Meet Aster Lemma
My name is Aster Lemma and I am 35 years old. I am a woman with many different interesting and touching stories.
Before I was married as a teenager, I experienced problems with my feet, which created many struggles in my life. I could not afford to buy and wear shoes. That’s why I experienced many problems with my feet and in other parts of my body.
When I first began to feel sick, my feet had sores, they smelled bad, and mossy stuff grew up my leg. Now my feet are normal. I am able to manage a living for myself and daughter. I farm my small garden like the men and feed my child by baking and selling injera [bread] for other people.
Although I must still manage my own life and my daughter’s by myself, I am full of praise to the Lord because of these struggles, which keep me close to Him. The Lord made me strong so that I could be a sign and lesson and living proof of His presence for others. Here is my story.
Marriage at 15
I was 15 years old when a man asked me to marry him. At the time I was strong and full of courage even though I already had some problems with my feet. I began living with this man, not realizing what the future would hold. My feet became very bad, with a strong odor. I was weak and had other symptoms in my body.
Seeing this, my husband started to change his behavior towards me. He began hating me and hurting me with unfaithful words. Once, a neighbor told me what he said about me: “My chicken and my wife are the same. She can do nothing and she is worthless.”
While I was pregnant with my first child, my feet continued to swell, and the smell became worse. One day my husband said, “If you give birth to a son, he can stay in your place and help me farm, but if you give birth to a girl, then you and the child will be out of this house.”
Birth of a Daughter and Rejection
I gave birth to a daughter and my husband threw me out of his house the next day. I went to my uncle’s house and lived there for a while. My uncle was also not a kind man. He did not let me leave his house and was very cruel. During this time, I stopped walking on my legs and began to crawl on my hands and knees. My knees and elbows were injured and I began to smell terrible. I was hated by my husband and by everybody. Now my uncle also started hating me, thinking that I was more of a burden than a help. With my growing child, I was a helpless poor woman forsaken by both my husband and all of my relatives.
At this point, my uncle decided to throw me out of his house. He said: “You are no help to me or to anybody because you can’t do anything or go anywhere. I am going to throw you in the big river behind our house and then be free from your troubles once and for all.”
But I did not give up easily. My only hope was in Jesus Christ and I had my full trust in Him. I begged my uncle to let me live until Wednesday so that I could pray to the Lord and find His answer. “Don’t let me die this way while I am alive,” I begged. “I will either die and you can throw my dead body in the river or I will get out of your house by Wednesday.”
He agreed to let me live until Wednesday. I spent all of my strength and time praying and begging the Lord to rescue me. I cried to the Lord to either kill me or help me to run and escape my uncle before he put his hand on me.
A Vision of Hope
Tuesday night, while I was mourning and praying to the Lord on my wounded knees, I saw a vision of two people with an open Bible, one to my right and one to my left. They began reading the Bible slowly and clearly. Suddenly, I was surrounded by a bright glowing light. Through the light, I saw a tall man with a compassionate face that I had never seen before, but I recognized instantly this was the Lord. “Save me Jesus,” I cried.
“My child, don’t worry. I will rescue you from all of your troubles. I am here to comfort you and let you walk through your problems. Tomorrow you and your daughter will be walking out of this house,” He said. And I believed. Then the figure of Jesus and the two people reading the Bible disappeared.
Soon after, I saw an elderly man whom I had known at my church while I was living with my husband. The man came towards me and stood in front of me (right where Jesus had talked to me). “Who was that man talking to you? What was he saying?” he asked. “He is Jesus Christ. I was begging Him to save me from my uncle and He promised to save me. He told me that I will go on my legs starting tomorrow morning,” I replied.
The next morning, believing I could walk, I stood up and took one step forward. I took another step, and another. “I CAN WALK!” I climbed up a coffee tree, collected coffee beans and made coffee for the family.
Finding the Mossy Foot Project Clinic
Neighbors had told me before about white people at Bale who taught and gave treatments and shoes to poor people. Bale is located 15 km away from where I was born. The first decision I made that morning was to go to this place.
I started out walking to Bale with my little child following right behind me. Bale was on the other side of a mountain so my journey was tiring and challenging. I had no possessions, so I had nothing to carry on my trip. I was free and that was all I needed. Because of my belief and trust in the Lord I had no worries.
On my way, a stranger stopped me. He told me he was a pastor and gave me 40 birr from his pocket. I bought food for me and for my child with the money and continued my walk to the Mossy Foot Clinic. After two days of walking, I arrived at Bale. I knew a woman from my area who now lived in Bale, so I searched for her until I found her. I told her my story and she let me stay with her.
I waited for the Mossy Foot Clinic to open and showed the workers my feet. I told my story and the workers felt very sorry for me. They cleaned my feet, washing them with soap, and told me to put my feet in a bucket with half liter of water mixed with bleach for about half an hour. Then they put Whitfield’s ointment on my feet. I was given shoes for free and was told to follow the same treatment every day. I continued to follow up for my medicines. For me skipping, missing or stopping my medicine and denying Jesus are the same because both lead me to death.
A New Life
I became stronger but my child and I continued to struggle for a living in a strange land where we had no relatives. The woman I lived with gave me a goat to raise and promised that half the goat would be mine when it was sold. I raised the goat and the goat gave birth to two more goats. Yet the woman took all of the goats for herself and shared none with me. I made injera [bread] for people and earned 10 birr a day and bought food for me and my child.
Seeing my many problems and life conditions, the Mossy Foot Association and the government had compassion on me. They gave me a small piece of land and built a small one room house where I could live with my daughter. Even though the house is small, we are now living in our own house. I work on my own garden and now we are raising corn and sweet potatoes in our garden. My life is filled with miracles and I believe the miracles will continue.
The Lord is with me so I have to nothing to fear. Praise the Lord.