Throughout the town of Axum you could hear the chanting of the priests. All night long it went on, as if everyone was eagerly awaiting the Hosanna. I couldn't wait to go out and find the place where they keep the Ark of the Covenant guarded, but by now it's almost midnight ... I look at Jeff and ask, "Are you game to go out?" Yep! He's game, so we're off. We start walking toward the Church of Saint Mary, or so we hoped; it was then that I had the bright idea of, "Honey, let's just follow the ones walking in white robes, they have to be going towards the church," so we follow the stream of white garments, weaving our way through the narrow streets of Axum,towards something? I have to say it reminded me of something that would come out of a Steve Martin movie. A young girl decides to latch on to me, and she begins asking questions as we walk. She tells me her need for a school uniform and how she would like to have this and that; I know she wants money, but I know God has other plans. I ask her if she knows Christ and tell her that He loves her like a daughter -- her earthly father is dead. Others are listening as we're walking and begin asking me questions; before long we find ourselves sharing spiritual truths with a group gathered around us. We were the only white foreigners around that night, and I sure didn't want to unknowingly do something offensive to them on their Holy Day. We kept asking, "Where is the place where the Ark of the Covenant is?" Blank looks rebound back -- obviously no understanding ... why doesn't anyone understand, surely the words 'Ark' or 'Covenant' would get some response? This is just too weird, we are soooo close to this Sacred Ark, yet we cannot find the place where it is! All of a sudden we come upon this scene ... a Holy scene, in the ground is a cave-like dwelling. I gaze down to behold a sea of white, as hundreds of men lie prostrate in prayer. A cloud of white mist was hanging over them in a most Holy atmosphere; I have to say it took my breath away. I saw women sitting outside the entry as only men can enter. So, I plopped myself down on the dirt next to a blind woman who hadn't bathed in some time and began praying, while I watched (with "holy" envy) my Jeff go into this Holy Place. The young girl, who was still hanging on my arm joined me,and I told her of the day when men and women will worship together in spirit and in truth. TRANSITION - This is what Jeff saw when he went into this special place (written by him). I had 3 little boys at my side, expecting money from this apparently wealthy white man, but it didn't seem like the time for giving Birr to beggars. I took two by the hand and descended, praying, down into the gateway where a fire was burning in a pot. I watched to make sure that going further wasn't just for the many priests in that place (or for adults only), but in a bit it seemed OK to proceed through the doorways into a football field-sized sunken courtyard with men (mostly prostrate/praying) and a few boys all around it. The boys with me began to beg less as time went on, maybe becoming fascinated along with me at the experience we were entering into. After sitting along the side for a few minutes it seemed OK to head across the courtyard to where stairs covered with worshippers ascended up to a chapel of some sort. As we tiptoed through the barefoot men covering the stairs, I started to come to grips with my own unworthiness and removed the sandals from my feet. Now we were in a throng of men moving to and from the chapel ahead, and as only a very few looked at me curiously if not chagrined, I suddenly realized how totally strange I looked -- in this sea of white tops and turbans -- wearing a black fleece jacket and toting 3 little street-boys who didn't fit the dress code either! Then I realized that I had a solid white shirt on underneath, so I removed my jacket and tied it around my waist. We proceeded slowly towards the huge side-door off the front corner of the chapel, where a barely-moving stream of men wound in/out up the the stairway through the door from which drum beats and chanting emanated. [The only hurried or pushy ones were a pair hurrying a very large drum in through the doorway.] When we finally got inside, it was standing-room-only surrounding 3 or 4 large drums in the wide front vestibule where the ceremony was taking place. The Chief Priest was leading the song-chants and waving the smoking incense decanter while the drummers pounded a slow, steady beat on their drum heads. We soaked in a large dose of that atmosphere, then retreated the same way as we had come, rejoining Cindy and her growing posse maybe an hour later -- it was hard to tell! Cindy writing now: On our way back we stop at a shop of a basket-maker named Haftom,(Axum is known for their beautiful baskets)and we end up buying 3 baskets from her. She reminded me of Lydia in the Bible--a seller of purple. We think we're there to buy baskets, but something greater is about to happen. She is a basket artist, her dad is an paint artist(the painting she stands next to is his, and her little brother is a sculpture artist; she also needs healing. I began praying for her and I could feel the Lord's divine Love over her. She tells me she has been sick for some time, and she's just starting to feel better. Her spirit is sweet, she's beautiful inside and out; in sheer delight she says,"You are Christian?!" "Yes! I am!" Her little brother gives us each a necklace that he made, and chiseled out our names on them. "Every time you see this necklace remember me and pray for me," she says. Yet another group starts to gather, and we pray a blessing over her business, her dad, her brother who's 11, and her other sister who was there, too. It's truly wonderful to walk in God's plans. Their openness to allow us to minister His Love to them was powerful. Her little brother offers to take us back to our room, so we get even more God-time with this precious little sponge. I told him to keep watch over the gift he has been given by God. Walking down the dimly lit street, we pass a prostitute--her piercing eyes met mine. It was then, I began seeing young people partying it up through-out the town,and I knew they were looking for something tangible. I felt a boldness to warn him of keeping himself Holy, how God has plans for his life that are good, and how special he is to God. He just soaked it all in, and I knew destiny had been released. That night I had drank from the cup of life, and that night I fell asleep in the arms of My Lord ... and it was so amazing!
Video: Prayer with Basket Artist in Axum
- I am a wife of 23 years, mom of 11, sister to 5 and a friend to many. I am not my own and sometimes I forget that. I belong to a Beautiful God who smiles and enjoys me despite my lack. I am running the race in the 2nd half of life and fulfilling the heart of my God through adoption.
- ▼ April (5)