Ethiopian Shoeshine Boy Shakes Me from Selfishness

Jonathan Gannon, Director of Global Outreach, in Addis Ababa.

Jonathan Gannon, Director of Global Outreach, in Addis Ababa.

On Monday, April 26, 2010, the first day of the medical clinic week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, my [Jonathan Gannon, Director of Global Outreach] laptop computer was infected with a virus and rendered useless. When I realized that my computer had crashed, I began to grieve. In spite of all the amazing things the Lord was doing through our Jewish Voice outreach team—enabling our team of volunteer medical personnel to treat 9,750 patients and our team to witness 918 salvations—I am a bit embarrassed to say that I was more concerned with my nonfunctioning computer.

At the end of the day, I was alone in the compound waiting for Dr. Rampona and the eye team to finish the remaining eye surgeries. I noticed one of our local Ethiopian workers who we had hired earlier that morning lingering near the Jewish Voice medical clinic gate, and he came to visit with me. His name is Dems. He is a 16-year-old boy from the Kechene community who shines shoes for a living, making less than 3 cents (5 birr) per customer. His take-home pay typically would be about $1-$3 (15-30 birr) a day.

As he shined my shoes, he shared more of his story with me. This meager living not only supported him, but his ailing mother and his abandoned baby niece as well. This teen was skillfully balancing his work with full-time schooling. Despite these hardships, his face didn’t demonstrate discouragement or frustration. Instead, his eyes radiated hope.

As Dems completed the restoration of my shoes through his skilled shoeshine services, I realized I had become completely emotionally immersed in his story.

“Dems,” I said, “do you know how much we will pay you for your week’s work here at the clinic?”

He had no idea.

“We will pay you 1,000 birr for the full week!”

He embraced me in a moment of spontaneous gratitude and kissed my neck.

Dems, Ethiopian JVMI worker and shoeshine boy

Dems, Ethiopian shoeshine boy.

It was at that moment that the Holy Spirit quickly reminded me of my previously frustrated countenance and how I had reacted so poorly to my computer crash. In a revelatory moment, I repented to the Lord for my selfishness and praised Him for the many ways He had been blessing my life. The Lord used the hope-enriched story of a young man named Dems and his willingness to impart his story in my life to correct my sullen, selfish, narrow perspective.

I share this story with you because when you decide to volunteer with us for a Jewish Voice medical trip, God just might touch your heart as He did with me when you willingly give your time and effort to serve Him to help poor Jewish people around the world. Won’t you consider taking a medical mission trip this year? We have several more medical outreach trips planned this year. Check them out at Or if you know you want to minister to the Jews of Ethiopia, sign up for our medical trip to Gondar. Dates are September 24-October 3, 2010.

Adapted from “Living Beyond the Numbers” by Jonathan Gannon, Director of Global Outreach for Jewish Voice, found in the July/August 2010 issue of Jewish Voice Today magazine. To read the full article and enjoy photos from the medical outreach, subscribe to Jewish Voice Today.

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1 Comment

  1. naod (Ehud )

     /  February 7, 2012

    God Bless you ..keep up the good work ..Ethiopia and Israel are the same for me..God has a special purpose on both.. we Ethiopians really love Israelite the our brothers Ethiopian Jews…Messianic go go go Shalom Israel
    Naod ( Ehud ) From Ethiopia


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