Dear Martyn Joseph,

I don’t often write fan letters, but I’m making an exception today because I think you should know how much you moved me last night. I left your concert with a feeling of fullness – like I’d been given a delicious meal of succulent songs that fed the hungry places in my soul. Thank you for that. Thank you for writing such breathtakingly beautiful lyrics as “turn me tender again, mold me anew” and “my soul’s asleep now – wake me up” and – oh there are so many I can barely begin to list them. Thank you for giving of yourself again and again to us your audience. Thank you for taking risks. Thank you for baring your heart and soul and pouring your passion into the gift you offer us.

A few weeks ago, I was in Ethiopia. I traveled through some of the poorest regions of the country, visiting various food-related development projects. I visited people living in primitive huts made of mud and reeds. I watched labourers with picks and shovels painstakingly dig massive ditches to irrigate the parched land. I held the hands of children who weren’t sure where their next meal would come from. I walked past crippled or blind beggars sitting in the dirt next to centuries old churches.

Before departing on my journey, I downloaded my favourite music onto my daughter’s mp3 player. Music is so often my touchstone, my inspiration, and my solid ground and I knew that it would help me process and make sense of some of the pain and poverty I would see. Your two recent albums – Deep Blue and Whoever it was Who Brought me Here – featured prominently in my music selection.

Your music was just what I needed for that journey. You so beautifully reflected so many of my own thoughts – anger at the injustice, compassion for those in need, despair that there are so many hurting people and so little I can do about it, but always hope that there is a better way. Your words became my words as I traveled through almost incomprehensible beauty and equally incomprehensible pain.

I listened to “Yet still this will not be” over and over again and even shared it with my travel companions. More than anything, as I traveled through one of the poorest countries in the world, I wanted to believe that some day “the broken hearted shall indeed rule”.

One particular memory of my trip sticks with me. We stopped at the side of the road next to a rusty abandoned army tank leftover from one of the many wars that have ravaged Ethiopia. Passing school children, curious about our vehicles and our white skin, climbed onto the war machine to watch us. As I watched them, I felt a sadness settle into my soul. How could these school children have hope for the future when their path to school was littered with memories of war?
But then, high up on the hill above where the tank sat, a young girl called down to us. Giggling and waving, she shouted “salam!” (hello) She picked up one of the young goats she was herding and motioned for us to take her picture. In that moment, I felt my hope return. If there is any hope in Ethiopia, it is in this young girl, so full of life and joy.
As we drove away from the abandoned tank, the words of your song kept going through my head. Yet still this will not be. Yet still these tanks will not destroy Ethiopia. Yet still these ongoing wars will not destroy the spirit of this young girl. Yet still there is hope that some day the broken hearted will rule and the kingdom of the fool will be humbled and made low. Yet still there is within me the capacity to contribute to making the future a better place for this little girl and all those like her in this beautiful but broken world.

Thank you, Martyn, for coming with me to Ethiopia.

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