The season of Lent is a religious observance lasting around forty days and is practiced by many Christians as they prepare for Easter. It often includes fasting from something: giving it up for this period of time. Some fast from a type of food, or coffee, or some other modern convenience like social media.
Christians practice Lent to get a small sense of the sacrifice of Jesus and his 40-day fast in the desert. Others may do it for penance – punishing themselves to earn a better standing with God. Personally, I don’t believe penance is necessary. Nevertheless, I’m intrigued by Lent as it is not part of my Christian tradition. I have decided to observe it again this year – several years back I gave up chocolate for Lent.
As a practice, fasting creates a trigger to prompt me to think about something else. If I’m fasting from coffee, for example, then each time I think of grabbing a coffee, I’m reminded of the reason for which I’m fasting. I suspect that even as many of you read ‘fasting from coffee’, you shuddered. Well, that’s my reality with technology.
This year, I’ve given up buying and selling technology for Lent. My name is Dwayne, and I am a consumer. In the last six years, I’ve bought and sold more tablets or phones or computers than my entire family combined. This year during Lent, each time I read about some new device, I am prompted in the direction of something else instead.
This Lent, my “something else” is to pray for my friends and colleagues in Ethiopia. You see, while I’m caught up in typical North American consumer behaviour, people in Ethiopia are living in a formal state of emergency. The president resigned after protests occurred. Demonstrations, violence, property destruction, and bloodshed abound. Currently, the military is in charge.
As I am reading about some new WiFi technology here at home, many people in Ethiopia are scared to leave their homes. People who are even further marginalized due to disability are trying to figure out a way to get to school or work, or how to provide for themselves and their families. For example, I visited with Hiwot and her mom in October last year. Hiwot is a young woman whose life changed in 2016 when she was given the opportunity to be part of a classroom especially designed for six students with multiple and complex disabilities. Hiwot’s mom had given up everything to stay home and support her daughter, so school has opened up a world of opportunity for both Hiwot and her mom. You can learn more about Christian Horizons’ work in Ethiopia by visiting our website, here.
80% of the world’s citizens who experience disabilities, people like Hiwot, live in developing countries. One person in seven has a disability here at home. My small sacrifice of removing one thing from my life (frankly, an unhealthy practice anyway) in order to turn my attention outward and upward on their behalf …well, it seems to make some sense.
When God spoke to ancient Israel through Isaiah the prophet (recorded in Isaiah 58:6-7), he said it like this:
This is the kind of fasting I have chosen:
Loosen the chains of wickedness, untie the straps of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke.
Share your food with the hungry, take the poor and homeless into your house, and cover them with clothes when you see them naked. Don’t refuse to help your relatives.
It sounds simple here, but it’s not so easy in execution.
So, for Lent 2018, my fast will prompt me to pray for these needs.
Will you join me?
Even though Lent has already begun, it’s not too late to start.
To download the latest Christian Horizons Prayer Guide, which features Ethiopia, visit www.christian-horizons.org/churches