Shining A Light on the Dark Continent

Why the villagers refused ashes on Ash Wednesday

Dave visited with Sister Donna again in March to conduct an Ash Wednesday service. He actually held two services – one for the villagers and one for the deployed troops in Awasa.

While driving with Sister Donna, she told him how in her village they use burnt animal dung and wood ash as a neutralizer to kill any nasty smells that may arise if an animal or human has a urinary accident.

The villager listen as Dave conducts an Ash Wednesday service at Sister Donna's center.
The villager listen as Dave conducts an Ash Wednesday service at Sister Donna’s center.

 

About 75 people showed up for the service in the village. It went well until it was time to impose ashes on their foreheads. “We used wood ash. They normally use fecal ash,” Dave said. “When I placed the wood ash on Sister Donna’s forehead and on some of the Civil Affairs troops who were with me, the people looked at us quizzically. When I offered the ashes to the people, they shied away. My guess is they thought I used fecal ash and did not want it on their heads.”

Dave imposes ashes on the forehead of one of the Civil Affairs members during the Ash Wednesday service at Sister Donna's center.
Dave imposes ashes on the forehead of one of the Civil Affairs members during the Ash Wednesday service at Sister Donna’s center.

 

Unfortunately, the visit in the village was cut short by a storm rolling in. “We had to cut our visit short while the dirt roads were still passable,” Dave said.

“I really fell in love with Sister Donna’s mission and the people she serves. It’s almost humorous how the people backed off and departed once I started imposing the ashes. I can only imagine what they were thinking,” he said.

Dave conducts an Ash Wednesday service for the Civil Affairs team in Awasa.
Dave conducts an Ash Wednesday service for the Civil Affairs team in Awasa.

 

The evening service for the troops went well with 11 people attending including visitors from Djibouti, Addis Ababa and a representative from USAID. At the closing of the service, Dave overheard one person say the service was exactly what he needed and he and his wife would have to talk when he went home. That comment reinforced Dave’s belief that God places us at particular places and times for reasons we may not understand. “My whole purpose of being there may have been for that man and his wife.”

All-in-all, Dave had a meaningful experience that day.

 

Next up: Ethiopian Pope

 

 

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