This is Ma'arig and her three children, along with her nephew Kalid in 2011. We visited her in her home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July of that year. Ma'arig was living in the basement of a new home in the Kore (Kor-aye) area, along with her husband (who has subsequently left her. He allegedly drank away his paycheck, and was displeased with having to take care of his nephew). You can see the desperation on her face in this photo. She cried and told us that her husband, a day laborer, only made scant birr (Ethiopian dollars) per day, while she cooked food for other families. "I cook for for others, but I don't have enough to cook for my own family," she cried. Fast forward to 2014. A couple weeks ago, while walking up the road form the Transformation Love (TL) office in Kore, I was explaining to my Ethiopian companion and TL accountant Sammy, on why I come to Kore all the way from America.
As Sammy and I were on our way to Hiwot and Shewaye's house to visit for a bit before heading to the seminary, we're walking up the road and I tell him, "You know, some people are confused as to why I'm doing what I'm doing here--"
And before I could finish the sentence, this woman is walking toward us, and it's Ma'arig. She's dressed in traditional Ethiopian clothes, with the long dress and head covering. It was an instant brilliance when we recognized each other. Both our eyes opened wide and I said, "Hey! I know you! You're Kalid's mom! I have your picture, I have your picture!" (She's his Aunt, actually). We immediately recognized each other and starting embracing each other. She was so ecstatic to see me, and I her. She looks at Sammy and starts rattling off a novel about how much she loves me for visiting her three years ago. She said, without TL, she'd be dead. She says she was very sick and in a very dark place in her life back then, but we came and visited her and gave her food and sponsored her nephew. She still remembers the Motilone Tribe "Legend of the Ant" story I told her and her family (about a Man who becomes an ant in order to live among them and gain their friendship. It's a picture of the Incarnation of Christ. You can read about this tribe here). She then insists with deep strength that we visit her in her home right this moment. We must come! With my hands on my heart I admit to her how sorry I am that I cannot come, because I'm on my way to see another family (Hiwot and Shewaye) and then go teach at the local college and seminary. She's continually talking to Sammy and starts crying and kissing me on the neck and holding my hand and hugging me and saying "Amese genalehu" (thank you) over and over.
This is why I go to Kore. There was nothing to explain, because here comes Ma'arig, and our meeting each other explains everything.
What a strong personality Ma'arig has! As we parted ways, she tells Sammy (he laughed and said she was angry with him), saying, "You have had this treasure with you for almost two weeks and you haven't brought him to my house?" She's an unyielding woman! Sammy and I both laughed at that. We made plans to visit her the next week.We then continued up the road and this little girl was dancing and twirling in the streets with her friend, and as she passes me by very quickly, she tosses up a little flower in the air and it lands right in my hand! This beautiful little yellow flower. It was mostly just the head of the flower, and very little stem. I mean, it landed right in my hand. I didn't have to try to catch it at all. It was like the Lord was blessing me right on the spot with his Presence, Providence, and Love.
Here is Ma'arig and Kalid today:
They are both doing well, and Kalid is growing like a weed. He's doing very well in school and is also following Christ. Ma'arig also is following Christ, though there may be some syncretism from her Islamic background.
During our visit, I told Ma'arig (now 38 years old) that she looked like my own mother when she was young, but with darker skin. She has nearly the exact same Semitic-shaped nose as my own mother, and the size, placement and shape of her eyes also bear a striking resemblance to my own mom. Ma'arig replied that "I used to be white, but taking care of these four children has made my skin dark!" Amidst the laughter I pondered the cultural import of this statement, and asked Alemseged, the academic dean at the college and seminary, what this meant. He said it means that when an Ethiopian says this, it refers to the hard way of life a person lives. "Dark skin" refers not to the actual color of the skin and its melanoma levels, but rather the lines or blemishes in one's skin due to the stress of life. Ma'arig is a hearty woman, well-spoken, and very funny. She is very thankful for the sponsorship ministry of Transformation Love, for without it, she would not have enough money for food, school supplies, and other essentials for life. She makes about 400 birr per month doing laundry and making baskets, and other day-labor tasks.
And my, how Kalid is a mature young man, and growing up handsome and strong with hope in his heart!
For more information about how you can help others in need in the Kore area of Addis Ababa, visit Transformation Love's website here.