Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope - a slight change, and all patterns alter. Sharon Salzberg
Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. 1Corinthians 7:17
I wish I could think of a way to describe the past month in Addis. Addis is a constantly moving symphony of life. When I think of Addis a kaleidoscope comes to mind. All the colors and shapes constantly moving , constantly changing; some fitting together and others spinning as far away as they can reach within the confined space of the cylinder in which they are held.
Addis is like that, the colors of the clothes, the colors of the different cultures and ethnic groups, the colors of the food being sold in the souks and on the blankets, all blending together with the sounds. The sounds take on a life of their own, and yet they blend perfectly with the colors swirling around. The shouts of the taxis, “pazza, pazza” and the woosh of the van door as it slides open and people come swirling on and off. The sounds of music blaring from various shops mingled with the call to worship from the nearby mosques and Orthodox temples and Christian churches with voices raised high in their calls to God.
Addis is a beautiful mix of new and old – the old buildings that are reminiscent of the Italian days combined with the massive concrete structures that seem to be sprouting up faster than wildflowers in Texas in the springtime. There are crumbling concrete structures in front of beautiful glass buildings. There are houses that are not much more than a few sheets of tin held together by a few nails with a clothesline in front where the family laundry hangs to dry.
Addis is a symphony of smells. Some better than others, but they all blend together one fading into another, to create the perfume that is uniquely Addis. As you walk through the city the scents of charcoal fires, incense from a local church, fresh roasting coffee, mix with the less appealing odors of raw sewage running through what appears to be a creek. The smell of fresh laundry blowing in the breeze mingles with the odors of the auto shop that operates in the street in front of it. The scent of dirty bodies and fresh urine combine with the exhaust of the many vehicles that are on the roads. Added to the mix is the scent of the variety of beautiful flowers that seem to spring up everywhere.
And, in the poverty and the wealth, in the old and the new, in the fresh and the not so fresh, the Holy Spirit is swirling through, making sure the pieces that make up the kaleidoscope of Addis don’t stray too far from the space of God’s love that is within that cylinder. Jesus is walking through the street people laying in the medians throughout the town. Jesus is sitting next to the man whose body is no more than a stump with arms and legs that are so short his feet and hands seem to be stuck onto his shoulders and He is playing with the children in the dump we passed today and is holding the mother who can’t feed her child supper or put more than a cardboard box over his head to offer shelter during the night. He is in the hands of the priest walking with his hand on the shoulder of a young boy and in the embrace of the woman who joyfully greeted the Imam on the road today, and in the voices lifted in prayer from the Synod staff as they rise towards heaven through the floorboards of the guest house. He is in the love and the laughter that is shared around his table as old friends are joined together again and new friends are added to the circle.
Sometimes the “three in one” are not so easy to find, sometimes I just have to get out and hit the street, to be reminded. Other days it is easy to find in the glory and majesty of a day spent in his mountains where we spent a beautiful day away from the city.
As I was typing this the words “for the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, Lord of all to thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise” came dancing through my head. Sometimes I take the words to hymns and songs for granted, today I had to stop and play with them a while.
My life hasn’t turned out quite the way I planned. I am not peacefully learning to settle in Akobo, South Sudan and build relationships with the people there as we begin our lives together. But in reflection if I were, I would have missed the beautiful kaleidoscope of times, places, sights and sounds that God has provided for me.
I pray that you be blessed in the beauty of God’s kaleidoscope around you, even when it is hard to see, there is beauty to be found there.
Thanks be to God!