Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Few Macchiattos a Month

Before I tell this story, I need to give a little background info.  Ethiopia is the home of coffee.  Seriously.  And the coffee we drink here in America...well, it's really not the same beverage.  Maybe it doesn't even deserve to be called coffee.  I don't like coffee...except for those special coffee drinks that come with whipped cream and syrup on top.  When you're in Ethiopia, you're offered a cup everywhere you go.  A coffee ceremony is performed for every occasion, and black coffee is handed around in delicate little cups.  On my first visit to ET I never tasted it, and on this last trip I made it halfway through the week before a friend convinced me to taste hers. Oh. My. Goodness.  Now I know what coffee is supposed to taste like; it was smooth and rich, no bitterness, and it tasted like...well, coffee.  There's a chain of coffee shops in Ethiopia called Kaldis of which Ethiopians are very proud.  Jim and I laughed when we were there; it's been made to look very much like Starbucks, and it was actually a comfort to visit there (even if all I ordered that first time was a Coke; no coffee!) because it felt a bit like home.  At any rate, Kaldis sells their own version of the fancy coffee drinks we buy here at Starbucks, along with desserts (which are not a common part of one's diet in ET).  The most popular coffee beverage seems to be the Macchiatto, which we were offered every time we ate a meal in a restaurant.

Now, having explained about Kaldis, I want to share a story about a man I met in Ethiopia.  He's on the staff of Children's Hope Chest, and spent a lot of time with our team.  On the last day we were there, I had a long conversation with him (our team went out to lunch after church, and he and I sat together and had a very long wait for our pizza).  While we were waiting, Misikir told me about a passion God has given him.  Remember, he is already working for CHC, spending his days helping vulnerable children and their families, and he also has a beautiful wife and precious baby boy at home.  But he loves the Lord, and he has seen a opportunity to serve God and the ones He loves, and he is determined to help.  He talked to me about young Christians in Ethiopia who are struggling because they do not have the resources to be educated.  He described, with enthusiasm, his desire to see young Christians being trained and prepared to assume roles of leadership in bring about change in their country for the glory of God.  He told stories of young people he knew personally, of how he feels concerned about the choices they are making when they don't believe education is attainable to them.  He told me one story about a young woman who had been able to begin studying nursing at a local university, but when she was no longer able to pay the tuition, she considered selling herself as a means of earning the money to continue.  She knew that her future was bleak without an education, and saw no other means of attaining it.  My friend was convicted that he needed to find a way to help his younger brothers and sisters in Christ.  He went home to his wife one day and presented her with his desire to begin helping.  He wanted to begin paying tuition for one young woman out of his own income, and wanted to know if his wife would support this.  She, too, believed that God would ask them to help, and agreed.  This giving was sacrificial for this young family.  And my friend knew that there were many more young men and women who needed help.  So he began to share his passion with his friends, and even began to dream of starting an organization through which Christian young men and women could be assisted financially (toward their education), and also discipled by older Christians who could guide them toward seeking godly vision for their lives.

What does all of this have to do with coffee?  As I listened to this young man's passionate love for God and others, he said something that almost made me laugh out loud.  Actually, it was one of those "don't know whether to laugh or cry" moments.  He was telling me how much money is needed to pay one month's tuition at a local university.  He was saying that when he shares his vision with others, hoping to find support, he will sometimes tell them that the amount needed is "only a few Macchiatos a month." If I understood correctly, the amount was around 600 birr; roughly $30/month.  Just a few Macchiatos.  It was just such a familiar line to me, yet the illustration he had laid out for me was so powerful.  My friend and the other Ethiopians with whom we were eating that day are not living in poverty; they are earning a good income by Ethiopian standards, and providing for their families.  But by American standards...well, I am wealthy in comparison.  And yet this man was challenging himself and others to sacrifice more, perhaps to sacrifice one of a few pleasures that they allow themselves.

The price of a few Kaldis Macchiatos...a few Starbucks Lattes a month...really can change someone's life.  The cost for my friend to support a young college student while pointing him to Christ.  The cost of sponsoring a child...providing food, education, Christian teaching.  It's hard to measure that in terms of coffee.  Or maybe not so hard.    

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