Ethiopia Day Two (Two Girls)

When we arrived at the Compassion International project this morning we were treated like royalty.  Wess, the president of Compassion, was too sick with a respiratory infection of some kind to leave the hotel and come with us.  I suspect the royal treatment was meant for him and not me or the rest of our group.  But we got it anyway.

imageA beautiful little girl in pink lace handed me a bushel of silk flowers and shook my hand.  After lots of hugs and hand shakes and name exchanges we walked into the main church building and took a seat on the front row.  A choir of high school and college students sang to us in their language about the Father of the fatherless, incomparable to any other, God worthy to be worshiped.

Then the pastor of the church heading up the project spoke to us, thanking us for supporting their ministry to impoverished in their neighborhood and giving us a progress report – the number of volunteers from the church now involved in the project, the number of mothers and infants being served by their Child Survival Program, the number of Muslim families sending their children to the project and the number of students who have become Christians.  At the hotel, before we left for this project, we were debated by a skeptic, an American from Arizona who doesn’t believe people do anything or should do anything without benefitting financially.  Capitalism is his religion and he didn’t buy that the work I or Compassion do on behalf of the poor children of the world is motivated by anything but greed – somehow.  I imagined him sitting on the front row beside me, looking at our smiling faces, lit up not by profits but by progress.  i wondered if every skeptic would be converted coming to a place like this and seeing Compassion’s work firsthand.

Maybe not.  But what if, on the way out of the project with us, they got a flat?  That might do it.

When we drove through the project gates, heading to our hotel, our front right tired blew.  A crowd of men and children gathered around as the car was raised the the tire wrestled from it.  That’s when she walked over to me.

imageSnot ran from her nose.  She wore no underwear, no pants, no shoes – only a shirt several sizes too large for her thin body.  I took her picture and she came closer, intrigued by my pale skin or that strange silver box in my hands with all the buttons on it.  I took her picture again and this time showed it to her.  No smile.  I noticed she was missing a toe nail on one foot, and her scalp had some sort of white bumpy rash that made her hair fall out in spots on the back of her head.

The difference between her and the girl in pink lace was stark.  This is the difference Compassion can make.

We got back in the truck and headed home but the girl in brown was still on my mind.  Why wasn’t she enrolled with the Compassion project?  Were there just not enough space for her?  Are there just not enough sponsors in the West to make more room?