This post is part of my “stories” series. In this series, I share stories of how people live their lives in response to the gospel and as a demonstration of God’s love in order to teach us and to provide an example to provoke us to love and good works. (See “stories: A New Series” for more information about this series.)
The following story comes from the blog of Dave Black. I mentioned Dave and Becky Lynn Black a few months ago in my post “stories: Loving and serving Ethiopians“. A few days ago, the Blacks returned from a three week trip to Ethiopia. They have already started writing about their trip. This is one of his stories (from Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 7:15 a.m.):
To travel to Ethiopia is to be plunged headlong into more deprivation and hunger than most of us have ever witnessed. In my experience, only India comes close. I am very much aware that there are so many needs and so little I can do about them. This morning I would like to tell you the story of two forgotten people with whom I share this finite planet.
Zemete is a married woman in Alaba and the mother of 3 children.
When I first met her 5 years ago, she was in desperate need of fistula surgery. She could control neither her bladder nor her bowel movements. She was totally ostracized from her family and friends in her small village of Kuke. Becky and I were to able see that she got to Addis and into the excellent fistula hospital there, where she had a successful operation. That is not the end of the story, however. Upon returning to her home her husband forced himself upon her even though he knew he had to refrain from all intimacy with her for a period of several months. Since that time, the fistula has tragically reappeared. I met with Zemete two weeks ago. I am eager to have her return to the capital for another operation. But it would be senseless to do so without first getting her husband’s agreement that he will cooperate this time. He claims to be a follower of Jesus, but this is quite impossible in my mind. No man who treats his wife in that manner can be a true Christian. The elders are even now talking with him.
The other woman I want you to meet is Fatima Mohammed. She is a recent convert to Christianity. She lives in the hillside village of Galaye.
[S]he is blind in her left eye and partially blind in her right. I think Fatima is 15 years old, but most villagers have no idea when their birthday is. Last year she lost her parents to starvation. She now lives with her older brother, a simple farmer.
As I think of such suffering, my theologian brain tries to make sense of it all. On one level, all of this is the consequence of the fall. And, since God is absolutely sovereign, He controls the situation completely. That’s true of every person in this world. Nothing takes Him by surprise, including our illnesses and diseases. Whenever I go to Ethiopia I consistently realize the impact of sin in this world. But not only in Africa. There are no boundaries when it comes to heartache and grief. Life hurts!
On another level, however, I know that suffering has a purpose. At the very least, it is God calling me to get involved in the lives of others. He wants me to be like Jesus who left comfort behind to serve the lepers in society. In Ethiopian society, both Zemete and Fatima are absolute NOBODIES. But in God’s eyes they are huge SOMEBODIES. So, while there’s sadness and pain in joining in the sufferings of other people, there is also the joy of knowing that the God of all comfort, the Father of compassion, is right there with us all.
Why I am sharing this with you? I don’t really know. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling the post-trip blues. Maybe it’s because I just need to jangle. I think mostly it’s because I just want you to pray. Pray for your sisters in Christ, Zemete and Fatima. Missions is hugely demanding. The joyous frustration is constant and irrevocable. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live any other way.
If you would like for me to include your story in this series, please send me an email at aknox [at] sebts [dot] edu.