Laibela Tour

We are on a small plane to Addis Ababa as I write, one day after touring Lalibela.  After that 12 hour and 14 minute bus ride to Lalibela on Saturday, we are so happy to be flying.

Yesterday, at Lalibela, was an amazing day.  Justin and I met Steve early, at 5:30 am, so that we could attend a Christian Orthodox church service.  (The church, I learned later, was Bet-Maryam.)  We got there a little late, a couple minutes after 6 am, so we couldn't sit inside the church.  Instead, we sat in an alcove, or vestibule, right outside the main door and that was great.  We were surrounded by elders of the church who were reading from bibles and chanting, as well as young boys who were helping pass out bells and leaning canes at the appropriate times.  The boys also banged the drums, with their hands, during one point in the service.  The service lasted two hours, and Justin was freezing.  I was sandwiched between Steve on my left and Justin on my right--and I had my head covering (a scarf that Demise, one the Dessie high school teachers actually gave for me to give to my 1-year old daughter, Abby)--so I was okay.  Although we couldn't understand a word of the service--and didn't know when it was appropriate to stand or sit – it was a meaningful experience.  I was glad to have had that time to be quiet before God.  And we were forced to do it – sitting still and listening to God, just abiding in His presence.  This is something that is usually difficult for me to do.  I sat and prayed most of the time, and read some of Mark.
We toured eleven churches of Lalibela in the morning and afternoon, with the team.  The morning tours were interesting, and we stopped in a restaurant for lunch.  But the afternoon tours were a blast.  The tunnels, caves, and slippery stairs we had to use to navigate our way to and between some of the churches were amazing.  Definitely Indiana Jones adventure material.

   The most meaningful and memorable experience of the day for me, however, was the time I spent talking with a ten-year old blind boy, after exiting our tour of St. Georges Church.  While I was walking up the path, to the road, with Justin next to me, this boy began following me, his right hand outstretched, saying, “I am blind, one birr,” again and again.  It broke my heart.  I didn't know what to do.  In another time in my life I may have just walked faster, or I may have given him money.  I don't know.  But I know I would not have even thought about trying to get to know this little guy and have a conversation with him.  I would not have touched him; I would not have introduced myself and taken his hand.  When walking up, though, with him still following, I began to feel my heart breaking for this little boy, and I began to think about what I could do.  I thought about what Jesus would do, and how He might heal him.  I knew I couldn't do that.  I also knew I couldn't give this child any money; Todd had told us not to do that.  So, I had to think about what I could do--and I just knew I had to love this child.  So, since we had come to the road at this point (he had followed us all the way up), and we were waiting for the rest of the group to show up, I turned to the boy, took his hand, and asked him his name.  He didn't seem to hear me at first and just repeated, “I am blind, one birr,” and I told him I couldn't give him any money, but what was his name?  “My name is Jennifer.”  I touched his shoulder leaned toward him, and told him that Jesus loves him, Jesus loves him--but I still didn't think I was getting through.  But then, I asked him how old he was, and something changed, and he heard me.  He seemed a little surprised with the question, and then he answered, “I am ten years old.”  I told him that he is so tall for ten years old, and he seemed so proud. . . and the most amazing thing happened. . . he smiled.  I told him how big and strong he is going to be when he grows up, and he beamed again.  Then I asked him what was his favorite game, and if he liked to play futball.  And he said, “yes, futball”, with a huge smile.  This little boy, blind, with flies landing near his mouth, and a small wooden cane in his left hand, smiled.  God caused my heart to break for this little boy, and he told my heart what to do.  I am so thankful for God showing me – through this trip – how to love others.  He's my teacher, and I need to seek Him and follow.