How long?

How long?

Serving with her family in Ethiopia, Suzy Wilson finds a full stomach and a feeling of security leave her yearning…

Photo: Addis street (Suzy Wilson/Church Mission Society)

Caught between two worlds, our people in mission are often faced with the stark realities of privilege and poverty. Mission partner Suzy Wilson takes us for a walk…

By Suzy Wilson

Almost every day I walk along the road outside our compound. There is a quiet kind of vibrancy there that I relish; I greet Alem, who sells coffee under her tarpaulin at the side of the road, and crouch down to buy potatoes from one of the ladies who piles them up just nearby.

I visit the fruit store, its shelves heavy with colour and laden with produce – watermelons, bananas, papayas. I walk past the line of older teenage boys who are chatting and laughing, apparently unconcerned whether or not they gain much business shining shoes. I stop by the souk next to the lively bus station, where tuk tuks and minibuses compete for customers and space to manoeuvre.

Feeling the weight

Soon my rucksack is heavy with dark green avocados, those green-yellow local oranges that the kids love, and milk, eggs and meat. That was the easy part. Then I turn and begin the short walk back to our house. I feel the weight in my bag as I pass the girl with a seriously scarred face, the lady leaning heavily on her stick with only one leg, and the mum and her baby, who is learning to crawl at the side of the road.

I give them some fruit or bread which they receive gratefully, and has cost me almost nothing, and I mutter a prayer on my way into the compound as I knock loudly on the high grey gate with tangled barbed wire along the top, waiting for the guard who will let me in.

I am painfully aware that my feeble offering is far from enough, practically laughable in the face of their extreme circumstances; in comparison my life is unimaginably luxurious, I walk and operate in a world designed around ease and safety.

I am caught up in the embarrassment and guilt, and a troubling self-realisation of my struggle, unwilling and unable to act as I believe I should.

It would be so much easier…

As I walk towards my home, a place of peace and predictability with lilies and white roses in a flowerbed bordering the outside, I am left merely with a faltering cry of Come Lord Jesus, but words spoken with a full stomach and from a feeling of security are unable to anchor; such a desperate prayer does not belong to me.

It would be so much easier not to see them every day, to create structures and rhythms that allow me to live in a false reality that denies the existence of wretchedness and misery.

It would be easier to not to look at their faces when I give them something, or to not ask their name – anything to create a more of a distance. It would be easier to forget them.

Because the girl with the badly burnt face still sits on the street day after day, with one eye that I’m not sure she can even close, staring at me as I bend down with a gift of a banana and – just for a whisper of a second – step into her desolation.

And now that baby has learnt to crawl, and he is working on his next milestone which almost certainly he too will conquer on this busy stretch of road where lorries pump out black smoke as they rev their ailing engines to accelerate up the hill.

A cry goes up

Today I walked to the bus, and so many more were lining the pavement, individuals and entire families whose lives are transient – they come and go and this morning sat huddled in the cold and wet under flimsy umbrellas with white cloths laid out to collect coins, while the clouds squeezed out their final remnants of rain to make way for sunshine and with it the possibility of at last warming up.

How long O Lord?

They are not my words to speak, but I voice them because I have seen and heard the desperate cries and the lonely lament from those whose fear and loss of hope is tangible every single day, and who long only to breathe deeply and freely.

These words are spoken for them as I remember the mother whose breasts are sore and full as they grieve the loss of their young baby, again.

I speak them because there are those who can’t eat, whose animals are dying and whose well has dried up – who are watching their children starve.

I plead with the Almighty as I read of the unimaginable horror and listen to friends tell me of massacres of women and children, and poor farmers.

A cry has gone out, her wailing is carried on the wind and you need only to be still to hear it.

Let justice roll

Dark clouds gather over the afternoon, the world becoming prematurely dark. The pressure builds and then at last, the clouds erupt and thick heavy drops of water begin to fall. It soon turns into hail, which jumps and dances off tin roofs. A familiar landscape is transformed into a watery chaos as streams are birthed and rush forth and pools emerge from the now sodden ground. And then, the storm draws to a close, and amid the stillness that settles, a vivid splendour bathes creation. 

Come Lord Jesus.

Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream. Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness, let the earth open, that salvation may spring up.

Sing and rejoice O daughter of Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst.

Amos 5:24 (NIV); Isaiah 45:8 (NRSV); Zechariah 2:10 (NRSV)

How long O Lord?

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