We met in the squatters land of the garbage dump of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The area around the dump is called Korah. The government of Ethiopia has been working to clean out this dump site, but at the time I met her the place I walked through was full of squatters. The government owned the land but allowed people to live on the land and build whatever kind of shelter the garbage provided. The closer you lived to the main part of the dump; the harder your existence was. I entered her makeshift home of threadbare tarp that still showed the debris of garbage on the outside. The floors of her home were the mud and muck that flowed down from the garbage above. She welcomed us the Ethiopian way, she stuck out her right hand, we touched and then our shoulders bumped into the other’s. When she reached out her hand to greet me, I noticed it wasn’t a hand but rather a stump. Her limbs were being eaten away by leprosy. The Spirit of God in me moved me to take her broken hand in mine and embrace her as a family member, for that is who she was. She is my sister in Christ. She, at some point in her life, had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Now, though leprosy had claimed her hand and a foot, she was my sister. God calls her “Child.” I was the one called upon to pray for her and her family. Again, the Spirit of God moved in me to wrap my arm around her and hold her as if she was a long lost friend. I began a prayer that I couldn’t even finish because I was overwhelmed by the vision I saw when I closed my eyes and prayed for this broken body before me. This beautiful sister of mine had been arrayed in His royal robe. The glory of her crown that Christ had bestowed on her shimmering hair could only be described as other worldly. I lost all words at that moment; all I could think was to let the Holy Spirit of God pray for me when I didn’t know how else to pray. That was how God saw this woman in torn and tattered clothes. She offered us her best, coffee boiled over coals made of whatever garbage she could find. God saw her as she really is, His child arrayed in His Robe of Righteousness, crowned with His crown of beauty instead of ashes from the garbage dump, and adorned with pearls only befitting His bride.
61 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor
The New International Version. (2011). (Is 61:1–3). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
7 Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
8 “For I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the LORD has blessed.”
10 I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations
The New International Version. (2011). (Is 61:6–11). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
I think of this Ethiopian woman often. God sent her to intersect my life. The vision of her arrayed in His Robe of Righteousness has stuck with me for all these years. With her life, God has taught me a valuable lesson. What we see with our natural eyes is not how God sees with His eyes of love.
If you will, permit me to write with my fictional thoughts what the Lord has shown me with the words from Isaiah 61.
The young mom stared out at the pouring rain. The land was dry and desolate. The earth had that cracked puzzle appearance. “My mothering skills are as that cracked earth out there,” She thought to herself. She had just lost it again today. All patience was gone. Her house was a mess. Humpty Dumpty had fallen off the wall again today. She was one cracked and broken mama. This time as she stared at the dry dirt before her, she noticed something. The cracked puzzle pieces of the earth were going away. The crevices were being filled with rain water. At that moment the Lord spoke to her, “Just as the cracks in the earth are being filled with rain, so My Grace fills the cracks and chips in your children.” Then the Lord led her away from the walk of shame she had allowed the enemy to lead her to. She followed Him to the gates of His castle where she could see His kingdom spread out before her. She saw the garbage dump the Lord had just led her away from. From this vantage point, she was able to see the Accuser gathering up the most filthy of the waste, the rotted potatoes, the dirty diapers, the soiled rags, the vomit of the drunk, all these the accuser gathered to hurl at the poor souls who traveled the walk of shame through the garbage of Gehenna. She had been one of the poor in spirit. The garbage had stuck to her. Her hair had been matted with the shame and disgrace of the putrid garbage the enemy had thrown at her. The accusations were the kind that tore at her soul. The condemnation came from words that would stick. “You are a bad mom. You do not have your act together.” She had listened so long to the words of lies that they had begun to cling to her belief about herself. They tore her down; she walked with head hung in disgrace. “Do you see their filthy rags. They are like you were once. The accusations and condemnations that were thrown your way once clung to you also. They weighted you down. But come, let us reason together and I will wash you whiter than snow.” The King cleaned her up. He washed away all the condemnation the Accuser had hurled at her. He arrayed her in His Robe of Righteousness. He washed and combed her hair until it shimmered, then He placed on her a Crown of Beauty instead of ashes of the dump. He poured over her an oil of joy that had the most fragrant of aromas. Gone were her tattered and filthy clothing of condemnation. They were replaced with garments of salvation and praise. Then He paraded her through the courts of the Lord. All who saw her recognized her royalty. They knew she was a person the Lord has blessed. A joy unexplainable flooded her being. The accusations that once clung to her like filthy garbage were erased with a song of praise for the King who had adopted her. The sticks and stones that once broke her bones, and the words that once broke her heart were replaced by the whispers spoken to her by her Father, “You are mine. You are now a royal priesthood. You belong to the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!”