Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Sometimes it’s easy to read words but not really grasp the implications or the details of what they say. For example, “6 million Jews died in the Holocaust” or “Jesus was led into the wilderness and for forty days he was tempted and ate no food”. As an American, having lived my entire life without truly being in need, it is hard to wrap my mind around real, desperate poverty. Since coming to Soddo, I’ve seen a lot of poverty and I’ve observed some amazing things and behaviors that can only exist in the context of real poverty, that outside of which seem completely unfathomable. To attempt to bring this reality closer to life for you, I need to describe some examples. This is only to describe the situation. It is not intended to point any fingers of blame or wag any heads. It is also not intended to convey any sense of hopelessness.  There is hope here, but help is needed.  Another saying I’ve read and still need to fully grasp is from the Bible; James, chapter 2, verses 15 and 16: “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” While we are certainly here to be a part of a ministry that tells people about the good news of Jesus and what He has accomplished on the cross and through His resurrection, there are also some very real physical needs that we ought not to ignore.

As a father, I can tell you without hesitation that if Nathan were ever injured and in need of care that I would do anything in my power to help him. Because of this context, I was baffled when a little girl was brought to the hospital a few weeks ago. At the time, we had two visitors at the hospital who are from Switzerland. They had been hiking in the countryside near Soddo when they found a family with a five month-old girl who had severely burned her arm when boiling water was spilled on it. She was burned several days earlier but the family had not sought medical care because they could not afford it. The Swiss couple offered to pay for their care if they brought the little girl to the hospital. After the family showed up, I evaluated her and found deep, third degree burns to her forearm and hand with more shallow burns to her upper arm and torso. She would require skin grafting. The head Ethiopian nurse felt it was important that the father assist at least some in the cost of his daughter’s care but when this issue was raised the man refused. If the care was not to be free, he would take the little girl back home. I don’t understand the depth of the financial struggles of that man nor do I know how many other children he had at home to feed. When I think of the pain in my heart when I see Nathan cry after something as simple as falling backwards and bumping his head, I realize I can’t fathom the poverty that would prompt me to do nothing if he sustained a terrible and painful burn.

Several weeks ago I took care of a woman who bled after a gynecologic surgery. She was accompanied by her nephew. She worsened to the point that I needed to take her back to the operating room and she would require blood transfusions. The nurses explained to me that the family refused to either give blood or find a donor (often this requires paying the donor). I went to the bedside to talk with the family and, through the nurse as a translator, explained to the nephew that she needed this to save her life. He stated it would be better to wait and let her die so that they could take the body home. As the patient was awake and listening to the conversation, I was surprised both that he could say such a thing in front of here and at how little emotion she showed. The family simply didn’t have the means to both give blood and take her home if she died.

Finally, I want to describe the story that prompted this message. Six days ago, two children, a brother and sister of ages twelve and fourteen, were brought to the hospital with severe burns of their legs, feet and hands. The family had no money and we have been taking care of them with the Benevolent Fund (I’ll explain more below). The girl has deep burns to both of her hands and both of her lower legs and feet. The boy has deep burns to about 25% of his body, including most of both legs and feet and both hands. To be perfectly honest, these injuries are beyond my expertise and well beyond the capabilities of this hospital. Through a LOT of prayer, we are doing the best we can to help them. The part of this story that hurts the most, however, is what happened to them. It seems their uncle was convinced that they stole 10 Ethiopian Birr from him. With the help of three other men to hold them and gag them, the two children were held in a pit of burning grass which gave them their terrible wounds. For those of you who are wondering, 10 Ethiopian Birr is about $1 US Dollar. Clearly, these men have wickedness and depravity in their lives beyond mere poverty but I can’t help but marvel at conditions that lead to stories like these.

Every day we see patients that need medical care here at Soddo Christian Hospital that simply cannot afford it. For a major surgery, including all costs, the average bill is about $150 to $200 USD. I’ve been to other missionary hospitals where the fees are pretty similar and the majority of patients are able to raise the funds. I have never seen such difficulty as here where so many patients just can’t afford it. To help these people, there is a Benevolent Fund that is used to help offset the costs. This money is almost completely donated from outside Ethiopia. The truth is our Benevolent Fund is sorely under matched for the need here. The medical and financial needs here would probably even make short work of an exponential increase in our Benevolent Fund.

As you read this, I hope this helps to illustrate how difficult life is for the people of Ethiopia. I also hope you will consider the possibility of helping with some of these necessities out of any surplus the Lord may have blessed you. I understand that the world economy is not looking so good but, as you read this, I would challenge you to consider how bad you have truly been hit. I also understand that there is no shortage of need and no shortage of worthy causes for which you can give. If, however, you would like to give money to help with the Benevolent Fund, this can be done at Soddo Christian Hospital’s website: www.soddo.org. Thank you and we love you.

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