As I was praying for the ministry to the poor in Ethiopia called Adoption Ministry 1:27, it dawned on me for the first time (granted, I am slow!) that Jesus grew up in a “developing country” and the conditions in the areas where we work in Ethiopia are very close in most respects to the culture Jesus was intimate with.
* His food was from field to table.
* There were huge inequities between the few very rich and the majority of people with little.
* The quaint custom of being offered a bowl and pitcher to wash your hands at the beginning and end of a meal was standard.
* Were the houses of Palestine made with mud and straw? Not sure, but probably similar with dirt floors and no glass windows.
* Jesus ate with his fingers and most likely from a communal dish, too. No need for a lot of dishes and silverware that need to be washed with precious water.
* I wonder if flies plagued Jesus and the other people of his village? Bet His family had no garbage pick-up.
* Where were the state-of-the-art hospitals? Crippled people remained crippled; the blind stayed blind.
* There was high infant mortality and women birthed their babies at home with other women attending them.
* Many women were illiterate and totally dependent on the men of their families to provide for them. Of course, they worked very hard their whole lives having babies (no epidurals, by the way), raising children, hauling water, gathering firewood, putting food on the table, baking bread (or buying it if one could afford to), and washing clothes in a stream then laying them over a bush to dry in the hot sun.
* How many changes of clothes do you think Jesus had? How many pairs of sandals? How often did He bathe and where?
* Dental care was non-existent. If Mary or Joseph lost a tooth, what did they do? I personally cannot visualize the Savior of the world without a tooth, but it is very possible.
* School was available and boys attended if they were not needed in the fields or other family occupation.
* Beggars were commonplace.
* Herds of goats, sheep and cattle wandered the lanes of dusty villages and chickens wandered and woke everybody up before the sun peeked over the horizon.
* The rich people had faster and more comfortable ways of getting from Point A to Point B, but the majority of people in Palestine in 30 AD, just as they do in Ethiopia in 2014 AD, walked.
Why didn’t I consciously think of this before? Jesus completely understands the everyday challenges the poor of Ethiopia experience... right down to the lack of money for just about everything. He also is intimately acquainted with the strength and value of family. His Father God designed His upbringing to include a stable father and mother. He was loved. He belonged and had uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents (if they lived that long). His physical world encompassed just a few miles of real estate.
So when I pray for the very vulnerable and courageous families that God has assigned to Adoption Ministry 1:27, He knows! He understands every uncomfortable detail. Of course, He is the omniscient God of the universe and is aware of all of our challenges, Third World or not. But there is a connection and intimate understanding of the poor in backwards settings that I have with Him when I pray for the Widow Anane (Ah-nanny) who is trying to raise five children ranging in ages six to fourteen. She sells onions and potatoes alongside the road and her children are at risk of becoming part of the alarming statistics of those who live on the streets of Ethiopia and do not have enough to eat and barely get an education.
Jesus understands. He knows! He became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and expects us, His church, to preach the Good News to the poor and to meet some of their basic physical needs.
No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame...
Show me Your ways, O LORD, teach me Your paths;
Guide me in Your truth and teach me,
for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.
Now... please excuse me while I fix myself a high protein breakfast with fresh fruit and then take a hot shower, fluff up my hair and put on some make-up. Then I will choose what to wear from dozens of outfits and slip into my car that will take me to work. Caio!