My mom, my brother and I hopped into the back of a cab on the strip in Las Vegas. On the way to our next appointment with fun and craziness, I noticed the driver's name, Habtit Michael Zere.
Are you from Ethiopia? I asked. "I am Iritrean" he said politely. (There is a big difference where he comes from.) I asked if he spoke Amharic, the primary language spoken in that part of the world. He said, "Yes." Unable to control myself. I told him I had a song for him. God's Spirit welled up inside of me. I knew somehow there was no turning back.
You see, a little over a year before that trip to Las Vegas, I had traveled to Ethiopia to witness the beautiful work of Project Mercy, an organization started by Marta Gabre Tsadick and her husband Demme. Marta was the first female Ethiopian senator under Haile Salasse in the seventies. When communism took over she and her family were forced to flee. To make a long and faith filled story short, they ended up in the United States making parachutes for the US Navy. After years of hard work and constant prayer they began making trips back to Ethiopia to help with the Refugee situation there. Since that time they have saved hundreds of thousands of lives from certain death.
I heard Marta speak at a hotel in Portland, Oregon in December of 2003. It was meeting her that inspired me to have one of my songs translated into Amharic.
"What can I possible do to help?" I asked her, after the program had ended. I don't have any money to give you, and what good would it do to write a song?"
Marta replied, as she touched my cheek, "Oh my dear, a drink of water for the soul does far more than a drink of water for the body."
I was inspired and moved to the impossible.
Less than than two years later there I sat crammed between my mom and my brother in the back of a cab in Las Vegas. In Amharic, I sang:
I have found that in this world
there are those who give
never thinking that they will receive.
They seem to know and have the heart of Jesus.
They give their love without condition.
In their eyes I see the heart of Jesus.
Through them God has touched the heart of man.
Though them God has touched this heart of mine.
I don't know if a pin has ever dropped in a Taxi in Las Vegas, but you could have heard it that day.
Habtit Michael was moved to tears. He asked "How is this possible?" "God has sent me a gift!" "You are an angel!" Well, I'm no angel, as evidenced by the amount of fun I can have while in Las Vegas, but in that moment God did something good. In spite of myself and all my failings I did as I felt called to do and God's Spirit moved in us.
When we arrived at our destination we slid out of the cab. Habtit Michael met me at the curb. We hugged and he thanked me. I asked for his address to send him a CD with that song on it, he most willingly wrote it down for me. My mom and my brother stood on the sidewalk shocked and a little embarrassed, I think. My heart still pounding, my brother asked, "What just happened there?" Knowing only this, I replied, "Oh that's just God, gettin' stuff done in Las Vegas."
I sang for Habtit Michael's wedding a couple of years after our meeting. We were just chatting on facebook last night. I call him my brother. He calls me, "Sis."
Project Mercy's website.