The trip to Ethiopia was both an energizing and disturbing adventure. The disruption of my heart from the poverty and physical needs contrasted sharply with the inspiration from the deep faith and rich souls of the people living in Bora. Bora is a village in southern, rural Ethiopa which is only accessible by walking six miles while climbing on foot from about 8,000 feet to the elevation of 10,000 feet. Within just a few miles from a barely passable road, the already impoverished there have no access to healthcare, let alone a parasite-free source of water.
Chief Meke is the leader of the elders that rule Bora. The people are friendly, and their eyes reflect full souls–especially the eyes of Cheif Meke. Through an amazing network of relationships which began with an Ethiopian musician related to the Chief, hope was born to a people. This nephew, who while being a city-born young man still is culturally connected to his tribe, brought Doma International’s medical director and staff to the chief. Chief Meke already was prepared for this encounter. The prayers of the elders of this village were answered. In his words, Doma was literally an answer to generations of prayers.
From the introductions, the serendipitous formation of relationships with Doma’s leadership began with this young nephew, Israel, taking a lead in the country for a new clinic that will open next year. This facility will serve almost 10,000 rural people, especially mothers. The training of midwives, staffing of professionals and equipping of a birthing facility will prevent orphans and improve the lives of young women. A holistic approach to serve the health of these people is growing. The seeds were planted, however, by the prayers and the heart of a Chief.
The beauty of such a leader was heard in his prayer of thanksgiving to the Doma team. He explained how he heard of these “European and American people” and of “clinics” and what they can do. He shared how he had long prayed for the well being of his people. He found some hope to answer that because of Doma. He was ready for that answer because he is the kind of leader any people needing hope would be blessed to have.
A man nearing his 90s, Meke is a presence. To even sit next to him is to feel a mystical tinge from the weight of what he has seen. With most mothers losing several children, he is a man that has known sorrows. With a nation that has been in violence and turmoil, he witnessed horrors unimaginable with the recent Derg regime. Yet, when hope was ready to find him, he was ready to seize it.
The encounter with such a man leaves me to question myself. Do I humbly pray for hope? Am I ready to keep my hope given the trials and sufferings of life of those around me? Will I be ready to lead when that moment comes to seize hope? My family, community and church all need me to learn from men like Meke. He is a small, old and frail man. But, a giant in my book.