Prayers for an Ethiopian Pauper

By Lavi Matesan,
Reporter and Photojournalist for Jewish Voice

DATELINE: Gondar, Ethiopia
September, 29, 2010

Banchihum is touched by God's compassion demonstrated by JVMI.

Banchihum is touched by God's compassion demonstrated by JVMI.

Fifty-year-old Banchihum is a beggar in Gondar, Ethiopia, who for the past three years has suffered from elephantiasis, a painful medical condition that causes swelling in the extremities.  Due to this malady, her legs are double their normal size and her feet are severely bloated. It was clear from a quick look at her bare, flat feet that she has not worn shoes for many years.

Banchihum lives in a makeshift structure of found objects – cardboard, sticks, plastics, even some metal – and she rents her mattress, nothing more than mere cardboard and a blanket, from a landlord. Worse still, 10 strangers share this cramped “home.”

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I’ve been fortunate to get a glimpse into how people live here in Ethiopia through my travels covering stories for Jewish Voice. It certainly has helped me know how to pray and to help these people that God loves. But I can honestly say this: What I thought was the worst of the worst housing conditions, living with your family in a mud and straw hut, turned into way worse when I saw people living the way Banchihum was living. And she was alone now; one son had died and the other had gone to prison.

Banchihum gets her feet washed by nurse Mara.

Banchihum gets her feet washed by nurse Mara.

When this desperate Jewish Ethiopian woman came to the medical clinic, she got more than medicine and instructions on how to care for her debilitating condition. She got something straight from the Bible – her feet were washed and anointed with ointment by nurse Mara, and our prayer counselors interceded for her before God. We found her a pair of men’s shoes and pray now that no one steals them from her, for she has nothing but the things obtained from our clinic and the clothes on her back.

My prayer for Banchihum is that the temporary relief provided at the clinic today would be multiplied to her, for where a few fish and loaves fed thousands in the Bible, the limited but sincere care provided by the Jewish Voice medical personnel can lead to healing and a great work in Banchihum’s  life and in the lives of others for the Lord’s glory and honor.

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