We were driving down the road in Bahir Dar Ethiopia when we came upon a man wearing a white backpack. Quickly, we realized it was not a backpack, but a sheep. The sheep's legs and been tied together in such a way that he could wear it like a backpack. The look on the sheep's face as we passed him, made us think the sheep might actually be having fun. The look on the man's face initially told us he was not.
We asked our driver to stop. I got out of the van and asked the man if I could take his picture. he posed. A small smile emerged on his face. The sheep peered around from behind the man. The sheep did not make a sound. It did not struggle. I wonder if it knew what we knew.
That sheep was not being taken on a pleasure journey. He had been invited to dinner, in fact to be dinner. It was a strange moment. We thought of the moment often while we were in Ethiopia. It made us laugh. It also made us so aware of how different our worlds are. I have never seen someone wearing their dinner as they rode down the street in Athens (or for that matter anywhere else I have ever traveled).
I felt sorry for the sheep. It did not look comfortable. There is almost no refrigeration in Ethiopia, because there is uneven and sporadic power in Ethiopia. They live more day to day than we do. They prepare food for the day. They understand "daily bread."
I never return to the U.S. without being incredibly grateful that I won the geographic lottery and was born in this imperfect, but amazing country. We have so much. We are not nearly grateful enough. Clean water, refrigeration, adequate food supply, air-conditioning, social services, infrastructure, flushing toilets, toilet paper, consistent power, representative democracy, a free market, low corruption, way less bureaucracy, education, opportunity, and hope.
I was amused by some of the things we saw, and grieved by much of what I saw. I saw people miles out of a remote city that likely will never have any opportunity for education or advancement. They will be subsistence farmers eking out an existence hacking away at a rock strewn field. The area is 95% non-Christian. We met some pastors who are trying to reach them for Christ. These pastors have almost nothing, but they have the Gospel, their passion and love for the people of Ethiopia and the Spirit of God. I return with a bigger prayer list.
Jesus, the Bible says, "took up our pain and bore our suffering, ...he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; ...was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53: 4-7.
Jesus takes up the suffering of the world and carries it in his own body that everyone might know of his love.