis Ababa. Inside this stick built shack, it was very far from gray. Not that the physical had changed, but the beautiful voices of Ethiopian people singing to God made for a very different environment. I often closed my eyes while we sang and imagined myself in the throne room of God. The verse kept coming to my mind, “bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints”, thinking of God enjoying each of these prayers as sweet smelling incense.
Sadly, reality came breaking through. As I dreamt of this glorious future, a little hand tugged at my leg. I turned to find a very young girl sucking on the end of a used syringe. I didn’t know whether to throw up or weep. Both may have been an appropriate response. Not a few minutes later, a shabby little boy that had sat down on a rock next to me, stood up, dropped his trousers, and relieved himself on the ground next to me. Nobody seemed to find it out of the ordinary.
The place we are in is called Korah. Originally a leper colony outside the city, it had now become a city dump as well. Stuffed with 120,000 people per square mile, leprosy, tuberculosis, AIDS, and various illnesses run wild here. The rainy season often floods the dump, washing trash into the streets and into various residences or shops.
We had flown here on our way back to Burundi into the eye of a political storm. Nearly every surrounding country’s US embassy was closed due to Al Quida related terror threats, of which Ethiopia had somehow escaped. War and uprisings are certainly commonplace in this part of the world. Thankfully, nothing major has spilled over into Ethiopia. We hope it stays this way.
We partner with a church serving the physical and spiritual needs of the people here in Korah. Each week after Sunday service, church members sort food into bags which is then distributed to families in need throughout the rest of the week. Children are adopted out of this mess into stable families. Those with leprosy are visited throughout the week. Pray with us that this church can continue in its work in a literal dump of a village.
It has truly been a blessed time in Ethiopia. We are looking forward to future visits here in the future as well as venturing forward into the next year in Burundi.