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God bless the Spice Girls

Ten years ago, my closest friends threw a going away party for me as I prepared to leave for the mission field. The theme of the party related to being stripped - spirit, soul, and body - to follow God's call and the challenge of fitting one's life into two suitcases. So I landed in Ethiopia with my two overstuffed suitcases and an equally overstuffed carry on bag. I lived with an Ethiopian family with six children ranging in ages from 22 - 13. After meeting with the elders of the Ethiopian church, it was determined that I should teach a Bible class, English class and the children's choir. God definitely has a sense of humor and enjoys stretching us - twice in my youth, I have actually been laughed off of the stage as I attempted to sing in front of the youth group. Several months later, I was asked to travel with a team to a remote village in western Ethiopia, close to the Sudanese border. A church had been planted there, and the pastor and a team went annually to hold a conference and fellowship with the believers. I stuffed my suitcase with all of my modest missionary clothing (the remote villages were extremely conservative and women had to be very careful), toilet paper, water bottles, and toiletries. We tied all of the luggage onto the roof of the vehicle and took off right after dawn. The traffic was heavy leaving the capital city, but the car was in constant motion. After driving all day through valleys and stretches of wilderness, we arrived at a town that marked our halfway point and discovered that my suitcase was missing from the top of the car. All the other pieces of luggage were intact, the cover was still over them as well as the rope securing them. My huge, green suitcase was gone! The only thing I had with me was a backpack with a walkman, music cassettes, Bible, one water bottle, and a can of Pringles potato chips. At the police station I was told that thieves targeted foreigners and were quite skilled at climbing aboard a slowly moving car and throwing down luggage to their accomplices. We never saw or heard them! And the other cars surrounding us in traffic didn't alert us to what was taking place. All of my clothes were gone - no toiletries and spare contact lenses, no toilet paper and extra water. After taking a cold shower and putting back on my sticky clothes, I curled up on top of the bed with my head resting on my backpack. The occupants in the next room kept me up all night with their laughter and smoky drugs. Tiny hotels in villages also serve as places to get together for drinking, drugs and as a brothel. The situation didn't get much better in the morning as I had to go shopping for undergarments and toiletries with a male Ethiopian pastor. And the shopkeeper was male - oh, the humiliation in discussing underwear and deodorant with two foreign males. Yikes! We embarked on another day of travelling through even more remote areas. I was thrilled to see a group of baboons in the forest that our road navigated through - this was the Africa you see on National Geographic! We arrived at the tiny village, checked into another "hotel" and found a restaurant to take our meals in. One of my consolations throughout that entire trip, besides the closeness of God (which I will talk about in my next blog), was the Spice Girls poster hanging on the wall in that restaurant. In the States I did not like the Spice Girls, I did not listen to the Spice Girls, yet I looked forward to every meal and looking at that poster. The Spice Girls poster became a reminder to me that there was more to life than the current challenges. The Spice Girls reminded me of home and connected me to home in the midst of this yuckiness. God used the Spice Girls to comfort me. For that, God bless the Spice Girls.

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