Where’s Shawn Kemp When You Need Him?

Written on 4/16/2008

It’s a beautiful morning here in Addis. The sun is shining down on the sprawling city and the hustle and bustle of the day has already begun. The sun will continue to shine throughout the day, and all the foreigners will have the feeling of southern California beating down on their backs. But there is not much positive about this sun. There is only pain, hardship, loss, darkness and hunger.

Here in Ethiopia, there is a large rainy season beginning in June and ending in late September. The rest of the year is the dry season. Well…not the whole year. You see, from the end of January through February, another small rainy season is supposed to help crops flourish and provide sustenance to last throughout the dry season. Two weeks ago, after much prayer, we had a couple days of overcast skies and scattered showers. But that’s not enough. Throughout Ethiopia, there are people starving because the essential crop, called Teffe, is not able to grow without substantial rainfall. Teffe is the main ingredient in the staple food of Ethiopia, called enjera. It’s a large pancake-like thing but has a sour taste due to the fermenting process that takes place for three days before cooking. Without enjera, there is no food, without food, there is no life.

The lack of rain has caused three major problems here in Ethiopia.

First, without enough rain, there isn’t enough teffe to go around to all 79 million citizens of Ethiopia. That seems like the most likely effect. However, without enough teffe, it isn’t that people can’t find it to buy, it’s that prices sky rocket to the point that no one can afford it. Just three weeks ago, 100kg of teffe cost about 550 birr. Yesterday, after talking to Mattewos, I found out that the cost of 100kg of teffe has risen in those three weeks to 700 birr! Mattewos and his family are fairly well settled financially, but even for them, it is just too much to pay. And if he can’t afford it, then what about the majority of Ethiopia that already lives in poverty and can barely afford teffe to begin with? Well…simply put…they don’t eat.

The second effect from the lack of rain is a lack of power. Electricity is being shut off in Addis along a citywide power grid. Two days out of every week, the power is shut off from 7am until 8pm in specified areas of the city. Why does a lack of rain effect electricity? Without rain, the rivers have lowered drastically, and without heavy water flow in the rivers, there isn’t enough water going through the dams to power the turbines to be able to power the whole city, let alone the country. In our neighborhood, we don’t have power on Mondays, Tuesday afternoons, Wednesdays, and other random two hour chunks throughout the week and the weekend. What does a lack of electricity mean for us? No hot showers, a constantly dripping and defrosting freezer, meat goes bad, veggies don’t last, yogurt tastes a little extra sour, and nights are dark. Most Ethiopians have only one light bulb in their homes, so if the power is out. They don’t have any source of light.

The third issue is simply a lack of water in the city water system. For the last four months, our neighborhood has been without running water for at least one day out of every week. The shortest stretch was for an afternoon, but the longest was just over two weeks. No showers, dishes are much more fun, no face washing, and no running water to cook with. Thankfully we have a tank outside that we can draw water from in those times, but our neighborhood isn’t known for its vast wealth. The majority of the people live in dung and straw houses with corrugated tin roofs. If there is no running water, there is no water. They don’t have the luxury of a big tank of water to save them.

So why am I telling you all of this? How does it affect you? Well…in one sense, it doesn’t. Most of you don’t have to deal with these issues. Most of you don’t have to live with these problems each day. Most of you are very far removed from most of the situations facing Ethiopia. But, it affects you for two reasons.

First, just because you are removed from the situation, doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to help. No…I’m not asking you for money, or for you to fly over here. I’m simply asking you to engage in the single most powerful weapon that we possess as Christians. I’m asking you to pray. Not just a fleeting remembrance type of prayer that passes through your mind as you take a shower or drive to work. I’m asking you to set aside some time every day where you can kneel before the Lord and plead with Him to bring rain for the people of Ethiopia. His people are dying. If possible, ask your friends to pray. Tell your pastor to pray for Ethiopia during the service. Put the situation on your prayer lines at your churches. This country is in need and you alone have the power to help them. All the world’s money, businesses, trade agreements, and aid can’t make it rain in Ethiopia, but our God can. Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John saying, “Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete (John 16.23-24).”

Second, to remind you. Being here has given me a perspective on the world and on luxuries that I wouldn’t have been able to gain without being here. In the United States, we are blessed. The power doesn’t shut off for any reason other than a storm. We complain about daylight savings time. The water is always running and always hot. We complain about pressure. The heat is on in the winter. The AC is on in the summer. We complain about the weather. Food is on the table. We complain about leftovers. We have grocery stores the size of exhibition centers on every corner with every kind of food we can possibly imagine. We complain about the price of steak. Really? Do we have anything to complain about? My realization is…no. We don’t. We should be on our knees day and night thanking God with every breath that we have within us because of the comforts and blessings that we live with every day. But we aren’t.

Sorry for the rant. I’m just learning more than my brain can absorb and experiencing more than my heart can process.

Know that you are blessed. Pray for rain.

Hope you all are well.


PS- If you are confused by the title, then you aren’t from Seattle (or you aren’t Jake Buter). Shawn Kemp was my idol from about first grade to sixth grade. I even tried to get my barber to make my hair like his. Difficult, because he’s African American. In his prime, he was a power forward for the Seattle Supersonics and shared the floor with other Seattle stars such as Gary Payton, Ricky Pierce, Detlef Schrempf, Hersey Hawkins, and Sam Perkins. His nickname was, “The Reign Man.” It’s a play on words in that he both ruled the court and was from Seatlle where it is rainier than most places. Hence, the title.


3 Responses to Where’s Shawn Kemp When You Need Him?

  1. jake says:

    The last Sonics home game might have happened a couple nights back at Key. It’s looking like they very well could be gone. But GP was at the game and when they showed him on the big screen I read that the place just erupted. Can you imagine if Kemp showed up too? That would have been epic. Keep the posts coming.

  2. jon says:

    Even though I’ve been there and seen all of that, already being back here in the states I have become accustomed to hot showers and power all of the time. Thanks for the reminder of my blessings. Also, you forgot to mention that Kemp has more children, in more cities, than most. peace,

  3. Dave Parisi says:


    Love and Thanks,

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