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Category Archives: 2012 Mehari Haile

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About a week ago, I was walking around the Tenderloin Community during my lunch hour as usual.  Suddenly, this guy approached me and asked “You Habesha?”  I said, “yes” after I understood what he meant, because it was very difficult to understand him.  We began talking and soon enough I found out that he had a very difficult time talking clearly.  He reminded of Moses from the Bible who stuttered.  Immediately we started to get to know each other although I was very difficult for me to understand him.  He asked me if I spoke Amharic and I told him that I don’t but I do speak Tigrinya.  My Amharic is so limited that I figured that English was the best way to communicate with Bereket.  I told Bereket about my family and a little about myself and once I asked him about his family, he got emotional, sad and started walking away.  After lowering his voice and his head, he walked a few steps and sat down.  I asked him what was wrong and he said that he had not seen his family for over twenty years.  He called his mother “mama” and I was able to see it in his face and body language that he misses her very much.  Bereket was born and raised in Ethiopia and then he went to Kenya as a refugee.  He then came here to San Francisco.  He used to work at a gas station in the Tenderloin Community.  Unfortunately, alcohol took hold of his life and it made him lose connection with his family and threw him on the street.  I asked him if he might know where they are in Ethiopia, but he said that he has no idea.

It saddened me to hear his story.  I can’t imagine living on this earth and not having even one connection with a family member.  I told him that he might find them one day because we live in a small world but if not, you will see them in heaven.  He nodded his head and said, “I believe in God.”  After our conversation, he told me that he is about to leave, but I asked him if we could go eat lunch together.  He consented and we went walking on our way to get something to eat.  On our way, he asked a few people for cigarettes and they offered him some.  I noticed that he gets his cigarettes by asking people he sees as he is walking around.  We went into Carl’s Jr. and we ordered food.  I asked him if he wanted to eat inside but he refused.  I can see in his face that he did not feel comfortable eating inside probably due to the way people may look at him.  After we grabbed our food, he was about to leave but I asked him if we could eat together outside.  We went on the corner of Carl’s Jr. and sat down.  I asked if we could pray before we eat and he bowed his head and we prayed before we ate.  It was a great joy to eat lunch with Bereket and then we went to my work together to show him where he can find me.  I told him that I am at the office four times a week and I was looking forward to hang out with him during my lunch hours.  I walked with him for about a block and said bye and he was very thankful and assured me that he will come by the office.

That day, I really needed to reflect on what happened because there was just so much in my head.  It was so depressing to hear that he does not have any type of connection with his family.  Addiction is one of the greatest evils in this world that destroys thousands and thousands of lives.  I am mostly concerned about Bereket’s future.  I know that what has happened in his past can’t change and it is something to learn from,  however, how about the future?  Are there rehab programs in the Tenderloin community that can restore these people’s lives or are they just left alone?  It’s just hard for me to see all these people doing the same thing over and over again and they are not being cured from their addiction and hurt.  Maybe there are opportunities out there and they are not taking advantage of it.  Whatever it is, there are a lot of people out there going through a lot of hurt and I see it every day.  I deeply feel that their issues are my issues, their struggles my struggles, their joy my joy, and their future my future.  It’s hard for me to watch these cycles of addiction.  The connections and relationships I have built with the homeless in the Tenderloin community makes me feel like when Ruth said to Naomi, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

Your People My People

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Posted by on July 24, 2012 in 2012 Mehari Haile

 

See It For Yourself

There are all different types of people in the Bay Area, but I have been somewhat introduced to a great diversity of people in the Tenderloin community.  I have been learning about the importance of seeing life from other perspectives.  If I only understand my values and only some others, how would I be able to judge my own values?  I have found it very important to understand other people’s viewpoints about life.  It can be dangerous to be close-minded, because it prevents you from understanding other people’s way of thinking.   The more close-minded you are, the more likely you are to be judgmental.  On the other hand, I have found out that when you are open minded to other ideas, you are able to understand why people think the way they do.  There is always something that makes us think a certain way or have certain values.  If ten people were to look at a detailed picture of something, all of them would have slightly different explanation of what they saw.  In relation to our world, people are raised differently with different cultures, values, backgrounds and experiences that build their way of thinking about the world.  I have had conversations with people in the Tenderloin community about religion, wars, corruption, prostitution and more.  I heard things I did not know before and it introduced me to things I was not familiar with.  If I did not take the time to talk to those people, I would not have been familiar with the ideas they introduced to or at least not at that particular time.

People can tell you a certain belief is wrong or this and that, but I feel that it is important to see it for yourself.  It is important to talk to people of that belief and do your own research instead of following others without really thinking about their ideas.  We must try to see life from other people’s point of view and be in their shoes before forming our own ideas and stereotypes.  I end with this verse, which sums it all, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).   As God does not care about outer appearance but the heart, we must also not look at the covering but the inside and the truth.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2012 in 2012 Mehari Haile

 

I Must Die so that Christ Lives

“Lord, I want my life to be a love letter from Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. Not on tablets of stone but on the tablet of my heart. Holy Spirit, remind me that I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”


Recently I have been thinking about love and its meaning.  God defines love as the greatest commandment, which makes me think that if you love people, you are at the best place that you can ever be at.  Of course, it is much easier said than it is done.  I find myself not living to my full potential concerning love.  God commands that I love my neighbors, friends, strangers, and enemies.  Jesus sets the bar high when he says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighborand hate your enemy’.  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:43-48).  As a Christian, I am supposed to love everyone regardless of who they are and what they have done to others or me.  Jesus fulfilled the law by setting the standards higher than they were in the Old Testament.  He demands that we do everything in love.  Jesus is concerned with our hearts and motives.  He desires that our hearts are pure, peaceful, and without evil.  Everyone loves their friends, but not everyone loves their enemies.  I find it easy to love my friends as it is mentioned above, but find it hard to express the same love to those that are my enemies.

After wrestling in my heart, I see that Christ is not fully alive in my heart the way God designed me to be.  I realize that the “I” attitude that is in me needs to die so that Christ can fully live.  It is the “I” attitude that causes me not to love everyone.  I also realize that I cannot love my enemies without Christ living inside of me.  When Christ is fully alive in a person, it is not that person really doing the good deeds that God requires of us, but it is Christ who does the good deeds. After one is born again, Christ supposed to be the driver, but sometimes I forget that and try to do things on my own and then realize that I cannot do it without Him.  I want my way of living to be the way Christ desires for me to live, which is to love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love everyone.  These are the greatest commandments and no one can go wrong with these ideas and practice.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in 2012 Mehari Haile

 

I Told You It Was Personal, It Supposed to be a Secret

June 14, 2012

            Today, we were invited to go to Ryan’s house for Bible study and we were very lucky to experience community and share God’s word.  From this Bible study, I was strengthened, empowered, and refreshed by God’s living word.  It seemed to me that we were answered the question how God wants His followers to be.  By the end of the Bible study, I concluded that God desires a sincere faith, a pure heart, good motives, and a repentant heart.  It is not about the mistakes and sins we have committed, but about how we react to our shortcomings of living out God’s word.  Do we repent, get back up, humble ourselves, or do we ignore God’s living word?  The reaction is up to us and we all have freedom of choice to live how we desire to live.  These questions and values made me question my faith and relationship that I have with the Lord.

Sometimes, life takes us on a dark journey where we see no light, but in that darkness is where our identity sometimes is shaped.  There might be darkness in our situation, but we have to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Faith is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when the current situation looks dark and miserable.  The man who was after God’s own heart proclaimed, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Pslams 23:4).  Even though David was going through a difficult time in his life, he believed that God was still with him every step of the way.  He saw the light at the end of the tunnel through his faith in the Lord.  It only requires faith as big as a mustard seed to make every thing happen.

Some thing very unique about David was that he loved God sincerely and had a repentant heart.  God called the man who committed adultery and murder “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).  God said this because David loved the Lord with all his heart.  His relationship with God was sincere, genuine, and personal.  He did not praise God as a young boy in the wilderness to show off, brag or to be honored by men, but rather because he loved God from within.  The Israelites forgot their King and wanted a mortal king to reign over them like other nations.  As a result, God gave them what they desired, Saul, to be their King over them.  However, God was unpleased with Saul because he did not respect God’s word and obey His commands.  Saul was more concerned what people taught rather than what God wanted him to do and that is why God took the kingdom away from him and gave it to someone else who had a good heart.

Later on, God told Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be king over His people.  Seeing through his fleshly eyes, Samuel assumed that God was going to pick the well-built son of Jesse, but soon enough God convicted him that none of them were His choice.  This left Samuel to ask Jesse if these were all his sons and God honored the one that secretly loved Him in the wilderness while tending the sheep.  God is concerned about our actions in secret and not what we do in public to impress others.  God cares about the inside and not the outside.  Good deeds done to impress others are hollow and empty while good deeds done for the right reasons are meaningful and sincere.  David’s business was with God, he did not care what people taught of him.  People say this and people say that, but in the end what people say does not really matter, because we came from dust and we will return to dust.  Every thing will pass away but God’s eternal Word will never pass away.  Jesus shows us how we should be when he says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on you head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:16-18).  God desires that we do things for the right reasons.  You can do good deeds but still have bad motives.  God desires that we do both good deeds and have the right motives.   Good deeds with twisted motives only end up hollow and unacceptable in God’s eyes.

From this Bible study, I learned that whatever I do I should try to impress God and no one else.  The right people in my life will be impressed because I am doing God’s will any way.  My relationship with God is personal, meaning that it is between me and Him.  I don’t need to shout to people what great deed I’m doing.  I also learned that my identity should not be built by the ideas of this world but by God’s living word.  It seems that the ideas of this world are very contradictory to God’s Word.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in 2012 Mehari Haile

 
Aside

June 11, 2012

Some thing that really got my attention this past week was the idea of simplicity.  My mind has really been inspired by this idea of simplicity because I have been able to see the quality of life that it contains.  It has inspired me to cut off time from Internet use, phone use, and doing things that are just time consuming.  I have always played with time and thought about how important it is and how it does not come back once it is gone, but putting it into action on a consistent basis is the real thing.  I have come to realize how I need to discipline myself not only during the school season but also during the summer.  Time is some thing that I can never buy back.  I can lose an item and buy it to replace it but time can never be purchased.  Once it is gone, it is gone forever.

As a result, I have started today to live my life according to the things I value you most.  In addition, I have been thinking about my priorities and if they are at the right place where I want them to be.  It seems that I need to change things around in my life.  I find it extremely important to look at every thing I do and cancel out things that are just basically a waste of my time and replace them with things that can build my family, community, and myself in a positive direction.  Some thing that I have realized is that my priority is not ordered the right way.  God suppose to be the number one in my life, but I have realized that that has not been the case recently.  Jesus commands his followers, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously, and he will give you every thing you need” (Matt. 6:33).  I want and will change my priorities around so that I may have a productive, meaningful, and successful life.  I have realized in my life that there are so many great blessings and positive things that result when I put God first.  It has been very silly and stupid of me to not put God first in my life recently.  The main reason that has been the case is due to technology distraction and lack of prayer and meditation.  It is when I reflect and think that I realize what I am missing in my life and what needs to change.  From this day on, I am developing a plan and schedule to live my life by so that I do not let technology waste my life.  Technology is important and necessary, but it is very important to use it with self-control, discipline, wisely, and with balance.

Another idea that has stayed in my mind is the fact that living simply involves living according to one’s purpose.  When one knows his purpose, he knows how he needs to accomplish that purpose.  In an article we read for our community time called “The Value of Voluntary Simplicity” the author, Richard Gregg discusses the importance of living one’s live according to one’s purpose.  He delivers  his idea when he says, “Yet it is easy to see that our individual lives and community life would be much changed if every one organized and graded and simplified his purposes so that one purpose would easily dominate all the others, and if each person then re-organized his outer life in accordance with this new arrangement of purposes—discarding possessions and activities irrelevant to the main purpose” (4).  Organizing one’s life is a main element in living simply, because with simplicity comes organization and throwing out garbage that is unhealthy.  I believe that change first comes from within and it is individual before it begins to affect others.  It is hypocritical to expect change in certain things when change has not taken place within oneself.  The article also gave an analogy that enlightened my mind.  The people that climbed Mount Everest had a plan and a purpose, which was to climb the tallest mountain in the world.  In order to accomplish their goal, they had to simplify and leave things behind that were unnecessary or less needed to make their backpack less heavy.  If they did not simplify, it would have been even more difficult or they would not have accomplished their dream.  I want to look at my life that way in which I will live according to my big purpose and cancel out things that are meaningless and waste of time.  I end this blog with an inspirational quote which declares, “This moment deserves my full attention for it will not pass my way again.”

Simplicity is the Way to Save Time

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in 2012 Mehari Haile

 
Aside

June 7th was the most overwhelming day since I began this fellowship program.  Everything was normal and expected until the end of my lunch break.  I usually eat and then walk around the streets of San Francisco to check out the city and just see who I run into.  Today, I just decided to walk around first before I ate because I was not hungry.  I saw this man talking on a microphone very loudly and it made me curious why he was talking so loud.  I crossed the sidewalk and I noticed that he was holding a Bible and I immediately figured that he was preaching.  I tried to listen but it was hard for me to understand because he had a very heavy accent.  After walking a little more, I decided to eat lunch.  After lunch, I went to hang out at a street that I usually go to before going back to GAAP.  These two African Americans gave me an eye contact and asked if I wanted some rice.  I told them I was “good.”  I usually meet a lot of people dealing drugs on this street.  They usually ask me why I’m standing there and I tell them that I’m here for the summer doing an internship at GAAP.  Some of them offer what they sell and then walk around swiftly looking for cops.  They usually ask me where I am from and whether I am Ethiopian.  We usually talk for a little bit, but not for long because they don’t really stand for long.

After people watching, I usually go to sit down and reflect on my day or week.  While I was going to the place where I usually sit, I saw this guy.  I began talking to him and soon enough I figured that he was half Ethiopian and half Eritrean.  He speaks English, Tigrinya, and Amharic.  I asked him where he lived when he was in Eritrea and he said “Edaga Hamus”, which is a place that I am familiar with.  I told him where I grew up and I just felt like he was my brother or something.  We continued talking and he told me that he had been in America for fifteen years and his parents are in Ethiopia. I asked him where he lives and who he lives with in San Francisco and he said, “I’m homeless.”  Immediately, I began to feel sad and then he said, “It was nice to meet you, I have to go.”  I left and while I was walking I began to feel an overwhelming sadness and I did not know how to control it or how to react to it.  I sat down and began reflecting on what just happened.  I knew that I wanted to do something but did not know what or how to do it.  I felt like he was part of me, my brother.  He reminded me of my friends from back home in Eritrea.  I know that I would do anything to keep them off the streets and would help them in any way I can if I found out that they were struggling in this journey called life.  I connected with him so fast and I just knew that I had to do something.  I realized that I only had a few minutes before my lunch was over, so I began to walk hoping to see Solomon again.  Luckily, I was able to find him sitting down along with other homeless people.

I sat down right next to him and told him, “Solomon, I want to help you out.  Can I give you my cell phone number, so that you can call me if you need anything?”  He said yeah and I gave him my cell phone number and he placed it in his wallet.  He was so thankful.  I asked him if he is going to be around here and I that I am looking forward to see him again.  He told me that he would be around.  If I accomplish any thing meaningful this summer during this internship, it is helping Solomon in any way I can so that he is not homeless anymore.  I am looking forward to see him everyday during my lunch break.  I actually want to take him out to eat next time, hopefully tomorrow.  I would rather spend time with these homeless people than any other famous person(s) or star(s).  These homeless people are my stars and I long to get to know them and build friendships.  The stars, actors, and famous people already have fans that love them, but these people are actually the ones who really need our love and care.

The whole law of God can be summed up into two commandments, which are to love God and your neighbor as yourself.  An expert in the Jewish law asked Jesus who his neighbor is and Jesus answered him in the following parable.

“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”  But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.  ’“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?  ”The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.’” Luke 10:25-37

         Christianity is about loving your neighbors that are hurting and suffering from obstacles in life.  It is about caring for those that are ignored, hated, used, and mistreated.  I hope to live the life of the Good Samaritan from this day on.

What Does it Mean to Love Your Neighbor?

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in 2012 Mehari Haile

 

Becoming Selfless And Learning from Life Experiences

June 4, 2012

One of the things I am trying to accomplish this summer is build relationships with the people in the Tenderloin community.  The reason I want to do this is because I am very interested in their stories and I want to get to know who they are and learn from their life experiences.  I also want to help them in any way I can if I have the ability to do so.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible states, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).  God desires that I serve his people and do the right thing.  I can pray and read God’s word all day, but if I do not serve others, my relationship with God becomes pointless.  It is like a tongue that talks so much and about every thing, but never does any thing in action.  If I do not help the widow, the orphan, the homeless, or people in general that can use my help, how am I serving others?  I am happy that I am learning about the importance serving during this summer.

I personally believe that the heart of Christianity is obedience to God’s word.  It is when I obey God’s word that I can love people selflessly, love my enemies, and pray for people that may persecute me.  I want to transfer this idea and way of thinking to my daily life.  I have been very blessed this past week and half to have had great opportunities to talk to some homeless or marginally housed San Francisco residents.  In the beginning it was difficult on how to start the conversation, because I did not want to offend them unknowingly.  But through time, I have learned and now I feel comfortable talking to them.  I have met at least one person almost everyday during my lunch hour and I have learned from their way of life, thinking, perspectives, and life experiences.  It is amazing that I always take some thing very meaningful and important from each conversation that I have with them.  I have been placed at the right place this summer!

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in 2012 Mehari Haile