Thankful

Thankful

First of all, I would like to thank Jesus for taking me to Ethiopia for the second time. I didn’t think I could have a better experience than the first trip, but Addis Abba a second time does get better. Addis is like an onion, smelly, and each year I get to go back, I get to see a new layer. Last year everything was new, and everything was perfect, like a fairy tale missions trip. I came back from it and nothing really changed, I was still a greedy American child, and I believe I still am, but instead of greedy, I am blessed. Coming home from this trip, I learned that I am still learning. I am learning who I am, and who I want to be. I know one thing for sure: I want to be Ethiopian. I learned that I am American, and the world sees me as an American, and the world sees me as money. We visited Bethel, a ministry that gives women a job instead of begging or prostitution, and on our drive up the road we were met by happy, joyous children running around our vans screaming “money”. This and every other day in Ethiopia broke my heart. I don’t know if I can say I am proud to be an American, but I can say I am blessed to be an American, I am blessed to live in a country that freely allows me to see how much it sucks. Let me assure you this is not the only thing I took from my trip to Ethiopia. The people I met while we walked to Tomoca, drove to Bethel, served in our house, and walked on the roads taught me and showed me relationship. And God is showing me that I need to live more for relationships and less – a lot less – for myself. I am learning that I have a lot to learn, and everyone around me is willing to help teach me whether I agree or disagree. I want to learn about everyone else’s lives, and I want to learn about the world, and I want to learn how to love like Jesus (and Ethiopians). Lastly, I would like to thank Jesus for the life he has given me.

– Malea Tesseneer

Home

Home

If I close my eyes, I am back there. I am swaying in a van as a blur of unfamiliar noises, people, and landscapes fly past. I am holding hands with Bamlak as I lean against Selam and Alemtschay, their voices rising and falling as they sing songs to the Lord. I am listening to the rain cascading upon the roof as Yeshi and her kids play downstairs in the kitchen.

When I open my eyes, I am here. Home. But home doesn’t seem to be the right word. Being back in Ethiopia for a second time, experiencing and remembering all that I have, makes Addis Ababa feel like home. Yet, returning back to Bozeman feels like home too. So… what and where is “home”?

After these past two weeks, here’s what I know. I know that my answer to this question has changed. It changed after driving down a dirt road tucked away and hidden from the bustling and congested roads in Addis. A simple road hidden from view that led to a home. A beautiful black stone home nestled amongst vibrant green grass and lush trees. A home I have only seen in pictures growing up. This isn’t a home I’ve ever been familiar with. It wasn’t mine. But it was and is a home that has shaped my family.

In this seemingly ordinary home lived my mom and her family 55 years ago. My grandparents, Phil and Diane Jacobson, followed the Lord’s call to be missionaries in Addis Ababa for six years with their three children. Trusting in God, they uprooted their comfortable lives in America, sold everything, and flew to an unfamiliar place. It was in this home that my mom was raised to be the woman she is today. Watching her parents serve the Lord through their daily selfless actions of helping others, learning from others, and outpouring love onto others, shaped my mom and her two siblings. Had my grandparents not trusted in the Lord’s plan for them, our family would not be what it is today. A family rooted in faith. A family that loves deeply. A family that knows His promises are good and that we need only follow His voice when He calls us.

The van stops and God is pulling me into this home. Waves of emotion crash over me as I step out and am greeted by a woman whom I have never met. Tears trickle down my face as I attempt to put into words what this home means to me. Tears streaming from my eyes, weak hands finding strength in hers as I explain that my grandfather, who acted on faith and followed God to this exact home 55 years ago, passed away three months ago. I realize as I walk the rooms he once walked, that home means much more than we may ever understand. Home for my grandfather was wherever God was. Home to him was in these black stone walls where he shaped our family by listening to God and saying, just as Isaiah, “Here I am. Send me!” Home was in the time spent on Turtle Lake, surrounded by God’s beauty seen in the visible landscape and the moments shared with his family. Home was watching his children grow into the faithful children of God that they are today. Home was his church, full of fellowship with others and the music that brought him peace. Home was in his wife, whom he loved and cherished so profoundly. Home was never one place. It was wherever the Lord called him to be.

If I close my eyes again, I am back there. Standing in a home that is much more than that simple word. It is a promise. A promise that God dwells with us wherever we are so that He can be near to us. We need only lean into Him, trusting Him through this messy and imperfect life. When God calls us out of comfort and familiarity, He uses those moments to open our eyes and our hearts to all that He promises for us. I pray that from this point forward, I never lose sight of what the Lord has taught me through this experience. I pray that He continues to shape me into the woman He calls me to be. I pray that, just as my grandfather did, I will hear His voice and follow, never doubting that my home is wherever He is.

Lastly, I pray for my team, the staff and children of Bring Love In, and all of you. I pray that my team finds peace in returning back home. That this peace only He can give, which “transcends all understanding” is found in knowing they are home not just in Bozeman, but wherever they are called because God dwells within them. I pray that the staff and children of Bring Love In continue to live out the promise that God so visibly and powerfully displays in each of them. And I pray for all of you. Whether you’re reading this blog or supported one or more of us through prayer or financially, or for any other reason. I pray that He is your home. That you feel His presence in all of the messiness and imperfection of your life. He is there, calling out to you, waiting for you always.

Close your eyes and know you are home.

Elise

With blessings come responsibility

With blessings come responsibility

I prayed a lot about returning to Ethiopia this year. I wanted to go back but was unsure and scared that it wasn’t necessarily what God wanted me to do. It is the hardest time of year for me to leave my job and family. After a lot of prayer and talking, I decided I would tell our church I wanted to return if they would have me back. In addition to being away, I was concerned about the financial portion of the trip. I had been blessed by so many generous people last year and knew I would need to fundraise again to be able to go. Two weeks before leaving, our family was blindsided by a cancer diagnosis for my father-in-law, which lead to major brain surgery and a stage four diagnosis. Timing again kicked me when my oldest son was scheduled to leave for the Army the day after I was leaving for Ethiopia. I once again was rethinking if I was supposed to go. It started to feel like the worst possible time to leave my family and emotionally wanting to be with them. Had I convinced myself God wanted me to go when really it was my want?! God provided once again generous supporters to help me. Trusting that God had answered my prayers and provided for me to go, I headed to the airport on Saturday morning the 14th at 10:45 in the morning. 

I was so anxious and almost nervous as we drove up to Bring Love In and the school to see the kids on our first day of teaching. Would they remember me?? Was I worthy from last year to be remembered? Would they be excited to see me? Would I have just been another missionary who came to Ethiopia or did I truly show the kids that I loved them! Did I convey to them that they changed my life more than I could have ever changed theirs! There’s no hiding that last year these kids stole my heart and showed me what true joy looks like. They showed me how big our God is and how He can transform and change your life. 

Right away the smiles and welcomes proved that they had been anticipating us coming and were so happy the day was finally here. The familiar smiles and hugs were confirmation of my purpose here in Addis: love! It was quickly confirmed that this is where God wanted me. I’m here to love these kids, not just teach them but show them God’s love through me. I came back because these kids and people of Ethiopia have broken my heart in ways I never could have imagined. 

Over the past year, God has not only placed Africa, poverty, and orphans on my heart but he has also started to chip away at things in my life He wants me to change. Places that I need to work on to better serve him. Someone said this morning in our devotion time that with God’s blessings come responsibility. I have a responsibility to use my blessings to bless and serve others. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to be in Addis not only once but twice. Now it’s time to carry out His mission for me back home.

– Jessica

ETHIOPIA

ETHIOPIA

ETHIOPIA

E  Emotional. My emotions are so up and down

T  Totally foreign. Nothing is familiar around me

H  Humbling. Why God, do I live in America?

I  Incredible. When Buzye asks me to take her home to live with me

O  Overwhelming. When 56 orphans sing about “Beautiful Things”

P  Powerful. To know and believe that God is in control

I  Intense. The feeling of having no electricity, sense of time or direction at all

A  Amazing. As I watch these people who have very little, need very little, yet love so much

I live to play a role in God’s story, it’s His story, not mine.

Lisa

God Has a Plan For You (Me!)

God Has a Plan For You (Me!)

One year ago my daughter, Malea experienced Ethiopia for the first time. As a father you are always looking out for, protecting and guarding your little girl. Ethiopia was not the plan I had for her. Yes, even though we planned for this trip, it was not supposed to be this way! Three   weeks prior to her leaving the tragic death of my son and her older brother, came to be. This wasn’t the plan! Her Ethiopia trip was supposed to be the culmination of excitement and preparation. One year later I’m here with my wife and daughter wondering what’s the plan? Why am I here?

As we were visiting the children, on the second day at Bring Love In, I was asked to teach the Bible lesson. The lesson for the day: “God has a Plan for you” and “You are God’s Masterpiece”. So humbling to try to teach kids who have lost way more than me the truth that that needed to hear. I hurt as I realized the pain they have gone through yet telling them that this God’s plan for you and you are God’s masterpiece! Wow, am I believing this? Truth be told, NO! But that’s God’s plan for me. To take me way across the world, to an unbelievable place (I would explain but you wouldn’t understand) called Addis Ababa. He took me here to teach me the lesson I was teaching so I could relate with these beautiful kids, so I could truly break with them. All these thoughts and emotions hit me hard while I was teaching them.

I know the lesson is pretty elementary, right? Sorta “Sunday School-ish”. But truth is, when I saw these grade schoolers repeating back to me in unison: I am God’s masterpiece and God has a plan for me, I realized, that was God’s plan for me to hear that. Even if he had to take me worlds away from comfy Bozeman.  Do you believe: You are God’s Masterpiece and that God has plan a PERFECT plan for You? How’s about when life gets tough, REALLY TOUGH?

If not, I know a group of kids, wait. I know a group of God’s Masterpieces that are willing to teach you!

The plans of the Lord stand firm forever

Psalms 33:11

(HAPPY 50th LISA MY LOVE!)

– Jim

Control

Control

Driving in Addis is like nothing I have experienced. The cars all drive so close to each other, there are no traffic lights or signals, and if traffic is jammed the vehicles just hop on the sidewalk and move forward down the road. It’s wild – I watch just waiting for someone to collide with us, but the river continues to flow. It looks like chaos from an outside perspective but it works.

As we continue there are cars coming in and out of the lanes, barely missing each other, what is happening? I am constantly fighting the idea that this works. How can something work like this without structure or control? You watch them drive and there is no anger, no stress, no road rage, they just work together giving each other a courtesy honk and letting them in. It is like nothing I have ever seen before, but amongst what seems like chaos is actually nothing but love. Time is not relevant here, it’s beautiful. As I sit and watch all that is going on around me, God’s presence overwhelms me, it is so real. I find myself wondering what can I learn from these amazing people?

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it whenever he will”      Proverbs 21:1 

I watch this river of traffic wind around and snake through narrow side streets, and I think to myself, “there is way too much control in my life”. Time controls my life. I always try to work hard and carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I am strong. I can handle it. But in the midst of it all, I am left forgetting the strongest part of my life. God. He is always there and he has a plan for me, instead of gripping the reigns and trying to be in control, I just need to let go and pray for guidance. 

As each day fades, I see God’s image in all of the people we see, and in everything they do.  I see it so clearly now. The time they take to truly listen, truly be part of the conversation. riding with Ephraim has been such a bonus to this trip. He has so much to tell us about his beautiful country. One day while traveling down their busy streets, he turns back so excited to tell us this story. Right in the middle of the best part, his phone begins to ring. One ring after another, he continues his story. I begin wondering to myself is he ever going to answer it? He doesn’t skip a beat, our conversation continues. The time spent together was more important than any phone call. There is something we can all take from that. Take the time, it can wait, God is with all of us and the relationship we have with each other. Loosen the grip time has on our lives, shut out the world and find the love and spirit within each other. Put time and control in the rear view and truly be a part of the relationships we build together!

– Dakota

Be. Not. Afraid.

Be. Not. Afraid.

“Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous, do not be afraid. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

Be. Not. Afraid. Growing up, we all have our security blankets. Whether it’s a literal blanket that we carry around, or maybe a parent or a sibling, we all feel a constant need to feel safe, comfortable – in control. For me, my security blanket was my family. I was extremely blessed to have two very Godly men as my role models in my Grandfather and Father. I spent countless hours playing catch with my Dad, and spent days doing nothing but playing games with my Grandpa. I’ve taken trips to hardware stores, banks, and more notably – carwashes. See, my Grandpa had this old 90’s blue pickup truck with a black topper on the back; I can still see it like it was yesterday. Well, he would go to the carwash, all us kids would pile in the back of the pickup so we could watch the water as it hit the windows. And I remember, going through the wash, water would begin to spill into the bed of the truck through the bottom of the topper. We would all scream and scream and bang on the windows, telling my Grandpa to stop (this was one of the self-use power sprayers). He just smiled, whistled and kept on his way pretending like he’d forgotten all about us. We all just screamed with glee – no fear, just carefree abandon because we knew that my Grandpa was in control.

I think we often forget that, just as my Grandpa was in control that day, we always have a heavenly (Grand)Father who is in control of our lives at all times. I know for me, two weeks prior to this trip, the reality really started to set in, and with it came all of the fear and anxiety. Fear of not fitting in and having a place with the team, fear of leaving the country for the first time, simply put – fear of the unknown. For months and months this was just a date on my calendar and suddenly it was becoming real.  I started having minor panic attacks, couldn’t sleep; I felt so overwhelmed. I didn’t have any control, I no longer had my security blanket.

Luckily, we serve a God that knows us intimately, and knows our every need. Jesus reminds us in Luke chapter 11 that we need only “seek and we will find, knock and the door will be opened to us”.  As I prayed and countless others prayed over me in preparation for this trip, I felt like my anxiety couldn’t be overcome. But I continued to seek, and I continued to knock, and boy was he faithful to his word.

As I said before, my Grandpa has always played a huge role in my life. And in the past ten years or so as his health was beginning to fade I got the idea to get a tattoo of a cross with his birth year and death year on my shoulder when he passed away. For a long time, that day seemed like it would never come, but eventually his health gave out and he passed away in May. I immediately started thinking of my design, and I really wanted to incorporate a scripture. For some reason, the verse Joshua 1:9 kept coming to mind. It was God’s reassurance to Joshua as he took over for Moses that he needn’t be afraid – he just had to trust in God. God would be his security blanket. Just like my Grandpa with the sprayer, Joshua could take comfort in the fact that his heavenly Father promised to be in control.

Now, I’m not normally a reader – I think the last time I finished a whole book without the help of spark notes was my Freshman year of High School. But I also know that I can’t sleep on flights and I didn’t want to waste a 14-hour flight watching movies and likely getting motion sickness. So I decided I would take on the challenge and read an entire book by the time our flight landed in Dubai. As I was scrolling social media, I had seen a friend reading a book by Bob Goff called “Everyone Always”. I had seen lots of his TED talks and loved his message, so I figured it would probably be a good bet. It’s funny how what we often times view as a subconscious decision, God has as a major part of his plan – this book was a perfect example. I was immediately drawn in by his description of living an authentic life of love. It was as if every thought floating in my head that felt trapped and inexplicable was right on the pages in front of me. Story after story, I read of what true Christ-like love looks like, and witnessed an example of an authenticity that I’d never seen before.

People describe “God moments” in a number of different ways. Some hear an audible voice. Others describe a calmness coming over them. For me, my God moment was three words: Be. Not. Afraid. As I read those words, tears instantly began streaming down my face. It was as if my Grandpa was right there with me, at the start of this new unknown journey – God had given me my security blanket.

Fear is an interesting concept in our society. When we hear that word, we often think about scary movies or being frightened, but it’s so much more complex than that. We fear failure. We fear rejection. We fear love. We fear one another. It’s almost ironic if you step away from it – we live in a society that covets control and yet we let fear control our entire life. How often do we let fear stop us from living out a Christ-like life? Instead we resort to keep our head down, drive from work to home without making any eye contact with anyone because Lord forbid we look at them the wrong way or maybe even exchange a smile. You always hear that we should make it less about Religion and more about Relationship, but that has never been more clear than my time here in Ethiopia. Living a Christ-like life is really quite simple when you boil it down – it’s about love. Jesus lays it out perfectly in John, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Be. Not. Afraid.  As you read this post and go out about the rest of your week, I encourage you to remember those three words. Remember that we are called to love, and no matter where you are, you always have your ultimate security blanket with you; even all the way in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“One day you’ll make sense of it all, Jesus. One day every question resolved. Every anxious thought left behind. Not more fear. When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.”

– Beau

Connecting Without a “Connection”

Connecting Without a “Connection”

Fear built up inside me while sitting in room 3 of the Guest House, my bedroom, when the lights suddenly went out. Just moments before, I was i the middle of a text message to my mother. I was about to press the send button when the WiFi bar usually placed at the top of my screen vanished. A lump developed in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes as I realized I had lost connection to my loved ones back home.

This is how the morning of my first day in Addis Ababa began. In a house full of (at the time) strangers in a completely foreign country, I sat on my bed holding back tears feeling more alone than ever. I struggled to pray and regain comfort because all I could hear in my head was my own voice saying “I shouldn’t be here, I need to get out some how.” My morals kept me from leaving, but my instincts screamed at me to buy the first plane ticket home. At this point I had yet to actually let a tear drop from my eyes. I couldn’t let a team who barely knew me see how broken and weak I was without my family.

I continued to get ready for my first full day in Addis and stayed pretty quiet all morning. At 6:45 we separated into our two teaching groups for daily devotional. I quickly realized everyone was expected to share even a small bit during this time. More anxiety washed over my mind and heart. I wouldn’t be able to share even the slightest bit without crying. When I felt called to share, I didn’t just speak, I poured out every feeling I had balled up since our plane left the runway in Belgrade. Stephanie placed her hand on my leg and Beau’s hand rested on my shoulder as I began to weep. Without even trying, my first few connections were made.

Later that morning we piled in the vans to transport ourselves and the supplies to the school for the first time. Although I was beginning to feel better after opening up to my team for the first time, I still felt anxious about the remainder of my trip. That lasted a short lived 40 minutes in the van and was swept away immediately upon entering the school. 

A bus full of kids poured into the halls. Some running, some walking, the kids approached us outside the classrooms. Keep in mind, this is my first time in Addis and unlike many others on my team, these kids do not know who I am. 

Nevertheless, the first kid, a boy named Akele, grabs my hand and pulls me towards him for a hug. 

Connection made.

Another boy repeats the same actions, his name being Fares, and asks me my name.

Connection made.

The next is a sweet girl with glasses and a purple shirt who grabs me and yells with a big smile on her face, “I am Bamlak!” 

Connection made.

This pattern continued until I had met and hugged nearly 25 children in a matter of minutes. All so eager and excited to see me without even knowing my name or who I am. I was a stranger to them yet they immediately let me into their lives, let me make a connection with them.

Over the course of a week I have gained a new family consisting of every single one of my teammates. I have let two dozen children into my heart, all of which I will never forget. Meanwhile, the majority of the time there was no cell service, no social media, even no light at times. However, I know all of this was supposed to happen because He needed me to learn an important lesson:

The most important connections are made when there is no “connection.” 

Kiersten Miller

Unexpected Results

Unexpected Results

This has not been the trip I expected. But it has been the trip I deserved.  What that means is I have been sick from the moment we have landed.  Unable to hold down any food and unable to eat the dinners for the first few days. I tried to tough it out. Until I finally had to wave the white flag. Take my Zpac. Rest and recuperate for a day. And that was the last thing I wanted to do. 

The reason this is the trip I have deserved does not come from the sickness, but I have been closed off to My Savior for a long time. Not in the sense that I don’t want to be in a relationship with Jesus. But that I haven’t felt the need for Him. 

During one of our morning devotionals where I was feigning health and positivity, a leader said so simply that on missions trips or in ministry, anything you do over again will not be the same as the first time. 

Returning to Ethiopia, I was expecting to be easy-going and care-free when it came to the food and culture of Ethiopia again and instead I feel like some of my teammates probably did last year, sicker than they hoped to be. Naturally tearing up, having to stay behind and watch as the rest of the team left for the day to see beautiful smiles and unwavering love. And where as I didn’t have the compassion for them last year. I do now. But as for God. I do not pass blame or ask for simple healing. I just know that this soon will pass. And pass it did. 

More pertinently, the lesson I have learned from my time under the weather here is that I have to turn to Him. In the U.S., I can so easily work out if I feel negatively about my body. I can relax if I feel stressed. I can show affection to my wife (or dog) to feel loved back. But what I was missing was a true healing. A daily healing. Where my sickness is not something I can just lay at home in Bozeman and ease through.  This situation has shown me that though God’s plans are firm, they are by no means fun all the time. 

I had to rely on prayer that I would be able to spend time with the kids, with the team, and not just in my own sickly confines.  My prayers have been answered. I have a week left to pour love and affection into the kids of Bring Love In, my teammates experiencing this place with me, and back into my God. 

– Carl

A precious gift

A precious gift

Driving to the school on our first day with the kids filled me with worry. I was so excited to see the children, but my anxious mind wandered to questioning whether or not these kids were feeling the same way. I was scared that the kids would cling to those on our team who had been previous years. I knew it was a silly worry, but I couldn’t push it out of my mind. So I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed. 

God heard my prayers. 

Within a minute of the children arriving I knew that my frantic, scared mind would be put to ease. The tiniest girl came running up to me and wasted no time making me her best friend. We HAD to sit together every day, no exceptions. Our pictures HAD to be color coordinated. We became inseparable. 

Sitota is a ball of fire, energy, joy, and LOTS of sass. Her facial expressions are second to none and her smile… the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe that I could love a child so much, yet here I was, tearing up with every goodbye. 

As we left the school one day, Sitota and I wandered over to our driver Ishy, and he explained to me that the name Sitota meant “gift”. It’s impossible for me to imagine a greater gift than this child and her relentless love. This child stole my heart (and my watch) a million times over. God’s timing is always perfect, and tiny little Sitota was the most precious gift I will ever receive. 

All I can say is God is so good and I am beyond blessed to be here!

– Melissa