I was a pretty cocky child growing up in the Bole district of Addis Abeba in Ethiopia. For the most part, I was a loveable kid but I also walked around like I owned my parent’s house. If anyone entered my father’s and mother’s house and did something I thought was disrespectful, I would slowly go to my bedroom, put on one of the cowboy boots my father used to buy me from his trips abroad and then sneak up on the offending party and give them a kick on the shin that made them scream as if they were bitten by a Scorpio in the Sahara desert.
This hubris of mine was tamed by the first bout of depression I felt in my heart as my parents were forced to flee the land that gave birth to me and was the source of my happiness. The boisterous Teddy was no more, I morphed into a morose Theo who no longer walked around freely outside but instead self-medicated by watching countless hours of TV. Gone was the healthy child who ate my grandmother’s doro wot and tibs, life as a refugee in America meant eating McDonald’s food, twinkies and Kool-Aid.
I nearly doubled in size as I ate to wash away the sadness I felt in my heart. My outward appearance matched my inward ennui. To this day, I vacillate between losing weight and gaining it right back. I lost sixty pounds last year only to put it right back on this year—old habits die harder than the lovechild of Carrie and Freddie Kruger. To top it all off, my mother struggled with depression and my father worked all the time, my sisters were forced to grow up before their time and I withdrew even more into the comforts of the television.
Around the age of nine, I discovered Jimmy Swaggart as I landed on his channel after I was done watching the Three Stooges on Sunday morning. The minute I saw him cry while giving a sermon, I was hooked. His tears coaxing tears from my eyes, Jimmy Swaggart became my second father as he stood in for my father Fikremariam Million who was forced to work three and four jobs at a time. I’ve always had a closeness to God that I can’t explain, as a child I would read the Bible and messages hidden in between allegories would pop out where most people understood the words written in the Good Book literally.
I wanted to be a farmer or a pastor when I was in Ethiopia, after watching Jimmy Swaggart enough times, I made my choice to become a pastor. Alas, one day, breaking news of Swaggart’s fall broke my heart. I did not understand what the controversy was all about, I was only nine years old so I had no idea what a prostitute was. I learned in short order that this wise man of God had fallen for the same temptation that lured King Solomon. I was grievously wounded by Swaggart’s fall, I was so upset at God that I gave up my dreams of being a pastor and decided to chase the flesh instead.
What started off with eating more twinkies and burgers in time turned into drinking beer and smoking weed as a teenager. The rejection I felt from my peers in school turned into acceptance the minute I started to act like a thug. So eager to fit in, I made it a point to please other people by harming myself. Everything I did became outward, I would get in shape and lose weight not because it was good for me but because I wanted to be loved by ladies. I would water down my intellect and hid the books that I read in secrecy at night so that I could be part of the “in crowd”.
The more pains that came my way, the more I sought validation from others. When my grandmother passed away, my mom spiraled into full-blown depression. On a couple of occasions, she tried to take her life only to discover what I thought was her lifeless body. Trauma after trauma growing up was replaced with yet more trauma as I saw my father take his last breath on his own in front of my eyes. I learned during these moments to push away vulnerable Teddy and instead become cocksure Theo.
If only I knew what I know now, undealt pains eventually manifest themselves at the time of their choosing. Growing up in a house where my mom was struggling and my father was always working, emotional regulation is not something that was readily available. Parents, if your child is hurting, acknowledge his/her pain and then let them know that everything will be alright with a loving embrace. This simple step can do more to heal than all the medications and therapy sessions in the world.
There is a reason I am telling this story, yesterday I went to Kidane Meheret Church in Alexandria, Virginia to pray. While I was there, I asked two priests if it was OK to put up some posters that directed people to an article I published about the way that Joe Biden is attacking my birth land Ethiopia using Egypt as a proxy. On any other day, I would never disrespect my father’s house by passing out flyers or selling goods at church. But the developments taking place in Ethiopia, which are directly related to a terror attack that has been issued for the United States by the Department of Homeland Security, is so pressing that I felt compelled to act.
— Teodrose Fikremariam (@Teodrose_Fikre) October 10, 2021
After gaining their approval, I put up a couple of posters throughout the church and right when I was about to leave, some Ethiopian guy rushed up to me asking what the poster were about. I was slightly annoyed, I mean he could have read the article because the link was right on the poster but I decided to put away my hubris and calmly explained to the fella that the poster is about the unfolding situation in Ethiopia. He immediately turned to the priest I was walking next to and told him that the poster does not belong in the church because it’s a conspiracy theory. I knew at that exact moment the guy had an agenda, he already knew what the poster was about and he knew exactly who I was.
Not one to be bullied, I pushed back immediately and asked him who he was and that I have already gained approval from the priests. The priest next to me acknowledged that was the case and told me that I have nothing to worry about, he guaranteed that the posters would not be taken down on his watch. Given confidence by the priest’s assurance, I decided to meet my wife Bethlehem at Etete Restaurant about a mile away even though I had an uneasy feeling that the fella at the church would tear down the posters.
After we finished eating, I returned to check on the posters and sure enough, almost all of them were torn down. I was livid and wanted vengeance more than anything else. I forgot that I was at church and instead reverted to the six-year-old child who would kick anyone whom I felt disrespected my father’s house. Who was this man, I fumed, who had the audacity to tear down what had been sanctioned by the church? As I was looking around for the culprit, I ran into a man who told me something that shook me to the core, the culprit was not who I thought it was.
You should not judge but you should also not listen to people, especially some who profess to be shepherds sent by God, who tell you to give money to church. God wants nothing to do with our cash, that is the devil's creation which is why Yeshua spoke against it. #BrokenSparrow pic.twitter.com/uYoFEow895
— Teodrose Fikremariam (@Teodrose_Fikre) October 10, 2021
This triggered me in ways I could not imagine. You see, my father’s house was not just my parent’s house, my closeness to God never went away no matter how much I chased the desires of the flesh over the past thirty-three years. As much as I tried to deny my fondness of God, I never really left Him. I was not really upset at God, I was upset at people like Jimmy Swaggart who pretend to be doing God’s work while enriching themselves and stealing from their flock. I have been to more churches than the Three Stooges have slapped each other.
Each time I joined a new church, I would shortly thereafter depart because I could not abide the wickedness they gave cover with their cloth. Yeshua said don’t trade money in church, almost every church is doing exactly that. Yeshua spoke against usury (the giving and taking of money at interest) yet churches refuse to speak against this depraved form of capitalism that is rooted in fractional currency that has enslaved billions of people around the world. Instead of honoring Yeshua’s teachings, they keep coming up with one law after another and denying the poor and homeless the right to sleep on their grounds. Far from being a source of salvation, church has become the primary source of suffering because they give credence to a political system that is currently attempting to destroy God’s creation so that Nwo-Nazis could “Build Back Better” on our collective graves.
Before I talked to my wife, I was intent on delivering a sermon of fire and brimstone so fierce that it would have rivaled the lava and ash flowing out of the DARPA-engineered La Palma volcano. Bethlehem cooled my temper down and reminded me that people do what they do because they are hurting themselves. My job as a Christian, my role as a person who has knowledge others might not have, is to be kind at all times. I cried while telling her about Jimmy Swaggart and how it upsets me when people who are entrusted with power abuse it instead of using it to help others. She hugged me as I sobbed in her arms and gave advice that at once acknowledged my pains while comforting me in the process—it’s like she was healing the hurting Teddy inside that never received that as a child.
Instead of fire and brimstone, I offer water instead. People do what they do not because they are evil but because they are struggling. Perhaps the person who tore down the posters only knew poverty growing up and slept on dirt so he feels the need to take to protect himself. Perhaps some sell candles because they never had electricity growing up. Perhaps Jimmy Swaggart slept with a prostitute because he never received love as a child so he paid for it as an adult. Who am I to judge, I have known more women over the course of my life than Sampson in the Bible. Instead of bashing people, perhaps my job is to be compassionate.The pains of the world are a manifestation of the pains we harbor in our souls, if we want justice and equality for all, we must first mend within our hearts so we can be a #BrokenSparrow no more:: Click To Tweet
I have walked a long road on my way to wisdom yet I am only on mile one in a three thousand mile journey. There are other matters that still confound me, like what to do about global leaders who are trying their hardest to create a mega-tsunami that could wipe out the east coast of the United States and devastate coastal areas throughout the world. I know a sin is a sin but some sins are unforgivable. But there is a time for all things and some things are revealed to us in time.
For now, I must rest, I have been running around the DC metro area trying to warn everyone about an impending tsunami—I’ve been doing a Lot. This is my God-complex kicking in, unable to save my mom as a child, I am trying to save everyone else. Perhaps though, I am trying to save myself as I am trying to do for others what was never done for me while I was a child. You see, all the pains, injustices and suffering of the world start first within us. If we hope to change the world, we must first change ourselves.
Physicians heal thyself, we cannot mend the wounds of this world unless and until we tend to the demons all of us have within us. Although terrorists co-opted the word to justify blowing up buildings and innocent people, Jihad is actually the struggle within our hearts between the good and the bad parts of our spirits. The same concept can be found in Judaism and Christianity where we are taught by prophets to overcome evil with love. Every day is judgment day in that way but the judgment is not external but of ourselves. Instead of pointing at the splinters in other people’s eyes, it is time for me to pull out the planks in my own pupil so I can see 20/20 love and not be blinded by anger anymore::
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” ~ Proverbs 10:12
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- We Are Not Black, We Are Not White, We are One and We are Children of God - October 18, 2021