Toward the end of our trip, John asked me how my experience in Chicago compared to what I was witnessing in Ethiopia. It was an interesting question that really provoked some thought, and he actually asked me if he could share that in his and Gwen's regular newsletter, the Boma Bulletin. I started thinking about what to write.
It's really interesting because at first glance, West-side Chicago and remote Southwest Ethiopia appear to be COMPLETELY different. However, it didn't take long to draw numerous comparisons between the two cultures. Here's a short list of what I came up with...
Violence (Gangs, Tribes)
Corrupt Government (broken promises, bad policies, mean politicians)
Malnutrition (in the US it can be at both extremes of obesity vs starvation, in Ethiopia it's mostly the latter)
Alcohol abuse (yes, even in remote Ethiopia)
Barriers to education
Seemingly hopeless communities and individuals
There were some days in Chicago where I really struggled. Seeing things like this, and getting to know people who experience these situations every day, is hard on the heart. Fortunately for me, I lived in a place where I could constantly connect with loved ones and supporters. I could text Megan as I left work and have her meet me at DQ for comfort food. I could come home from work and call anyone. I could take the train up to Evanston and escape from reality for a little while at Chelsea's place.
However, things like this are simply not possible (at least not conveniently) for the Haspels. They had each other, of course, and some local friends, but couldn't make a phone call without driving 20 minutes to get signal, or even farther for internet access. I really admired, was in awe even, at how they could do such heartbreaking work in such a remote area for TWENTY YEARS.
Now, if you are a Presbyterian you have probably heard about this, but for the rest of my readers.... About three weeks after we returned from Ethiopia, we received word that John and Gwen had been ambushed while travelling. A couple of men shot at them in hopes of robbing them. John was hit in the chest and across the eyebrow. Gwen was hit in the jaw. There were a couple of Suri in the back, who bailed out of the vehicle and retreated back to Tulegit. (Not much information has been provided about the Suri that were with them- I heard that one broke a leg but that's it.)
John was able to drive 15 minutes to a village where an ambulance transported them to Mizan, then to Addis Ababa, and later to Johannesburg. I'm not going to provide a lot of details because it's not my story to share and I may inadvertently give false information. However, I do want to share a couple of cool tidbits.
- When John and Gwen were leaving Addis for Johannesburg, over ONE THOUSAND people came to send them off with prayers and well wishes.
- The first thing Gwen said when she could speak was "Praise the Lord".
- It's miraculous to me that either one of them survived. If a bullet had hit just an inch or two away from where it did, it could have easily hit a very sensitive spot that could have killed John or Gwen.
To read my tidbit in the Boma Bulletin, click here.
Some of you may be thinking in the back of your mind about "voluntourism" which I mentioned in a previous post. Basically a lot of Americans are beginning to question the value of overseas work since it may take away local labor, create unsustainable efforts, keep the "white savior" complex alive, et cetera. I'm not going to go into the effort of defending this trip on my blog for a few reasons-- 1) that's not the purpose of this blog, 2) if I have a call placed on my heart and went with God I don't think I have to defend that to anyone (if I was murdering people in God's name that would be a different story but that definitely didn't happen) 3) I tend to believe that people can find fault with virtually anything if they really want to. Haters gonna hate.
So if you have questions, concerns about this, let me know and let's have a conversation about it.
Thanks, everyone for reading this and being curious about my experiences in Chicago and Ethiopia!
Your prayers and words of encouragement mean a lot.
For those who are curious, I'm still hanging out in McPherson for a while working retail and will resume my big girl job search shortly! I have no idea where that will lead but I'm excited to see what happens!