The God Who Sees Me [117 Trip Chronicles]
Coffee and I have been friends for a long time. I love the smell, I love the taste, and I love the warmth that a cozy mug brings my soul. Yet, I never anticipated that coffee would play a role in a significant moment during my recent trip to visit Carry 117. After hearing about Carry 117 for several years, God prompted me to take a leap and experience it firsthand in Korah, Ethiopia. I needed to SEE it for myself.
Not long after you set foot in Ethiopia, you realize that making coffee is a labor of love in their culture. Everyday that we worked alongside the women of Carry 117, we witnessed Alem, the cook at Carry 117, roasting the beans on the small 2-burner stove in the rustic kitchen. The popping and smoke would signal the beans were almost ready. Not long after that, we would spot Alem dancing through the compound with the skillet in hand, making sure everyone who was working got a chance to breathe in a waft of the aromatic beans.
Once cooled, the beans are ground with a mortar and pestle. One day, under Alem’s tutelage, I had a chance to grind the beans. It takes careful attention to pound the beans. Pound too vigorously and they spill out, pound too slow and they don’t break down. Slow, careful, measured strokes give the best results. Freshly ground beans—which smell amazing—are added to the jebena along with hot water and brewed to perfection, then served for friends and guests to enjoy. It is the best coffee I have ever tasted!
As I lay in bed one night, God gave me a picture of how our lives resemble the coffee process. We may go through fiery trials: things that hurt, painful relationships, health issues, financial woes, etc., resulting in us being ground down. There are parts of us that feel broken and wounded in those times. But the truth of the matter is that those things, when yielded to God, our Living Water, mix together to make something beautiful. The result of yielding our lives, brokenness and all, to God is a life that is crafted for a purpose. God redeems what was broken. I SAW that in the ladies of Carry 117. He took their hardships and is making their lives new again through meaningful work and relationships.
Now, I am not much of a talker, but I felt prompted by God to share this word picture with Alem. Often when I sense God wanting me to do something, I let it slide. I push it aside, letting it fade until is gone. But not this time. There was an urgency to my obedience. I rounded up an interpreter and went to the kitchen. As I told Alem the coffee metaphor, she looked heavenward and put her hands on her heart. She gave me the warmest hug I have ever felt. Then it happened. She looked me in the eyes. Time literally stood still. As I looked into her eyes, she looked back at me and it wasn’t just her that I saw. Looking back at me were the eyes of God and he was saying, “I see you.” El Roi, “the God Who Sees,” was making Himself known to me. Never have I felt anything this clear, this intimate. Two women, from worlds apart look into each other’s eyes, all barriers falling by the wayside, and God reached in to say He saw us both.
I spent a week with the women of Carry 117 serving with them, laughing with them, playing with their children, and yes, drinking coffee with them. Not only did I get to see what God is doing in Ethiopia, but I came away with new eyes that see that God is working through all of our brokenness to make something new. And He sees me. He sees the women of Carry 117. And He sees you.