His Glory On Their Faces

Over ten years ago, I took time off from college to work for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My time there was life-changing, to say the least. Lately, in reading Angie’s accounts of her mission trip to India, I have been drawn back to my Ethiopia experience.

This is Haylin.


As an infant, Haylin suffered a high fever that left her bedridden and unable to speak. Every day it was my job to change her, feed her, bathe her, clean and bandage her bedsores, sing to her, love her. Haylin was the first to teach me how to communicate without words (thank you, Haylin) – she spoke with her eyes.


This is Nigist.


Nigist was a little girl with the happiest, most infectious laugh and legs that did not work. There was no wheelchair for her, so she got around by dragging herself across the floor. People would often accidentally step on her, and she would respond with giggles. I remember when she lost a tooth, she thought it was hilarious and laughed all afternoon.

One day I was holding Nigist on my lap. I absent-mindedly held out my arms to examine them. (At night I slept on a flea-infested cot, and I had accrued a myriad of bites on my arms. Nigist gazed up at me, and then clumsily licked her finger and began to rub her finger over each bite.) It was as if Jesus Himself were tending to my little pains. I will not, cannot ever forget Nigist.

 (Many of the children in the orphanage regularly had their heads shaved with a razor blade because of head lice. That is why their hair is short in the above photos).


While I spent my days working at the orphanage, I lived and slept in the women’s quarters, where the female patients stayed. Many of the women suffered from various diseases such as HIV, malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever (I actually contracted typhoid while I was there). Additionally many of the women suffered from fistulas, which had a very foul odor associated with it.

(I'm in a pink top, third from the left)

(I'm in a pink top, third from the left)

From Ethiopia, I have a lifetime of stories.

Looking at their beautiful faces, it may be hard to believe that these women and children were the forgotten, the discarded, the severely shunned of society. They were often abandoned at the gates of Mother Teresa’s mission with no food or shelter. Never had I seen or could have imagined such poverty, such suffering. Never had I seen or could have imagined such courage and strength. These were a people desperately poor but spiritually rich.

But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong.God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, so that no one can boast in his presence. 1 Cor 1:27-29 (NET)

In fact, God often chooses to reveal Himself through those who are not wise by human standards, not strong, not noble.

I saw Him do it through the women and children I was blessed to know in Ethiopia. I’ve seen Him do it through my little Rhema and many, many precious little ones. I’ve seen Him do it through Jesus Christ Himself — the Son of the Most High God shed his royalty and became a baby in a lowly manger and a smelly stable. As a man, He was despised, beaten, and made to die a humiliating and torturous death on a cross. But in glorious triumph, He conquered death so that we could know Him and live.

He can make you a new creation, even wise, and strong and noble. Some may not recognize it, but others will see His glory in your life, on your face.


On becoming a new creation…

15 thoughts on “His Glory On Their Faces

  1. Amazing! Thanks for sharing that part of your life…God’s equipping before you knew why. I have been following that same group of Compassion bloggers via Melissa Moore Fitzpatrick (Beth Moore’s daughter). Really moving and compelling, huh?! So similar and life changing to your experience. Puts our “trials” in perspective. How do you know Angie?

  2. I love Angie’s blog and have been following her travels to India. Thank you for sharing your precious memories with us as well.

    It reminds me a lot of my trip to Peru…so many of the third world countries have a similar “feel.” The thing that amazed me most of all is the presence of joy in the midst of such little. His glory on their faces!

  3. You’re an amazing woman with tremendous strength and compassion. Thank you for sharing your life experiences, I enjoy on your insight and wisdom. Thank you!

  4. Oh, Jeneil, what a post! I had tears in my eyes and goose bumps all over as I read it. Thanks, too, for the resource references; I did not know what fistulas were, and I was so glad (but so sad!) to have the website you provided.

    Whew. I have also followed Angie’s posts during her recent trip with Compassion (and Melissa’s, too, from LPM). My family sponsors a young woman, Rachapudi Anuradha (who is 12, the same age as our daughter, Katy), through Gospel for Asia. I’ve never met her in person, although we’ve corresponded through letters. I have her photo on our refrigerator, but I’m ashamed that I don’t remember to pray for her every single day. Your post–and Angie’s and Melissa’s–reminds me of the real person behind the picture. Thank you for that. I don’t think I’ll be forgetting to pray for her any time soon.

  5. what an incredible journey .. thank you so much for sharing glimpses of those amazingly beautiful spirits!

  6. Seems like a lifetime ago we were in Fayetteville at Barnes and Noble and you were the Featured Author presenting Sunburned Faces. What an amazing experience you had. Surely one to mark with a Pile of Stones in your life.

    It is too easy to live in our little worlds and lose sight of the reality that exists every day for others. Thanks for the reminder. I needed a little perspective this week.

  7. I’ve been whining that my house is too small and I want a nicer car and a longer vacation. Thank you for a badly needed dose of perspective.

  8. Unfortunately, the AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED, “possibly related” website list gives one site proposing abortion be legalized in Ethiopia. That is the most UNRELATED website the automatic generator could have found for the Truth of Neally’s post is in the worth of every human being—each one created in His image with a heavenly call to become one of His children through faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:1-13)…there’s no greater worth the Lord could bestow on any piece of His creation. Abortion is an unholy discarding of what is most precious to the Lord—those children who are utterly at the mercy of another, namely (and sadly for those who chose abortion) their mothers and society.

  9. I’m sorry, but you just rock my world with your beauty inside and out. You are one of the most amazing women I have never met, and your depth of experience paired with your ability to articulate such insight are unparalleled. And with humility, everything you say points people to the love of Christ.

    I have a bloggy crush on you. I’m not ashamed to just come right out and say it! Glad you’re my friend and a great source of inspiration and encouragement.

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