Lent?

As my most recent (and also first!) post was revelatory of my tea addiction, I figured I should let you all know that…

I HAVE GIVEN UP TEA FOR LENT.

Actually, I’ve given up all beverages except water. Why?

Recently, God's been using my professors, my mentors, and my friends here at Dordt to teach me how to tangibly embody my faith in day to day life. Okay, I've given my life to Christ and I'm saved. A question typically asked on Dordt's campus: saved for WHAT? Simultaneously, God has laid Genesis 12:2 on my heart: "And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." Here, God is referring to Abraham and the blessing, the honor of fathering Israel; however, the same concept can be applied to my life. My physical and material blessings are both countless and secure -- I've been blessed beyond belief! Now, it's my turn to be a blessing.

Take a slight detour with me…

A few weeks before arriving at Dordt, I mission-tripped to Ethiopia, where God developed my fascination with African culture. American society is primarily concerned with the individual and his or her accomplishments. If Americans are going to honor someone, it is because he or she has achieved something remarkable. In African society, however, you honor others simply because they exist, because they are made in the image of God and, therefore, worthy of honor. In his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper (a name infamous on Dordt’s campus, from the Kuyper Scholars Program to the Kuyper Apartments to the "every square inch" philosophy) argues that Christians should not “rest until both politically and socially every man, simply because he is man, should be recognized, respected and dealt with as a creature created after the Divine likeness.” In my experience, African culture certainly and rightfully manifests this concept.

Ethiopians seek to honor one another through a unique - yeah, "unique" is a good word - custom: the gorsha. Before you can understand the significance of a gorsha, though, you need to understand traditional Ethiopian food. A stew of spices and meats and vegetables and juices and other unidentifiable (to Americans!) food chunks, termed wat, is spooned over a flat, spongy, fermented, sourdough pancake, termed injera. Ethiopians don’t use utensils; rather, they tear off a bit of the injera and use it to scoop up chunks of wat before compacting unbelievably large (according to American standards!) bites into their mouths, juices trickling down chins. Injera and wat don’t resemble anything American. The flavors are far stronger and the textures far more sensualized! I rarely meet anyone who enjoys the injera and wat experience his or her first time – it takes some getting used to!

Fun fact: I came to LOVE injera and wat - so much so that I gained weight in Africa. What? Some of my team members lost up to 10 pounds. Not me. Oops. 

Anyways, to express friendship, Ethiopians will feed one another, shoving large chunks of injera and wat (and often their own fingers!) into each other’s mouths. This is the gorsha. My description certainly makes is sound repulsive – by American standards, it is! Regardless, as I suppressed gags as chunks of goat bone and jalapeno peppers were crammed down my throat, I felt honored. The boys and girls, the men and women who gave me their gorsha were inviting me into their culture, accepting me despite my pale skin tone and distinctly American habits. I am a human being, created in the image of God; I am their sister, so they loved and honored me, and I honored them in return with my own gorsha. The joy stimulated by Ethiopian fingers on my smiling lips – there’s nothing better!

African culture, at least in Ethiopia, is honor-based. Because I felt so honored while there, I want to continue to honor these people even while I’m in Sioux Center.

So, this Lent season, my tea-addicted, college-student self will forego all beverages except water and, in turn, donate the money I would have spent on study-time-snacks to Blood:Water, an organization that has supplied clean water to more than 1 million African people since it's foundation ten years ago. Currently, through the "Save a Drink, Save a Life" campaign, Blood:Water aims to build clean water wells in three Rwandan villages. When the goal is reached, over 2,000 people will be impacted. Wow.

That’s why I’m giving up tea (and everything else!) for forty days. I’ll drink only water that others may have water. It’s a small, almost insignificant sacrifice in and of itself – as many Lent practices are! Nonetheless, I love the “Save a Drink, Save a Life” concept because it makes Lent more tangible. By giving up my luxury to identify with people whose luxury is my commonplace, I’m spending more time in prayer for these people, thereby drawing closer to God before Easter Sunday. Further, through fundraising, I’m helping to narrow this luxury gap. My heart is being changed at the same time as others’ lives are being changed, making Lent 2015 uniquely tangible for me – and I’m only one week in!

Want more information? Want to bless, to honor our Rwandan brothers and sisters with me? Check out the links above, and, if you're moved to donate, check out my personal fundraising page.

-- Annie