I had a very humbling conversation the other day with some of my Ethiopian friends. It started with me asking the question, “What do Ethiopians think about all of these white people who come here to serve?” (This is a question I have often wondered, because I always get a wide range of reactions to my white face as I walk down the streets of Addis).
Well, it turns out I have very honest friends…They told me that one thing they noticed is how foreigners talk about their time in Ethiopia. They said they always talk about WHAT they do to serve, but very little about WHO they are serving or WHY. Immediately I was struck with guilt. I have been asked countless times “What are you doing here in Addis?”, and my response is almost always along the lines of: “I am interning with a non-profit here and working on a coffee-roasting business I started last year.” My friends continued and said how Westerners seem very “task oriented” (which they aren’t wrong about, but I had never really heard someone say it out loud). They said that it seemed like people working with non-profits or who are here to “serve the poor and needy” don’t actually appear to care about the poor and needy. Which they admitted was just their observations. They don’t know what is actually going on in the hearts of these people. But nevertheless, they may not be far off in a lot of cases.
As I wrote about in my first blog post, God has showed me this past year how I tend to focus on the tangible aspects of helping people, but if that’s all I focus on then I am missing the point. Loving the poor is a lot more than just working to get them out of poverty. Loving them like Jesus does means getting to know them and loving them by taking on their burdens with them as Christ has done for us. Loving is hard! It’s one thing for me to go to the bakery everyday and work to try to help it become successful or to work on expanding Buna. Doing that though is just loving people with part of my time. Jesus calls us to love others as HE loves us! My goodness…He had NO limits to how He loved us. He got down and dirty, bringing Himself to OUR level and living in the muck that is our world. What would that look like for me here? It could mean me sitting with the women at the bakery and eating their lunch with them even though it looks like it has been sitting out for a couple days. Or maybe it could look like me stopping and talking to the woman begging for coins instead of just handing her some Birr. Maybe it’s me being a friend to someone who doesn’t have any. But all of those things means sacrificing more than just my time. It required me to sacrifice my emotions. Once you open yourself up to loving another person like Christ loves us you are putting yourself at risk. Love cost Jesus His life! What am I wiling to give up in the name of loving others?
Jesus, show me how to love people like You love them. Use everything I have to offer as your hands and feet. I am so unworthy to work as your servant, Lord. I am selfish and weak. Forgive me Jesus and fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit to love like You do.