October 31, 2011

Ethiopia: International Crisis Aid

Earlier this month, I had the joy and privilege to go with my church to Ethiopia on a trip with International Crisis Aid (ICA).  ICA is my featured Freedom Fighter until the end of the year, and all donations made on the blog will be given to ICA.

ICA is very active in Ethiopia.  They have several programs including a feeding program, a medical clinic, an orphanage, a ministry to women in the red light district of Addis Ababa and safe homes for women and girls who have been rescued from trafficking and commercial sex work.

The first thing we were able to do was help enter families into the feeding program and distribute flour.  Currently, there is a severe famine in East Africa, the worst in over 60 years according to USAID.  We weren't expecting to have many new families come to be entered into the program, but, to our surprise there were many new families.  They heard Americans were coming.  

The process of determining if a family is eligible for the program is heart-wrenching.  Basically, we had to measure the babies' upper arms to determine their level of malnutrition.  Twelve is the measurement for malnutrition. That day, around thirty families were entered in the program because their babies measured eleven or below, some even with measurements of eight and nine.

ICA also runs an orphanage for girls who have lost both parents to HIV/AIDS.  We were able to help with a much-needed paint project at the orphanage and spend time playing with the girls and giving them gifts.  We were able to take them to Addis and help them pick out new shoes, eat at a restaurant and play at a theme park.

Other days we participated in ICA's ministry to women and girls in the red light district of Addis Ababa.  We were able to walk through the RLD one night, and it was a sobering experience.  The spiritual oppression and darkness was so heavy that it literally felt like a ten pound weight was resting on my chest.  But, our God, being the amazing God that He is, made a way.  There was no fear for my safety, and He continually reassured me that we were walking where He wanted us to.  Practically being the hands a feet of Jesus.

The smell is indescribable, the streets are dirty and poorly maintained and the girls live and work in shanties that are about the size of a phone booth.  Provocative images of scantily-clad women adorn their shanties, though most were dressed as a normal teenager would.  It seemed to me that these girls were simply the object for the men to use to get what they wanted.  I was struck profoundly by the thought that my smiles and tender, kind touches might be the only ones they ever encounter.

We invited them to join us for a party a Mercy Chapel, a former brothel that ICA has transformed into a place of hope and light.  There, the girls are offered vocational training (computers, hairstyling, sewing, etc.), counseling and an opportunity to attend church there on Sundays.  The day the party was held, we lost count at about 500 girls when we started having to turn girls away because there was no more room inside.

We went to one of the safe homes for girls rescued from the RLD.  In the safe homes, they are mentored, mothered, vocationally trained, given an opportunity to finish their primary education, loved and led to love Jesus. In preparation for the trip, one of the members of our team felt the Lord asking us to wash the feet of the thirty plus women in the safe home that we would visit.  We washed the feet of the girls as Jesus humbly washed the feet of His disciples as a symbol to them of our love, respect and support for them.  They, in turn and without being prompted, washed ours.  It was the most humbling, encouraging and memorable moments of the trip for me.

The trip was spiritually challenging, sobering and amazing all at the same time.  I will never be the same.  I have lived in areas of such poverty before.  I have worked with women and girls who have been rescued from sex slavery before.  I have loved on sweet children in orphanages before.  This experience with ICA only solidified my desire to be a voice for these people, no matter their race or religion.  ICA fights for freedom.  Will you join them?

To learn more about the programs of ICA, how you can sponsor a community or orphanage child or how you can be a part of a future trip to Ethiopia, please visit www.crisisaid.org.

Donate to International Crisis Aid:

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