By Angela Smith
As I look back into the eyes of the children, I see love, curiosity, hope, and longing…. I see silly children… laughing children… tormented children… helpless children… hopeless children.
And I remember the day I was interrupted by an invitation to visit “the dump.” And I will never forget.
Rubble, rubbish, refuse—unrelenting poverty at its best. A toddler barefoot and bare below the waist, crouched down all alone in the middle of broken concrete shards. He is crying, but no one responds to his cry. I wonder about him as our translator moves us along… I see the tepee-type structures (houses) comprised of plastic bags, tarps, and blankets… life in the dump… and suddenly life!
Children—somehow happy children—come rushing toward me, exclaiming in perfect unison, “Hi! Hi! Hi!” They momentarily whisk me away from the overwhelming emptiness of the dump, and sweep me up in their excitement.
I bring two things this day—a camera and my love—both are put to plenty of use! I laugh with them, sing with them, take many fotos of them and with them. Then, of course, I show them what they look like in the pictures, and it makes them laugh! I speak to them with what little Amharic I have learned, and they laughed even more!
“Conjo,” I say lovingly to the girls as I hold their small faces, telling them they are beautiful. “Gobez!” I say. It means very good. I shout and clap as they sing their native songs to me.
All the while, I notice one young girl off in the distance, holding her younger brother in her arms. She is not unlike the other children, except for one thing. She does not smile. It isn’t there. She is a beautiful young girl, but a smile has not lit up her face as with the others.
I now have a mission. I am now a child, one of them, though nearly 30 years old, and will stop at nothing until they—all of them—laugh and smile. I pull out my best material: dolphin noises, goat souns, monkey calls—complete with scratching and whooping. The children roar with glee.
She moves closer. I catch her eye and smile. “Ixiabeher od’shal, Od shalo,” I manage, telling her that God loves her and so do I.
I continue in silliness, making high- and low-pitched laughing noises, and now they are all laughing at me, but she walks around the little crowd that has gathered. Then I see it. Though small in the beginning, the first crack of a smile begins to peel across her face. I catch her eye again, and paying special attention to her, I say, “Salam nesh?” (How are you?) She allows a shy smile to smooth out her lips in response, and then she timidly glances down.
I say, “Conjo, ehite” which means “beautiful, my sister.” Admittedly not the best usage of grammar, but it is what I have. I repeat phrases like this to her and pat her arm softly and talk to her little brother.
The other children are bouncing and vying for my attention by now, so I turn and smile and point at them to let them know I was still engaged.
The young lady approaches me and says softly in my right ear in her very best English, “I am happy.”
I remember the dump, yes, but more than that, I remember Zeda, the young girl who had no smile, yet eventually warmed up to a goofy girl who tried to emanate the love of our Messiah.
I played the fool that day, yes, and for very good reason, but it was more than that. Zeda is a beautiful young girl who may never know a life outside her present surroundings. To bring inside her shelter of suffering a Savior who shows Himself through those who aren’t afraid to love is perhaps the best gift she could have received. I know it was for me.
Gondar, Ethiopia Medical Outreach 2009
We at Jewish Voice have been ministering the love of Jesus around the world for more than 40 years through our television program, medical outreaches—like this outreach in Gondar, food deliveries, international festivals of Jewish music and dance, church leadership programs, teaching resources on the Internet, and so much more.