‘People may believe what they wish. People may say what they wish. Nevertheless, we do possess the sacred Tabot, that is to say the Ark of the Covenant, and I am its guardian…’ Ethiopian Orthodox Priest ~ Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal
In the brief moment this photo was made, a calm and loving caress of mother and son was captured. But it’s the bookend storms of raw emotion that are fixed in my memory – a boy writhing in agony, a worried mother, and a doctor hard at work. We don’t see that here – his pain nor its source. We don’t see his deformed and infected foot, and we don’t see the nervous doctor, scalpel in hand, a surgical incision draining the wound.
But in this millisecond of time and life when I captured this image, there was only serenity, a gift of love, and evidence of ancient faith – the ever-present Ethiopian Cross strung from the boy’s neck.
(Spoiler alert: An offer to own your own Ethiopian cross necklace below!)
Ethiopia’s ties to Biblical scripture are ancient. King Solomon, son of King David, married Ethiopia’s Queen of Sheba, who gave birth to Emperor Menelik. And with that union the Solomonic dynasty and Judaism arrived in Ethiopia (around 1000BC), and later Christianity in the first century A.D. Ethiopians assert the Ark of the Covenant came to Ethiopia about 3000 years ago, and today, it is guarded by an Ethiopian Orthodox priest in Axum… or so the story goes. Some westerners doubt the story, but I believe it. Why shouldn’t I? I’ve been convinced by their faith. I have witnessed their faith heal tragic wounds, and return laughter to places of anguish.
In Ethiopia, the cross is omnipresent, worn and sometimes tattooed on people everywhere, as a constant reminder to be faithful and to protect against evil.
The Ethiopian Cross is different from the Latin Cross; it’s boxy design represents the Ark, while maintaining the classical shape of the Cross. Together, they are the old and the new covenants.
All of it I find enchanting: the history and mythology of Ethiopia, the nobility of such ancestry and culture, and I consider the hope it must bring to someone who otherwise has nothing.
I’m not alone in knowing the enchantment of an exotic culture and its ancient customs. Any westerner of humble heart and kind ambition who has walked a foreign land, made friends and shared in treasured rituals, is marked by those experiences.
Gloria Gieseke Curtis is one of those westerners with a unique history of African service that’s as long as Lalmba’s 53 years! She was in one of the first few Peace Corps groups, 1963-1965, stationed in Ethiopia and Eritrea, 2 years after the Peace Corps was founded by President Kennedy.She was in Ethiopia on that tragic day when Kennedy was assassinated. She remembers the “shock and horror” of processing those feelings so far from home. She remembers the outpouring of sympathy from Ethiopians, and how Emperor Haile Salassie instituted 3 days of national mourning. Every citizen wore a black arm band in solidarity.
Those gestures of unity were heartfelt, and comforted a group of young Americans who were very far from home, and perhaps a little frightened. Gloria learned from that outpouring that there is harmony in grief, strength in unity, and that she now had a larger purpose to her mission in Africa.
Gloria says, “Everything good that has happened to me in my adult life is related to my Peace Corps experience in Ethiopia.”
One of the “good” things that happened to Gloria was a job managing an African Arts import company, which was owned by an Ethiopian woman. Working there, Gloria learned the art of jewelry making and the Ethiopian aesthetic. African jewelry is never just ornamental; there’s significance in each piece. The hopes and prayers of the maker are woven into the design, and the cohesion of texture and color is a harmonious blessing for the wearer.
Today Gloria has blessed Lalmba with a gift of 25 exquisitely beaded necklaces, each adorned with an Ethiopian cross. They’re stunningly beautiful with an ancient elegance that feels as regal as the culture that inspired the designs.
Each one is handmade by Gloria and comes with a matching set of earrings.
Would you or someone special in your life like one of your own? Be one of the first 25 people to donate $100 to Lalmba.
(The 12 earliest mail-in postmarks and the first 13 online donors)
Tell us you want a necklace, and we’ll send you one of Gloria’s masterpieces. Each one is unique.
Be sure to note ‘necklace’ on your donation.
or via check in the mail:
1000 Corey Street, Longmont, Co. 80501
Thank you, Gloria, for your unique gift to support Lalmba’s work in your beloved Ethiopia!
Volunteer experiences like Gloria’s change a person in ways that a typical African safari can’t offer. Lalmba volunteers David and Wanda McLure, who served in Matoso 16 years ago, recently returned as consultants, and the positive changes they saw in the community were inspiring. If you ever ponder whether Lalmba truly has an impact on rural communities, read Dave and Wanda’s reflections on their return to their beloved Matoso:
16 years ago, Wanda and I landed in Matoso village, Kenya to begin a 2-year stint with Lalmba. At age 50, we were ready for an African adventure and the opportunity to “give something back” after an easy middle class American life (so far).
It was hard. The heat, the lake flies, the isolation, the poverty, the sickness, the HIV death sentence for so many all around us, made life hard. But the rewards were great as well: The opportunity to treat and cure a child sick with malaria or suffering from malnutrition, to start and build a home based orphan care program (RCAR), to treat more than 100 patients per day at our 2 clinics who had no other viable options for health care – these things all mattered, and it felt good to be a part of it.
The ancient philosopher who said that ‘change is the only certain thing in this world’ hit the nail on the head. Returning to Matoso 16 years after a very intensive 2 years embedded at the clinics, I am observing a lot of change. Today almost everyone is wearing some kind of footwear, very few bare and well-calloused feet; almost everyone is wearing street clothing whether store bought or made locally by the [tailors]; most babies are wearing a cloth diaper vs the bare bottoms of yesteryear. Many fewer malnourished babies and children are appearing at Matoso Clinic. Bicycles have been replaced by motorbikes (piki piki) making travel so much easier and faster; it’s not unusual to see 4-5 persons on a single motorbike!
The most gratifying change is to see the change in the bodies of the people walking about. [We used to see] skeletal figures, bodies covered with tumors, persons with massive dehydration from chronic diarrhea, and bodies with extensive fungal rashes. These are no longer common. The Ministry of Health, with foreign assistance, has devised a very tight protocol for identifying and treating people diagnosed with HIV, which reaches even to an area as remote as Matoso.
Change! Hope! A better future!
How beautiful to see Lalmba’s part in it!
Do you remember the exciting offer last year, for a round-trip ticket to Kenya to stay at Hugh and Marty’s lovely villa along Lake Victoria? The lucky winners of that trip were Craig Fournier and Jane Difley. Craig is a long-time Lalmba supporter from Boulder. Craig and Jane enjoyed a week savoring the sunsets along the lake, meeting the community and Lalmba’s staff in this poor rural community of Matoso. They also became fans of Kenya’s Tusker beer (no refrigeration necessary)! Craig shares his impressions of visiting Lalmba’s children’s home which cares for 40 AIDS orphans.
We arrived at 12 noon to the Ongoro children’s home near the Lalmba clinic. A quick tour of the separate boys’ and girls’ dormitories, each housing 20 children, showed us neat and austere bunk beds with 3 or 4 children to a room. Each bed was equipped with a mosquito net. The children’s clothes were very minimal but included the obligatory school uniform. Next we were treated to a music and dance performance that was very endearing and charming. Then each child introduced himself or herself. The most striking introduction was a 14-year-old girl who stated that she wanted to become an airline pilot. The great news was that she had a lofty dream. For without a dream, what can we become? We were left wondering if she had ever flown in an airplane, had any idea of what a pilot does or what it takes to become a pilot. We don’t know if this dream is attainable or not. However, I would not want to underestimate this young woman! Maybe she will never become an airline pilot, but she can’t go far wrong by aiming high. Without Lalmba she would undoubtedly never even have thought of such a goal.
AIDS in Kenya has wiped out the middle aged mothers and fathers in Kenya. This may not be news to you, but to see an orphanage of children who parents have died of this disease, brought the point home to us. What remains is overburdened extended families and sometimes no families at all. These children in the Ongoro Children’s home have lost their parents. At Lalmba’s home, the children have a safe place to stay, adequate food, clothing and health care. Approximately half the children are HIV positive. As long as they keep taking medicine for this, they can be expected to lead normal lives.
Do you remember the story of Posy a few newsletters ago, the little girl with epilepsy in Ethiopia who was abandoned by her family? We received this letter from one of our young supporters, 9-year-old Joseph McLaughlin of Arlington, Virginia, after he read Posy’s story.
The tender hearted care and compassion from one child to another across the ocean touches us deeply. May we all approach the suffering of our fellow man with such simple and heartfelt love.