Africa, Faith, life, relationships
Comments 5

To Keep Hope Alive

Nothing said “home” to me about the disheveled collection of huts. 

They were lean-tos really and in my American mind, this pocket slum in Addis Ababa resembled a child’s treehouse or fort: crooked walls made of found materials, small square holes left empty of glass allowed in light and air.

Someone’s donkey was tied to a post just a few feet away from the cheap plastic bins, some empty, some partially filled with grain I didn’t recognize. The grain didn’t belong to the donkey but to the women who lived in the tiny hut structures just a few steps across a dirt path from one another.
They were neighbors, single moms, each had a child around the same age as my youngest, then in kindergarten. They had a lot in common with one another: one child a piece, no husband, no job, no income, and both infected with “the virus”. They carried the symptoms and the shame of the sickness so full of certain death that its acronym name couldn’t be uttered: AIDS.

They bore each other’s burdens, these friends, in a way I’ve never seen before or since.

One was stronger than the other. Perhaps the illness hadn’t gripped her as hard, or she was younger… I don’t know, but she was taking her turn at caring for the needs of her friend, who when I met her, was so weak she could not rise to greet us. She lay in a dark, sallow, unmoving heap, cold despite the warmth of the day, breathing shallow and thin.

Every week, the stronger friend took this woman to the HIV clinic for her free medication. Every week, she carried her.

She carried her on her back and walked the road that led to hope. Two miles away.

I was blinded by their courage in the sunless corners of their tiny houses, bereft of all comfort, thick and heavy with the woodsmoke that constantly burned to keep the bugs away.

I was flooded with impossibility. This slum was impossible. The way they lived was impossible. That they kept on going like this was impossible.

What compels someone to keep living, keep receiving medication, keep on at all in these conditions?

Then I remembered: these women were mothers. They held Future in their arms every night. They watched Hope’s resilient grin each morning. They had reason beyond logic to push through another day, week, round of anti-viral medication.

For what is Hope without a mother? What is Future without the love a mother gives?

It is orphaned hope and future aborted.

That is the impossibility these mothers faced with courage: to give their children something they only dreamed of–a life truly worth living.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” {Jeremiah 29:11}

God promised Israel long ago that regardless of how dismal and purposeless their existence seemed to be, He had a hope a future for them. All of God’s promises are free to us to accept through the grace of Jesus. Problems seem to mount into unscalable edifices, discouragement threatens to drag us into a dark riptide.

What is the spiritual virus that eats at your soul? Finances? Disappointment? Failed relationships? A child with a prodigal heart? Old hurt that won’t go away? Job loss? Chronic pain?

Do you know you have a friend who walked that road to hope for you? He carried a cross upon his back and when he was nailed to its grain and he hung in the wind outside Jerusalem, he declared, “It is finished.”

It may seem impossible. Your heart may be empty of joy. But friend, Jesus has taken care of it all. You’ll see….

Bless you!


If you’re interested in knowing more about Ethiopia and the amazing, hope-filled transformational work that is being done through the New Covenant Foundation, check out their website and blog here.

Linked with Lisa-Jo

And Laura Krokos



  1. This is just lovely. And your memories of these women really touched my heart today.

    • Thank you, Amy! They will always be in my mind… among others I met there in Ethiopia. I just can’t get over the fact that the one carried the other upon her back — such an image of friendship….

  2. This is incredible! Thank you for sharing and I love how you write!

    Thank you for linking up with Faith Filled Fridays, I am blessed by you!

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