Friday, September 21, 2012

A Book Extract From Where There Is No Comfort-Seven Days in Ethiopia

I finished reading this book the other day and it took all my will to not shed a tear at the restaurant I was eating lunch in in Thailand.  I sometimes find it hard to put into words how and why I want to move to Ethiopia when people ask me and all I can say is that Africa changed my life and there must be a way somehow that I can help these people achieve a better quality of life and in the process enrich mine further.  Open up the beautiful country of Ethiopia to people who never would have imagined to travel here – bring tourism to a country that is still, learning the tourist ropes and spread the word it is safe to come and if I can help, in turn get others to help, if it only changes one life then we have been successful. 

Below are the last 4 pages from the book Where There Is No Comfort, Seven Days in Ethiopia-Juliann Troi-Eloquent Books 2009 and it sums up my feelings pretty much to the letter.  If you think you can help in anyway after reading this please get in touch with me.  All it takes is one person to start the ball rolling……..  

The next logical question;
How can one make a difference in a world so seemingly upside down?
Early in the 2003 film ‘Tears of the Sun” Bruce Willis’s character cynically states that ‘God already left Africa’.  For reasons I didn’t understand as I watched from the safety of my living room, that scene stuck in my mind.  I have revisited and mulled it over from time to time over the years since.  Perhaps, deep down all that time I wondered if it really is.  Has God abandoned Africa?  Left her to founder and drown in a sea of darkness.  In the opinion of a Nigerian friend, Africa is not dark at all, but rather blessed because there is a much greater opportunity for good here.  Light is indeed brighter and more effective at night than during the day.

This trip showed me two important things:
God has not left Africa.  He is alive and well and working diligently on behalf of His people.  While in need of help, Africa is not in need of anyone’s quick fixes.  She is in need of slow, healing tender ministrations.  Perhaps it is a continent ravaged by disease, many preventable.  Or it is ripped apart by hatred, brutality and greed but, what if, as poets and optimists believe, love truly can effectively nurture the dying and counter hate?  What if little acts of genuine, heartfelt kindness made by people willing to give of their resources or even leave their places of comfort and be uncomfortable for a week or two, can right the worst wrongs. 

It is true that during my seven days in Ethiopia, while I developed a ‘new  and improved’ definition of discomfort and lost many of my illusions, I found along the road of this adventure something deep inside myself that refuses to be contained in the limitation of human words.  Is it curiosity? A desire to know what makes this indomitable people so indomitable.  I don’t know, perhaps I will never will.  What I do know is that they suffer unspeakably, yet their smiles are wide and genuine.  They look different and speak a different language, yet now I see that we are not so different as we might like to imagine.  We all have hopes; we all have dreams, desired outcomes for our trips, whether it be around the world or down the road to the market.  Each life, whether here or in Africa, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, is a rich and varicolored tapestry, an amazing picture that cannot be reproduced by anyone else, only experienced and remembered. 

My tears are gone.  In their place is resolve, a resolve to share what I have seen and do what I can to help.  But that is for tomorrow.  I see the country folk in their small circular huts of mud and thatched straw scattered in seemingly random fashion throughout the hills, the city dwellers to the cramped square rooms of tin or crumbling mud brick.  But they remain with me.  I fear they always will, to curse me with their want. 

Or is it a gift they’ve given me?  Had I not seen them I would never truly appreciate how blessed I am.  I can feed my two children, my daughter is tall and beautiful and more worried about what to wear to school than cheating the death and deprivation that relentlessly haunts them.  Again I am confronted by the hopeless eyes of a mother who knows that for her child there is no bright future.

I desperately fight with the anguish that suddenly threatens to pull me under again.  Though terrible, this too is a gift I realize, for to see and feel nothing would signal an inexcusable callousness and frightening lack of compassion, cold indifference born of a life of self-indulgence.

I cannot help but wonder how you, the reader, will take what I have shared.  Will you become indignant that I would appeal to you for help?  We do, after all, have so many problems of our own.  I have heard so many say “why should I waste money on a people who lack industry and breed like rabbits’. They are only getting what they deserve.  Ashamedly, I must admit that I have even thought it a time or two myself in the past.  Perhaps you have looked past the enormity of the issue and decided it’s just too big for one person to fix.  You wonder what can you possibly do to make a difference.  I know I have been caught in that web as well.

Thanks to Pat Bradley, I went and saw for myself what one convinced and determined person can do.  You see, Pat learned of the plight of the Ethiopians in 2003 after reading a news story in the growing famine there.  He landed in Addis Ababa a short time later not knowing a soul, with only a phone number in his pocket.  Today, through his tireless efforts to raise support and activate others, he has adopted an Ethiopian family numbering into the thousands and through ICA’s work is transforming the barren landscape and giving many of Ethiopia’s children a future and hope for it.

I saw for myself there is nothing to fear, that they are only people, a once mighty people part of Kish, Nubia and Axum.  Each was a great empire that ruled much of East Africa and even rated prominent mention in the Christian Bible.  They have fallen into disgrace and despair, becoming a nation crippled by need with hands out to receive crumbs and scraps from the great foreign table.

I would assert that it isn’t a situation entirely of their own making, that they are not merely ‘getting what they deserve’.  Rather, they are victims of circumstances largely beyond their control-the men can’t control the weather, that sometimes the rains don’t come, or they come too greatly and wash away the crops or make them rot in the ground.  The children can’t control the fact that their parents grow sick and die leaving them without shelter or support.

Perhaps the saddest fact of all is that the Ethiopian people have been in the grips of hopelessness for so long they have forgotten what hope is.  If they are only getting what they deserve, then how much worse could we, who have control of our own destiny and they, deserve for seeing their plight and doing nothing or, worse, not caring at all.

I think of young America with our pioneering spirit and our willingness to help a neighbor in need.  Are we not all neighbors in this ever shrinking world?  The Ethiopian man being consumed by leprosy is no less human and able to feel pain and the devastation of his disease than you or I.  Perhaps he and the rest if his people feel pain more acutely because they are so intimately acquainted with it.  Perhaps they bear their burden so gracefully because they have felt it for so long they have become numb to it and simply accept us as an immutable fact of life.

Perhaps, this generation is hopeless but the next need not be.  With a little help for our sick and dying sister, Ethiopia can become a beacon of hope, a bright light in a very dark place.  Call it terminal optimism if you like.  I prefer to think of it as a good start on rescuing all of Africa.

It is a grand vision I have.  But I realize it is not one I can accomplish on my own.  I can only put words to paper and tell you of their suffering.  It is you, the now informed, knowledgeable reader, who must take my words and give then substance.  You must make them into something real and give them power by joining them to your actions.  Perhaps you have no such vision, are not equipped or even desire to go, but then you don’t have to.  Perhaps you have a little extra that you can give.  Therein lays the real power as it puts resources into the hands of people, like Pat Bradley, who choose and desire to go and meet the Ethiopian people at the place of their need-a place where there is no comfort.

For more information on Pat Bradley and the International Crisis Aid’s work in Ethiopia and around the world go to    

Where There Is No Comfort
Seven Days in Ethiopia
Juliann Troi-Eloquent Books 2009

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