Yesterday, Mark and I went for a morning walk to Kahldi's and got macchiatos. Afterward, a local starred at Mark in the street wide-eyed and smiling and said, "Brad Pitt! I like you!" in a thick Amharic accent. Mark smiled and said, "Thank you." HA!!!! I guess the guy did't get word that Pitt's with a burnette now, and not a blond. It was the best compliment Mark could've wished for though, and we walked the entire way home laughing about it. Mark and I later visited our new friends' house. There are some Texans here working for a consulting company and ministering to the people of Addis. They are a beautiful family of 6 (all children under 5!), and they are so incredibly hospitable. The best part was enjoying Texas style tacos on fresh, homemade tortillas and coke out of the bottle. We loved connecting to our Texas roots and enjoying the fellowship of friends!
As I mentioned, the exhaustion has been creeping in on us as our bodies and minds have begun to relax more. Last night, I was so tired and grumpy, and I couldn't see waking up in the middle of the night with Zane again. My head hit the pillow and I was out. At 7:30 this morning, I realized that I slept through the entire night. I felt so refreshed, like God had given me a gift. He always knows what we can handle, and He doesn't give us any more than that. After breakfast, we did our devotional, and the topic was "I know God loves me because He gives me sleep!" HA! I know I've said this before, but I think it's amazing how God has been speaking to me through the book that was intended to minister to Zane. Yet again, God showed me that He loves me through such a simple concept: sleep.
Today, we decided to head to the Sheraton to see why in the world the rooms cost around $650 a night. Yea, that's dollars, not birr. We've heard it's a sight, and all of the Ethiopians are so proud to show it to you when we pass by it's vicinity. But again skeptical, we had to see it for ourselves. Our taxi drove up to a beautifully landscaped gate surrounded by flags from all over the world. The building was a palace complete with balconies on each room, terraces overlooking Addis, rose bushes, orange trees, and other beautiful plant life. In the lobby, we were taken with the view out the back windows overlooking a gorgeous fountain extending the entire length of the garden. Spiral staircases of marble and iron, enormous chandeliers, and the smell of fresh flowers captivated us. There were gift shops, a bakery, jewlery stores, a spa, ballrooms, 5 beautiful restaurants, an outdoor pool (resort really), a kid's playground, and halls of luxury. We spent about an hour and a half touring the amazing grandeur. To finish our posh outing, we ordered a strawberry tart and chocolate chip muffin from the bakery, sat on the plush couches of one of the many corridors, and soaked in the luxury of it all.
(Please note the game day attire for the Aggies' first game. Didn't think we'd forget did you?)
This outing was an interesting paradox as we stepped into the street, past the iron and gold gates, and into the reality of poverty and hope once again. A man begged us to ride in his taxi, children in rags pointed at us as if we were celebrities, and tin roofs corroded by rust filled our view once again. This city is a place of contrast: the wealthiest of wealthy citizens living alongside the poorest in the world. I don't know how to process this. I don't understand it or have any idea what to do about it. Sometimes I feel guilty. Should I have eaten that strawberry tart when this child staring at me has probably never even imagined one? What is Zane's birthmother doing right now as he stares over the marble barrier into a fountain of clear, cool water, not for drinking...just for decoration. I wonder if she's eaten today.
I honestly don't know what to feel about what I've seen and experienced here in Addis, but I know it won't leave my thoughts and the paradoxes I see haunt me. What does one do to change the social and governmental makeup of an entire country? Ministry after ministry come here to serve, money is sent to fund national programs, mission teams flood the region with aid, yet there is still the burden of so much need here...
I see the need, and I am powerless to do anything about it. At least anything that makes real and lasting change. I need something bigger and more powerful than me. All the money in the world won't change an aid-dependent people into thriving entrepreneurs. All the help in the world won't create a mighty, independent nation, and all the education in the world can save someone from generational poverty in a corrupt system. What can I do about THIS? I've decided I can do nothing. Maybe that's exactly what my mindset should be. Maybe God wants me to realize that it must be Him working through His people to exact change in anyone or anything on earth. Is this a cop-out? No! It is through Christ that ALL things are possible. I have a responsibility to pray, seek God's will for this country, intercede for them, and obey when God sends me out with clear direction. Only he can make impacting and lasting change.