I’m so thankful this day that we are pilgrims together on the Jesus Road…
My Los Angeles counterpart phoned me to “check in” while he was in Ethiopia. It was 3:00 am there and he was having trouble sleeping while on a Vision Trip with a donor couple. Yet his bleary-eyed story brought into clear focus the challenge of our journey.
Jeff told me that earlier that day the group had visited a poor community where women and children had to walk several miles just to fetch polluted water. His small band of visitors made the pilgrimage to the water hole along with the community members, both the people and their donkeys. The journey ended at a three-foot-deep hole dug next to a dirty pool of standing water. Inside the hole was a forty-something woman squatting and scooping brown water by the quart as it sifted through the sandy soil and refilled a little divot… the centuries-old sand being their only filter from whatever maladies awaited them in the pond water (from which those donkeys stand in and drink, too).
A minute later, I asked Jeff about the travel journey over to Africa. He said they’d spent a transit night in Dubai, where the donor arranged for them all to enjoy a lovely dinner at the top of a hotel which is famous for offering the most expensive drink in the world—at $9000. (No, they didn’t order one!) Then, just 48 hours after he’d been with people who sell a $9000 cocktail, Jeff spent the day with desperate people in an area where there isn’t even good water to drink… at any price.
The disparities in this world aren’t usually that stark, but the story points to a reality we all try to make sense of. This is our challenge as we journey through life, those of us who can move freely between the worlds of the least-haves and the most-haves. We’re surrounded hourly by temptations and luxuries, hearing the constant messages that we deserve more; messages which almost drown out the distant realities and feeble petitions from the ‘rest of these, our brethren.’
So what a blessing it is to have each other’s company on the journey. For we too are pilgrims, attempting to travel the Jesus Road. As those with the audacity to attempt to hear and obey Jesus’ voice—his radical call, we are called to make pilgrimages, to take strange roads to distant lands. Yet in the back of our minds we wonder sometimes if we’re really walking His road or traveling another path somewhere.
The journey is arduous. Let’s face it: opening one’s eyes and heart to the poor is ultimately a voluntary exercise for those of us who aren’t forced to live that reality. Yet, though it’s a far more taxing exercise than physical exertion, we have this sense that the road will lead us to the Promised Land, a place of deep satisfaction and true freedom.
And even along the way, we are refreshed: when we follow Jesus’ example of active compassion for the poor and dispossessed, we find the experience is holy, slaking a great thirst in us as well as in them. Holy, like pure water seeping in, into the divot, waiting to be scooped and drunk deeply by all.
I love the pilgrimage. And I love being on it together with you.
With thanksgiving for your partnership on the journey,
PS: You can see a 2-minute raw-footage video from Jeff’s encounter at the water hole at…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdV4V2fb1Mg (Dirty Water Source in Rural Ethiopia)
Or for a really lovely 5-minute report by author Max Lucado during his own visit to the same area this year, see… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDrX0PHcPFk&NR=1 (Max Lucado World Vision Trip to Ethiopia)