I had prayed before going, asking God to allow me to see the individual, not just a sea of suffering. I soon learned that I had partnered with a unique organization, because that is exactly what Pat Bradley, president of ICA actively does, as well as his staff, board, and contributors of this wonderful organization. I am blessed to be on staff and work alongside these wonderful people. I also have much to learn.
My personal experience was marked with encounters with special people along the 12 day journey. As these encounters happened, I wondered if I would remember the indivduals as I re-entered "normal" life here in St. Louis. One such individual I remember is a young girl named Zanabech. I met this 12 year old during a celebration service dedicating the land for ICA's new hospital in Angache. Zanabech caught my eye the first day, and we tried to communicate with each other as best we could. That first day, I gave her a large water bottle and she asked if I had more. I told her to come back the next day, and I would bring her another. I assumed she had loved ones at home that needed water.
The second day, Zanabech found me right away. During the celebration service, I found her watching me intently. She stood for over two hours at the edge of the stage as I sat in comfort. Quite frequently, we made eye contact and she would smile. I rolled the second water bottle to her and she and I waited for the service to end so we could connect again. The service held over 40,000 Ethiopians, anxious to hear what the US team had to say about their first hospital ever in the region of Angache. This region is beyond US description of poor, and many die of basic ailments that could be cured here with ointment, basic surgery, or just immunizations. The hospital will save thousands of lives and bring hope to a people group that have been forgotton by the world.
The service was winding down and our US team began to notice an offering being taken across the crowd. We looked to our enterpreter and he explained the people insisited on giving for the hospital. We all understood the implication of this..many would give the last coin in their possession. As I watched the people give so joyously, I was overwhelmed and humbled. I began to cry, and could not stop. I thought about home, and how so many of us give out of our riches, and these people were giving out of their poverty. We give what we can afford, they give what they need to eat another day. As I cried, something caught my eye. I noticed Zanabech holding out her hand, as tears ran down her face while watching me cry. I realized her hand held a coin and she wanted to give her last coin as an offering.
That moment held more emotion than I can describe. I was humbled beyond anything I can explain. My thoughts turned to my "so called" problems back home and I realized how small my world was. The problems I imagined I had were nothing compared to what these precious people experience daily. The Lord and I had a little chat right there..I repented and asked God to use the rest of my life in something meaningful. I thanked Him over and over again for allowing me to be a part of this miracle, teaching me the thrill of giving to others, forgetting myself.
Zanabech and I had our little chat after she had given her last coin and the service was over. Through our interpreter I found out she has seven sisters, and two brothers. They have no shelter, and only one meal per day. Zananbech knows Jesus, and still has maintained some joy in her life. I could sense it fading, hope is a delicate thing. We hugged many times, I gave her the little bit of food I had in my bag, and one of our team members gave me money to give her...enough to supply she and her family for a couple of months of food. She was all smiles and told me thank you and I love you, over and over.
I hated to leave her. That was tough. I thought about my daughters back home. We throw away more food everyday than Zanabech eats. I felt pain and even some guilt. I clung to the the idea that the Lord brought me to her as a messenger..My message? HOPE! "Hold on, we care, we see your pain, but most importantly, God sees your pain. God knows you, he cares, and He has sent help..don't lose hope. Bringing food, medicine, or water to people is an awesome thing, but it has been said,
“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope”
Pray for Zanabech...not to lose HOPE