Begging the Issue

March 23rd, 2012

Been walking the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for five days now.

What to do with the beggars? They are everywhere, sitting in their misery with hands stretched out. Some blind, some deaf, others with deformed limbs, swollen extremities and missing appendages… others hunchback bent over double, some old and toothless, some women young with baby. It’s all quite disturbing.

“Give to the one who asks you,” Jesus said (Matthew 5:42). Is holding ones hand out considered as asking? Because if it is, walking down the street here is a full time job in giving.

For the beggars I feel sympathy and compassion, but also feel sick they’re forced to trade dignity for food. Saw a young guy today who looked healthy except for one leg was deformed. He was begging. I got angry. Why do you want me to treat you as charity? Why give up your dignity when you could fight your handicap? I know, easy for me to say.

I found out about a program here in Addis that offers reduced priced meals. You can buy meal tickets to this ministry (Hope Enterprise) for 1 birr each (about 6 US cents). I’ve bought several hundred of them – seems to be a handy thing to give out to beggars. Sometimes they don’t know what I’m giving them and look confused – I try to explain. Other times, they look excited.

But the needs don’t stop with beggars. Let’s talk street kids. I could talk stats, and I saw online an estimate of 50,000 in Addis, but it hits home closer when you meet them.

Filthy. Tattered rags. Skinny. Sores. Walk beside you, point to their bare feet, their scanty clothing, ask you to do something. You do something, they want you to do more somethings. Where does it stop? I can’t help them all. Can I even help some?

I’ve met people in Addis. People on the street. Randomly got plugged into a group of college kids. They want me to start a non-profit sponsorship ministry for street kids. One of them grew up as an orphan. He’s married now with a baby boy. He wants to partner with me to help street kids.

I’ve been in Addis five days.

4 Responses to “Begging the Issue”

  1. Amanda Says:

    Heartbroken, frustrated, confused… “where’s the balance between ministry and supporting laziness?” It’s a question I’ve asked a million times… about people in 3rd world countries to people in the US; about people in the Church to people outside the church.
    It’s a question I still don’t have a good answer for, except through the leading of my Heavenly father in individual situations.

  2. Mary Says:

    “I can’t help them all. Can I even help some?” I wonder if the disciples found themselves thinking this same thing. It makes me think of Matthew 19 when the children try to come to Jesus and the disciples turn them away. Of course you know the rest. Jesus tells them in verse 14 to “Let the little children come to me”. Interesting.

  3. nick Says:

    “Let the children come to me.” I’ve been re-reading the gospel of Luke and one thing that has jumped out to me is how he never got mad at the crowds pressing for his attention. He consistently showed compassion. Like you pointed out Mary, his disciples sometimes had enough, sending away kids, or in another case offering to call down fire from heaven on a town that wouldn’t receive them…

    That’s an interesting comment Amanda about balancing quote-unquote ministry with enabling laziness. I think ministry in the States has to be overtly intentional to avoid the common pitfall of activities replacing relational depth.

  4. Simple Follower of Jesus » Blog Archive » the Month of March has Arrived–and times Marches on Says:

    […] Ryan and I have been running an ongoing discussion on what our stance should be toward beggars.  Both from the standpoint of having material means ourselves, and as Christians.  Being accosted by destitute (and often handicapped) beggars is pretty common here, though thankfully nowhere as bad as Ethiopia or other places I’ve been.  I remember last March writing a few thoughts about the beggar issue in Addis. […]

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