You would think that since the “gospel impact” has been greater here than in that predominantly Orthodox nation that people would be more important here in the U.S.—more of a priority and concern—but they’re not. Americans in
general and even believers in Jesus Christ value possessions and activities more than their fellow human beings. The result is relational poverty (a new term I learned from one of my fellow adoptive dads). And I believe this is killing
Here are some of the differences I noticed. I don’t have many answers at this point—don’t shoot me. I’m simply making a list of areas in which I feel the need to work.
1. Americans go from their private homes to their solitary cars to their offices, cubes and individual work spaces. Ethiopians are much more comfortable jamming into a van, taxi or horse-drawn cart. It’s not uncommon to see friends with an arm around his or her friend’s shoulder or even holding hands. There’s nothing weird or perverted about this. They simply love their friends and family and enjoy being with one another.
2. Americans are slaves NOT masters to their schedule. We are always in a hurry and nothing is permitted to wreck that time table. If you are the one responsible for being a “speed bump,” watch out! You’ll be run over. While Ethiopians do have a concern for time, it’s not the same. They do a better job in managing time than we do. If they’re late, there’s normally a good reason—besides being delayed by horses, donkeys or sheep on the highway, it might just be that they were engrossed in a conversation with someone important like a friend or family member and they just couldn’t drag themselves away.
3. American individualism is the number one driving force here. In Ethiopia, your faith community (Orthodox, Muslim or Evangelical Christian) is top priority. You see and hear this everywhere. There are calls to prayer at 3 and 5 AM for Orthodox and Muslim believers—try getting over jet lag with those disturbances. The Orthodox and Evangelical churches and mosques are packed. There’s no room, so the latecomers have to sit outside in the mud (it’s the rainy season there right now) and the service is piped out through crude speakers. Christians, are our community of believers that important to us? Do we really sense the need to be with one another for worship instruction and fellowship? Let’s be honest.
4. I know this one doesn’t fit the relational theme but I had to bring it up. Americans worry about “quality of life.” What a stupid, stupid term! Ethiopians worry about life itself. Now according to Jesus both are sin (see Matthew 6:25ff), but which is worse? Americans are not concerned about having clothing, but about what designer fashions are in style and how to ride the wave of fashion. Ethiopians worry about getting enough food. Americans turn their noses up to certain restaurants and anything that’s not organic. What I hear all the time is, “Oh, I wouldn’t buy that car!” Ethiopians are glad just to have a ride to get where they’re going rather than having to walk. We Americans need to get a life—no pun intended.
I guess both nations are suffering from EXTREME POVERTY—just in two totally different ways.