Sunday, May 26, 2013

Shoe Shine Boys

The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.(R) 20 At his gate was laid a beggar(S) named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.(T) Even the dogs came and licked his sores.22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham,(U) have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’(V)25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things,(W) but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.(X) 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them,(Y) so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses(Z) and the Prophets;(AA) let them listen to them.’30 “‘No, father Abraham,’(AB) he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Luke 16 - Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible
Here the spiritual things are represented, in a description of the different state of good and bad, in this world and in the other. We are not told that the rich man got his estate by fraud, or oppression; but Christ shows, that a man may have a great deal of the wealth, pomp, and pleasure of this world, yet perish for ever under God's wrath and curse. The sin of this rich man was his providing for himself only. Here is a godly man, and one that will hereafter be happy forever, in the depth of adversity and distress. It is often the lot of some of the dearest of God's saints and servants to be greatly afflicted in this world. We are not told that the rich man did him any harm, but we do not find that he had any care for him. Here is the different condition of this godly poor man, and this wicked rich man, at and after death. The rich man in hell lifted up his eyes, being in torment. It is not probable that there are discourses between glorified saints and damned sinners but this dialogue shows the hopeless misery and fruitless desires, to which condemned spirits are brought. There is a day coming, when those who now hate and despise the people of God, would gladly receive kindness from them. But the damned in hell shall not have the least abatement of their torment. Sinners are now called upon to remember; but they do not, they will not, they find ways to avoid it.

Last night  I couldn’t sleep. Despite an energy sapping day filled with things I couldn’t dream of. I prayed years ago leading up to this trip… that God would show me the real world. Not the world that I believe exists, but reality. For me, and MOST of North America, its sunshine and lollipops; life is good. (There are a very small number who are exempt from this statement, they can be seen from miles away) A wise man recently said; “ We don’t have problems in N America, a problem is when there is no tangible or attainable solution”. Think about the worst possible situation, accidents, broken bones, loss of job etc, we have solutions at our finger tips. Break a leg, get a cast at the hospital. Lose your job, find another one tomorrow. Accident, catch the bus. The list is endless… and I had to ponder his comment and agree. He finished by saying, “We don’t have problems, we have inconveniences at best.” His words have stuck with me since we met a month ago.

A month ago when we arrived in Addis Ababa , I was finally presented with [ what I thought was ] my life’s first problem. As we pulled out of the airport, the sights and sounds of Addis filled our senses… poverty everywhere. But very quickly we discovered that even within that poverty was a sense of inexplicable joy. A sense of contentment prevailed and triumphed!!

Bekah, very naturally noticed a group in the city that really captured her attention, as well as mine. They had their little wooden boxes in one hand and a small bucket of water in the other and for a living they polished peoples shoes. That’s kindly put. They washed peoples foul,  filthy feet. For a small price of roughly 15 cents, your shoes would glisten! And some of these boys would first follow 12 blocks begging to wash your feet, then on their hands and knees polish and scrubbed so passionately, that you felt like royalty after. Or extremely humbled and grieved, as in my case.

Bekah had a great idea which at first I rejected. Lets find a boy and bless him. We can take him swimming, and out to eat, and pour out on him for one day of his life. But logic says that you cant solve these kinds of problems with swimming and food, besides, if you invite one then they’ll all want to come, and there s no room in the car. So I reluctantly agreed to pray about it, and maybe keep my eyes peeled for 1 boy who really broke God’s heart.

So within an hour of praying, along comes a boy. I had just finished getting my sandals [reluctantly and for a fair wage !!] cleaned by one boy . Before I knew it, I was surrounded by a buffet of shoe shine boys. I had to leave so we squared up and I walked home not noticing that I had a follower. I finally noticed him, acknowledged him and he smiled at me. Our guard translated for us and I knew that this was from God. He was 7 years old, well mannered and lived with 2 other shoe shine boys close by. My sandals were already clean so I bought him a coke and sent him on his way.

A solid hour had passed before Isaac was put down for a nap, and on my second walk up to the coffee shop, low and behold, my visitor was back. First he followed me, then I let him catch up and walk beside me. I patted his head and he smiled at me. His name is Jacob. We walked together for 10 blocks and he stopped at his destination and waved goodbye.
Shortly after our driver Marcos and I drove by the same place and the boys were still there working away. We stopped and Marcos translated that we would like them to come to our guest house to shine shoes the next day 9 am sharp. The next morning, not only did they show up but they were one hour early.

I brought Isaac down and they polished our shoes [again for a fair price]. I said, “they” for a reason… The older brother and another boy were also waiting for us. As it turned out, the 18 year old older brother Menisa, took care of both of the younger boys. The brothers parents had abandoned them in Addis 4 years ago out of necessity in the hopes that they would survive, and the other boy Aserat, had lost his Father, and his Mother had done the same. The brothers decided to take Aserat in and in a sense adopted him, unofficially. They now eat together, work together and even live together in what they described to us as an apartment.

We agreed that 2 days later the 2 younger boys would meet us and we would take them swimming… and when the older boy heard our intentions, we saw his heart sink. The invitation was quickly adjusted and he was also invited. He was overjoyed! It ended up raining that day so instead, and without their knowledge, we all piled into the cab and took them shopping. I’m sure at a few points during the drive they were wondering where on earth we were taking them !! 4 hours , 6 shopping bags, and a solid meal later we were set to take them home . I politely asked if we could see their “apartment” and they agreed.

To our amazement they led us to the edge of a valley and we began our decent to their home. Slums doesn’t quite sum up what we saw, but it fits the description. The house was a 3m by 3m room framed by a few bamboo sticks and draped with tattered folia. One bed in the room occupied half the space, and the rest was filled with mostly junk ( by north American standards)

We were greeted by at least half the village. Children posed for pictures and we received many invitations to peoples houses. We ended up having to leave , promised that an effort would be made to come again…. Plans are still in the works as to what we can do for an entire village during our short visit .

I couldn’t sleep last night… the events of this day raced thru my mind all night. Many verses came to mind as I reflected on REAL problems that were within range. Still no solutions that will shift the disease of poverty, but one thing is for certain, many people were loved on today. I am grateful that all the verses I’ve pounded home, yet never fully understood. They took on great meaning today. It’s been grievous and bothersome that Christ taught on the subject of poverty numerous times, yet the teachings seem lofty and somehow unattainable. How could a rich Canadian relate to Mat 25 … I was hungry and you fed me, naked and you clothed me, in jail and you visited me… I have chosen blindness, its far more comfortable than seeing suffering. And even with the awareness of reality, I can still chose to avoid it.
Today I thank Jesus that he showed me things that made me feel discomfort. He loves me enough to lead me to the needy… the rest , I suppose, he leaves up to me. Free will. My prayer is that life dramatically changes for the Szabo clan. We re already a pretty strange bunch of people in the way that we live and think. I contend that the closer we draw to Jesus , and the things that break His heart, the weirder we’ll get.

The story hasn’t finished though, we still have 2 or more weeks here. Tomorrow we will attempt the swimming plans again, weather permitting, also our return visit is still in the works, God willing !


  1. love this post... we were deeply affected as well ...
    maybe, if you guys are bored in your evenings,,,, you might be interested in David Platts series Radical, it goes along with what you posted....
    thanks for the's never to far from my thoughts... and yet I can forget not only how blessed we are... but what I should be doing with that blessing...

  2. Wow son, I never thought following Jesus made us that weird, but then...others view us as different. I never thought much about other's opinions of us, just Jesus' . If you think that we can get any weirder, all power to you! Those poor kids need Jesus first and for most, so do something about it. Just imagine your little baby Isaac growing into a shoe shine boy for survival. Yet God takes care of them by the millions. Pops and I have been appalled since we came to this beautiful country of Canada, just how discontented its people are. Worse still when dissatisfaction with adequate provision comes from the church. Is God broke? Shouldn't our selfishness be tempered by simply looking outside ourselves? Your experience sounds like the voice from God. Awesome!!