Loving Where We Live
Last week I had a conversation with someone that left me asking questions about the place where I live. Do I really like where we live or do I just pretend to? These people were new to Addis and they were contemplating about where they would like to live. The conclusions that they came to was that while they wanted to work in Addis, they could never live here. Too smoggy. Too congested. Too dirty. They longed to live in the country where it was cleaner and had breathable air and then commute into the chaos daily. I give them so much credit for wanting to work in Addis.
But, it did leave me wondering, “Do I really like it here?” I mean we live on the edge of the slum with the garbage dump as the backdrop. We have some of the worst air quality in the entire city. The mud outside of our compound somedays makes it virtually impassible by vehicle and our children are muddy from head to toe simply by walking. When its not raining, the clouds of dust fill the air. We see intense poverty all around us every day. We have strange groups of people who come to our gate at night. Because we are one of very few whites who live in the area, we are also the first stop when someone is begging or needs assistance. The houses are really, really close together – at least by our prior standards. And on top of it all, we don’t feel comfortable leaving our walled compound at night because of the growth of teenage gangs who are known to steal. We were warned when we moved into this house that we were moving into a “Danger Area” by local Ethiopians.
And, we love it.
We love that we get to live a 3 minute walk away from the Day Care. We love that we live and work in the exact same neighborhood and can be present here. We love that almost daily we bump into those whom EHE serves. We love that people have stopped yelling “Foreigner” at us and instead have somewhat accepted us into the neighborhood, even though we still really stand out. We love the paradoxical beauty of the trash dump which we have a perfect view of outside of our 2nd story. It remains a lasting symbol for us of why we do what we do. We love that when there is an emergency in the neighborhood, there are moms from the project who come to our door and tell us. We love that we get to be present to the people whom God has put in our hearts to serve.
We love it.
Sure, there are hassles and struggles. Sure, there are days when we wish we had reliable water and electricity and that the smoke from the dump would not blow our direction so that we could keep the windows open at night. Sure, there are days when I wish that I could hide my eyes from the poverty and the ongoing internal struggle of when we should be meeting a need and when we are causing more harm. Living where we live creates complexities that are accentuated by the fact that by local standards we are rich and we are white.
Yet, we love it.
We can’t imagine living anywhere else. How’s that for a statement from a family that used to live in the country, 20 minutes from the city, sitting on 5 acres of lawn and surrounded by farms and stunning sunsets. We think that God has done something in our hearts – placing an incarnational quality there…and we are so grateful for it.