It is however, still cripplingly poor. Despite the vegetation, the country experiences something called "green famines". The rain comes and nurtures the vegetation, but it is inconsistent and cannot sustain crop growth and health. As a consequence, along with many other economical and political factors, many parts of Ethiopia, especially the more rural areas, experience devastating poverty.
Because of this I expected to feel great pain in this country of suffering. I expected to leave with my heart heavy and my eyes filled with tears. I expected to lay awake at night in my hotel, when all was quiet and dark and rage inside at the insanity of a world that lets its children live like this.
Kaleidoscopes of fun
The projects we visited were whirling kaleidoscopes of fun, learning and love, centred in the middle of cities and countrysides alike. It was in one particular project that I remember leaving with my head held high and a huge smile on my face. We had arrived to visit with the Director of Compassion Ethiopia, obviously a figure of respect and gravitas, not just for us but even more so for the registered children.
Yet, he played with them as if he were an uncle, brother or even one of the children himself. Whether he was brandishing a ping-pong bat or pushing the girls on the swings till they squealed with delight, he looked like he was having more fun than they were.
Feeling the presence of God
It was this attitude that I saw reflected throughout the project workers I met on my trip. They worked hard, often sacrificing their own time and money for the children in their care, but they did it with a love that seemed deep yet light. These lives of love came directly from Christ, and because of this His presence in these projects was so strong, I could almost smell Him.
These project workers smiled and sang and prayed, these children were their lives and even though the burden was heavy, Christ was bearing the load. On that visit I got a vision of what the kingdom of God is truly all about.
I could see in that microcosm how it is possible not only to eradicate poverty but also usher in the kingdom of God so we can finally live in the place we have been promised, where there is no more suffering or pain, where the faces of all the children in all the world will be lit up with love, shelter and comfort. The final reign of a God of love.
Ephesians 5:1+2: Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
by Tamsin Kendrick, former Editor of Compassion Magazine at Compassion UK
This article has been re-produced in Christian Today with the kind permission of Compassion UK (http://www.compassionuk.org/).