Leaving on a Jet Plane

"Now I've been happy latelyThinking about the good things to come And I believe it could be Something good has begun." -Cat Stevens (Yusef Islam)

This morning I'm loading a plane to Ethiopia, where I'll be hanging out with the good people of Help One Now. Good people like Mike Rusch, whom, as luck would have it, I happened across at a random baggage claim in Charlotte. He hears no evil.

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Last night, we slept in Washington DC, the political seat of global capitalism, of wealth, of power. We respectfully declined our presidential invite to dinner at the White House, and opted instead to sit around the table of a pub that called itself "Irish" (but only on account of the fact that it served shepherd's pie and Guinness beer). It was a good crew of folks, some of whom I've known a while, some of whom I'm glad to call new friends. Chris Marlow was there. He speaks no evil.

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In an hour, we're off to Addis Ababa. From there, we'll head southward down choppy dirt roads and into the heart of a majority Muslim population. We'll eat simple food, among good and simple people. We'll play games with local children; climb a sturdy blackwood tree; laugh. We will spend time with the local leaders, learn their culture, hear their thoughts about vulnerable children in their community.

"Oh, I've been smiling lately Dreaming about the world as one And I believe it could be Some day it's going to come."

Every trip to a developing country presents contrasting monetary dichotomies. The evening before, we're dressed in our skinny self-importance, our well-tailored consumerism, our easy way of conversational dining. The next, we're standing on dirt roads, smelling country air, eating simple starches, and playing with children despite a language barrier that feels more akin to the Great Wall.

"[T]here is no Islamic, Christian, or Jewish way of breathing. There is no American, African, or Asian way of breathing. There is no rich or poor way of breathing. ... The air of the earth is one and the same air, and this divine wind 'blows where it will' (John 3:8)--which appears to be everywhere." -Richard Rohr, The Naked Now, p. 26.

This morning I'm looking past the juxtapositions, though. I'm thinking about the commonalities, the things that bind us. We breathe the "same air," as Rohr writes. We all double over in laughter, all heave at the butt of any joke. Isn't it a delightful sound? We share the same hyperventilating way of mourning, too. We all wail the same.

Yes, we're leaving on a jet plane. I hope we go in humility. Maybe the key to true humility is to realize that, in the end, we are all one and the same. Maybe the key to true humility is understanding that we've all been given the same breath of God. Maybe the key to true humility is in the knowing that each has been given the opportunity to seek union with the Divine.

I hope we go with this kind of humility. I hope we see the Divine.

I'm not sure when I'll have access and time to update, but stay tuned.

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Kabede, This is Going to Get Heavy

Johnny Cash Our driver’s name was not Kabede, but for the sake of giving you the sense of things, it will be his given name in the following. The English translation of Kabede is “getting heavy,” so it seems appropriate, and I must admit, when I discuss my time in Ethiopia, it tends to come across this way.

As a caveat, I mostly prefer to confine my discussions of Ethiopia to the internet real estate of others. I do this for two distinct reasons. First, I enjoy stirring the pot, although this enjoyment is typically confined to the pots sitting on my neighbors’ stoves. Secondly, writing in another forum allows me some notion (perhaps a feigned one) of plausible deniability...


Follow me to my friend Lore's place for the rest of this story. I hope you're ready. This is going to get heavy.





The First Domestic Ethiopian Adoption (for Abrihet)

This week, I stumbled across this Pure Charity Challenge by Kacia. Kacia is trying to raise funds to assist in the domestic adoption of 8 Ethiopian Children. Domestic adoption? As in, Ethiopian families adopting Ethiopian children? Yes, it's a reality thanks to the Kidmia Foundation's vision to equip and empower the Ethiopian church. It's beautiful.


When we first met Aschalew Abebe, the in-country director of Kidmia, Amber and I told him that we had planned to adopt an Ethiopian baby. We had withdrawn from the process, we said, because we felt the still small Voice asking us instead to engage in the work of unifying Ethiopian orphans with local families, and after hearing how Kidmia was working to rehabilitate at-risk Ethiopian families, we thought that perhaps Kidmia was just the right organization for us. Aschalew listened to us intently. Smiled and nodded with understanding.

"What was her name to be?" he asked.

"Who's name?"

"Your Ethiopian daughter. What was her name to be?"

"Abrihet," Amber said and tears filled her eyes. He pulled us close, invaded our personal space with unbridled Ethiopian compassion and said, "I know you feel like you have lost a daughter, but think of the many Ethiopian daughters you can save."


Please read the conclusion of the story at Coconut Robot, and consider throwing a nickel or two into the Pure Charity bucket. I'd love it if we could help Kacia finish this challenge! Who's in?

*For regular updates, follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page.

The Cushite Photo

Deep in the heart of nomad country, an old clan leader asked if we would help him carry a briar bed to his compound.  His goat pen was running a bit sparse and there had been hyenas casing the joint. These were good thorns, long and sharp, good pastoralist barbed wire.  We agreed, so he hoisted the brush atop the luggage rack and held on to the Cruiser's ladder.  It was only a couple hundred meters, he said in his Cushite language. I think of  Moses' father-in-law.  Was he small and wispy like this clan leader?  Did he light a fire at the midnight heckle of the hyenas?  Was he a thorn dweller; did he make gates from desert quills?

I wonder about Moses.  Those years before he turned the Nile to blood, did he wander with the camels?  Did he rediscover his nomadic roots, the roots of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  What better preparation for a forty year wandering, I think.

We find the clan leaders hut and he unloads the thorns.  He looks at me, sizes me up and points to my camera.  He smiles broadly, laughs,and asks the translator if I could take his photograph.  I oblige.

Then, he reaches for the camera, takes it from my neck with authority, and turns the lens to me.  He holds the body a foot away from his eye, tries his best to frame me up.  I half push the shutter button, in part to focus, in part to teach him how to capture a picture.  He presses and the camera fires.  He jumps a bit, surprised by the click.  He sees the image display on the back of the camera and laughs with an ancient joy.

These people, they are good.

The Pastoralist

He laughs because he remembers the black-maned lion, flat bread fried against a hot rock, and the midnight stars. There are always stars. Especially in the desert. His name means "big mouth" and he intends to live it up, has for just past sixty years. He laughs when I ask to snap his photograph, says he can't figure why everyone always wants to capture his toothy smile. I capture him in that moment and he is pleased with the result.

But his face changes when he's asked about the resettlement camps, the coming wave of irrigation that's stealing camel land. He sees the new sugar cane. A sweet-toothed government, he laments. He's moving to the new construction next month, but only if they make him, only if they slaughter his camels and steal his weapons first.

The pastoralist understands more about the American Indians than I could ever hope. He's never met them, never heard their history. But he's living it--the people dispossessed--and I wish Rich were around to sing "The Howling" over this desert.

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