Sunday, August 3, 2008

Lesson from Ethiopia

As I process all that we saw and did in Ethiopia, I am humbled a great deal by some of the lessons that God taught me. One is as follows:

From the time that we arrived in Addis Ababa, we were either traveling or teaching. Our day would begin quite early with trying to get the girls, and ourselves, dressed, fed, and out the door. We would teach all day long, and then were usually guests in someone’s home for dinner at the end of the day. By the time we would arrive back to our room, it was usually quite late. Needless to say, it was quite difficult to find time to wash our clothes. Washing machines are not found in these parts, and hand-washing clothes does take some time, and energy.

So by time we arrived back in Addis Ababa from Nazareth, we as a family were quite out of clean clothes. The girls had reworn all that they could possibly rewear, but any mommy of a toddler and pre-toddler knows that a child does not have to wear the clothes very long before they are quite dirty. So after wearing the same clothes for a few days, they were quite filthy. And between the food, the rain, and the mud, the shirts and pants were able to stand and walk on their own without any body standing in them. They were quite ripe.

At one point, we tried to hire someone to wash the clothes for us, but the lady saw that we were foreigners and tried to take advantage of the situation. She was offering to charge us quite a bit of money for each piece of clothing that needed to be washed. We could neither afford to pay her said price, nor had the desire to be robbed by said washer.

So, by the time that someone criticized me for not having my children properly dressed for the weather of Addis Ababa, it was all I could do to not properly put him in his place, to make sure that he was aware of the fact that we had come by invitation to do trainings, that we had been busy traveling and teaching since we had arrived in the country, and were not able to find anyone who was willing to help us with the washing of our clothes. I believe that my tongue was bleeding as I bit down in frustration and attempted restraint. You see, as a mother and a wife, I feel quite responsible to be sure that my family is taken care of with all that they need. So when I am in a position that will not allow me to take care of my family, I feel great pressure and frustration.

So it came to the point where I was teaching during the day, and had to wash clothes by hand in the bath at night. Much to my shame, my attitude at that point was quite negative, and I found myself grumbling to my husband about the situation rather than simply doing what needed to be done and moving on.

That night, God brought to my mind an encounter that we experienced last year while we were in Northern Ghana. We were introduced to an American "missionary" couple that had been in Ghana for about 10years now. They have a very nice house, built on a very nice compound with very nice high brick walls all around the compound, and a very big guard at the gate controlling who is able to enter the compound. They have two children who have now grown up in Ghana, and yet they do not speak one word of the any of the three main languages that are spoken there, nor do they have any Ghanaian friends or interact with any Ghanaian people. In fact, they rarely leave their “little America” compound.

One might say, “So what? They are protecting their family.” The problem is, the local Ghanaian people see that these “missionaries” don’t actually want anything to do with the people. They are there to do projects among them, to “fix” them. That is what the locals shared with us. They will receive anything that the “missionaries” are giving out, because they are doing several different projects, but the Ghanaians feel rejected by the missionaries, unaccepted in who they are, less than. So when it comes times for the missionaries to preach the gospel, the message is rejected along with the messengers. Their attitude toward the local people had become a great hindrance to the spread of the gospel.

As God was reminding me of the words from the Ghanaians, I felt a great amount of shame and remorse for my behavior and attitude. Was I too good to do my own laundry, even if by hand? Did I come to be taken care of, or did I come to serve others? Was my bad attitude becoming a hindrance to the spread of the gospel?

The problem was, I was trying to serve Jesus without any sort of sacrifice or struggle. Yes, I was teaching throughout the day, but God provided me the strength to stand and the words to speak. But then at the end of the day, I was wanting to be served rather than serving, and it lead to a grumbling, complaining heart rather than one of gratitude and joy to be experiencing the things that I been honored enough to see, hear, and know. And I had allowed something as small and petty as dirty laundry to rob me of my joy and remove my spirit of servanthood. I am not so important or so proud as to not be able to do my family’s laundry, even at the end of a long day. I had blown it, and in God’s great grace and mercy, He let me know.

What was missing was the cross. You see, the way of Jesus is the way of the cross. He came to teach, to heal, to love, and at the end of the day, He came to carry a cross for the redemption and salvation of all mankind. So if what we are doing does not somehow have some aspect of suffering, some aspect of sacrifice in it, is it truly of Christ? Even if it is simply doing laundry, quietly, humbly, thanking God for the opportunity to serve.

I pray that my downfall would encourage you to not take the same path. Grace and peace to you all, as I accept the same from my Lord


  1. Shauna,
    I SO understand and can relate to your day today! One night when we were in Ukraine our kids were sick all night from something they'd eaten. They threw up numerous times and we were washing their clothes and sheets in the bathtub (which really didn't get them clean). We soon ran out of sheets & pillowcases. I understood why we lived simply, among the culture so that Jesus could work through us. We weren't off to the side, tossing in our "expertise." I was often tired and felt sorry for myself, but Jesus was glorified. Bless you sister! Love you - Jolene

  2. Shauna/Okongo -
    Our Bible Study group met tonight and we finished the "Facing Our Giants" book. I wanted to let you know we are all praying for you. At the closing of our study we discussed following God and our passion for sharing God. We also discussed following God's leading even in areas where we may not see our gift. Okongo and you are awesome examples and inspirations for our group. We use so many examples from your family and how you are taking your girls with you and just following God. It definitly is a reminder for us when we fall into the nay-saying attitude and try to use our children as excuses. We seem to struggle/stress over the smallest things back here but our God is so large that we should not be stressed. I'm sure he is there with you and he will carry you during this time. The one thing I wanted to share is what we've been learning during our current sermon series "Identity Crisis". No matter what is going on in our lives here on Earth, we can rest in God's peace because our Identity is in Christ and that is where our Home is. I thank you so much for spreading God's Word in Africa and for being willing to share your experiences (good and bad) with our LifeGroup. Okongo and you are a blessing to all of us. We look forward to your return. Keep up the good work and may God continue to Bless your ministry!!!

    We Love You All!!!!

    Jim McKean


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