Beauty out of Ashes

http://I AM not 4gotten

“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper,”  Matthew 26:6

“When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.  A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.  “I am willing,” he said.  “Be clean!”  Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone.  But go show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”  Matthew 8:1-4

I met her on a day when my attitude needed a huge adjustment.  I was tired.  The plane trip to Addis Ababa Ethiopia was 13 hours.  We flew all night.  I didn’t sleep much.  I prefer laying down in a soft comfy bed when I sleep; not setting up prone in a airplane seat that grows harder with each passing hour.  Maybe I expected a little nap before heading out on my first mission trip ever.  Maybe I expected luxury vans with air conditioning.  Maybe I expected a little more pampering.  I was 51 and the senior citizen of this mission team.  It was my first stint in Ethiopia.  Actually, I didn’t know what to expect.  All I know I wasn’t expecting what I experienced in the first few hours of arriving.  We didn’t stop to rest.  There wasn’t time.  We hit the ground running.  I found myself hot and smushed in a van with 15 other people.  My claustrophobia level was on high alert.  Maybe I expected all the roads to be paved.  I really don’t know what I would experience; all did know was my attitude stunk.  My first place to visit was Korah.  This is the area the city of over 3,000,000 people dump their trash.  The government owns the land around the trash site.  Near this area there is a leper’s hospital.  Many in the area of Korah are leper’s.  We arrive at a church in Korah.  The pastor gives a sermon on Jesus healing the leper with the gift of touch.  Touch is a basic human need many of us take for granted, but those with leprosy live with the very real evidence of lack of touch.  The pastor finishes his very convicting sermon on touch, then he informs us we will be visiting members of his congregation many of whom have leprosy.  He asks us with great grace if we would please reach out and touch those we come in contact with; it would mean so much to them.  (Hummmmm!  I should think on this a bit.  I don’t remember this being part of the brochure when I signed up for this trip.  Again, I really needed an attitude adjustment.)  We go out from the church into the streets of Korah.  The homes we entered were made of mud, dirt, and straw.  We went into the poorest district of Korah.  The homes of lepers, the HIV positive, and others the world would choose to ignore.  Their floors were mud and dirt.  Their roofs were whatever they could find from the dump area.  It is a hard life in this section of Korah.  It is a fight to survive for many. (Literally.)  The closer you live to the dump site the harder everyday existence is.  The government owns this land and all who live near the dump are considered squatters and could at any point be evicted.  It is here in this place our two lives intersect.  We lift the flaps of the entrance to her home.  The first thing I notice; her foot had been eaten off by this terrible disease of leprosy.  Her little girl was sitting beside her on their little homemade bench.  Her husband was in the darkest corner of their makeshift home.  He couldn’t get up because most of his body was slowly being eradicated with leprosy.  The woman is gracious and beautiful.  Though leprosy disfigured her, the beauty of the Lord surrounded her.  She offered us coffee.  It is an Ethiopian hospitality.  They had nothing, but they had grace.  And the Lord had an attitude adjustment scheduled for my heart.  Out of the blue, I was the one called upon to pray for her.  Everything I had learned in Henry Blackaby’s study, Experiencing God, came flooding into my thoughts.  Actually, at that moment I felt as if every truth was being screamed at me.  This was my crises of belief.  This was the moment I knew if I obeyed God I would experience Him in a way I had yet experienced Him in my comfort zones.  I reached out just to hold her hand, but found myself clinging to her tiny frail body.  (I had know idea how this happened!)  The moment I took her in my arms God showed me His side of this scene.  It was the perspective of heaven.  This woman and I were sitting at the Great Banquet at the end of days and she had both feet and the most gorgeous gown ever.  The Lord told me, “I have taken these ashes and turned them into beauty!  Daughter, hold her because she is your sister.  I am her Father and I am your Father.  You are family and family holds each other when life gets tough.”

Every time I go to Ethiopia, I find myself living out the stories of the bible.  Lepers, crippled, blind, deaf, possessed, HIV and the hungry intersect my life everyday I am in the city of Addis Ababa.  I want to be like Jesus as I walk through their city.  Jesus entered a leper’s home.  Jesus offered a leper the gift of touch.  We are the hands and feet of Jesus.  In my self-centeredness I would walk around an area like this, but thank the Good Lord above, He sent His Spirit to live in all who have surrendered their lives to Him.  I know it was the Holy Spirit of God compelling me to reach out my hands and arms out to offer the gift of a hug to a woman who seldom receives such a gift.  It is the Holy Spirit of God who takes over my eyesight to help me see His beauty instead of their ashes.

Please be praying for our team as we leave next week.  Please Pray we will be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Please pray our eyes will be opened that we might see the Lord at work and join Him in His business of salvation, of bringing beauty out of ashes, and offering living water to those who thirst.  Pray as we go through the city that we are like Peter who reached out and touched the crippled, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give to you now rise up and walk.”

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