I came to Ethiopia with three expectations: To help teach Christianity to the Ethiopian people, to jump-start my luke-warm Christianity, and to have a God centered experience with my daughter. God fulfilled all three of my expectations, and as God often does, provided so much more. What I didn’t expect was what the Ethiopian people taught me. The overwhelming sense of acceptance from the children and adults alike, and the powerful prayer warriors that God placed in our path everyday. The children, who despite awful circumstances, love the Lord in amazing ways, and the feeling of appreciation for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ working to help despite personal sacrifice. It has been an amazing gift to be able to be a part of this team and to be a part of this work.
Today is a bittersweet day for most of us in the house. I’m a homebody and I’m super excited to come back to Montana, but I cannot believe how attached I’ve become with the people here and am so hopeful that God presents me with another opportunity to come back. It’s amazing how revealing this trip has been for me. I have learned so much about myself and my faith in just a few short weeks.
A woman that we met runs a ministry in Addis that helps find sponsors for families in need, so this morning we were able to visit their compound and pass out bags of flour and bottles of oil. The families that we saw today are grateful for supplies to make the same meal for an entire month and I complain that McDonald’s doesn’t deliver in America. Since that makes sense. Needless to say, today was another super eye-opening day for me.
Then we came back to the house and had a chance to meet with Levi Benkert, the founder of Bring Love In, the organization we have been working with during the past few weeks. He is such an incredible man. His love for the Ethiopian people and children is so inspiring, and I learned so much about the culture and the work that he and his family do here. He was also able to tell us a lot about the children that we’ve been working with and how far they’ve come since they’ve joined the program. I highly recommend checking out the BringLove.In website because now I’ve seen firsthand how lives are being completely transformed by these sponsorships.
The team and I covet your prayers as we begin our journey home tomorrow evening. Not only do we have 30 hours of travel ahead of us, our layovers are short and some serious hustle will be necessary to make our connections.
Thank you again so much for your prayers while we have been here. Hopefully we’ll be back in the 406 Monday afternoon as planned.
Today was a hard day. Hard because it’s a Friday and the kids just wanted to play but hard because this was the day that we had to say goodbye. Our class (Anna’s, Lexi’s and mine) were actually pretty calm today, we started off with review of what we had learned the previous days and then moved on to fill in the blanks and such other fun games. We then had an early lunch and play time. The whole day I kept in the back of my mind that we had to leave the kids today but I didn’t want to believe it was actually going to happen. It was more like a dream or just a thought. After lunch we corralled the kids back into the classroom and helped them make bracelets that explained how first God made the earth (blue bead) then man sinned (black bead) then Jesus bleed for us (red bead) and because of that we had a clean slate (white bead). Then the yellow bead which is heaven, Jesus is coming again. Then they made letters thanking the kids back in America for their generous donations that helped get things such as crayons, paper, pencils, and other such artwork supplies. While we were working the bus came with the younger kids we taught last week and the coffee ceremony supplies. So we waited for the other busload of kids to come and moved into the assembly building provided by the school. We were preparing for the ceremony when the other bus full of kids arrived. One of the students who made a big impact on me ran up to me before I even saw him, jumped up in my lap and gave me a huge hug. It almost brought me to tears (still is to be honest) and he stayed on my lap for the majority of the ceremony. It was one of the most heart touching things to see the kids from last week come back and sit on every single one of our laps during the ceremony. The ceremony was cool to watch and the coffee made was the best I have ever tasted. Afterward we were all hanging out with the kids trying to prepare our hearts for what was to come. It didn’t help much, the bus came and we said our goodbyes. Almost all of the group was in tears, and some of the children just wouldn’t let go of us. It took almost ten minutes for us to load onto the bus and it was painfully hard the whole time. We gave our last hugs to the kids and got on. There were tears the whole way home. We are here at home now and the tears have mostly stopped, but we are all feeling the after effects of this very emotional day. Please keep our team in your prayers as we deal with this, and God bless. –Eric Sipes
Today we started day two with the older kids! They are so different from the younger children, but it is very nice to meet all their different personalities. The people here have so much love in their hearts it is impossible for it to not rub off on you. The biggest difference is the physical sense of love. The children always greet you with a kiss on the cheek and hug. They are so kind and caring. The simple little things they do are so different from kids in the US. A box of crayons is gold here along with any sort of ball. They have so much determination in any game, and are excited to learn ANYTHING new. I feel as though they have knowledge beyond their time, and I am very excited to be given the opportunity to work through God to help these amazing kids. I have a heavy heart tonight knowing that we are leaving in less than a week. We only have TWO days of teaching left. I know for sure I will come home with a different heart. Ethiopia’s people have touched my soul in a way I never expected. I hope that God works through me to come back to Ethiopia; there is so much to teach and learn here. Also, I will be waving with my eyebrows for the next six months because there is no way I can break this habit now! Thank you to everyone who has continually prayed for out team, and supported us to get here. God Bless!
Ethiopia has been far different than anything I anticipated. When I pictured what it would be like here I half expected a tribal scene from National Geographic, silly I know. I have met easily the kindest most open people; their love for Jesus is so evident in the way they live. Seeing so many live in poverty has taught me to appreciate the many blessings I take for granted daily back home.
We have invited two Ethiopian boys to stay with us this last week and I have been so overjoyed by their presence. Mesgana, who is 16 years old and Belayneh, who is 17 years old, both know a little English and get along well with everyone. They enjoy spending time with the team, playing card games, and joining us for our lessons during the week. I find myself in a trance staring at them as they interact with each other. These two boys are amazing and have such incredible love for Jesus and other people. They have taught me so much and I am so grateful that I met them. Both once were, or, still are “street kids.” They have so much to offer, and yet hardly have roof over their heads. Our translator Aki has been nothing short of amazing. He is a passionate man of God and it is very evident in his actions and compassion for people.
A few things I have learned on this trip are to LOVE Jesus with all of my heart and to be open about it. The second thing I have learned is to appreciate all the little things in life such as running water, a constant flow of electricity, and knowing when and where my next meal is coming from. Also, I have learned that if we all do our part we can make a difference in this world.
From our guesthouse on the outskirts of town we drove into the city of Addis Ababa to the large Beza Church. We were greeted with the typical strange looks that travelers in a foreign country get while passing through, although curious we were greeted with warmth and excitement. The church was large and full of people from all over the world. It really showed me a glimpse of what it will be like to worship God in eternity with masses of Christians from every country and ethnicity and all walks of life. Parents with their adopted children as well as locals filed in. As we found our seats the band started warming up and a mixed humming drone filled the building. Unlike most churches I have visited this worship team was huge! Two drummers, a lead guitarist, two keyboard players, a bass player, a saxophone player, three lead singers, and about ten background vocalists completed the ensemble. I knew I was in for a worship experience like never before.
A small family of five sat in front of us and I was tormented through the entire worship experience by the cutest African faces peaking up at me with the most beautiful curious eyes I have ever seen! I smiled as I realized that the three little boys were talking to me even though they were not speaking. It is something I have had to get used to during my stay in Addis. The Ethiopian people communicate with their eyebrows! They lift them to acknowledge you and they lift them to say yes! So although I couldn’t communicate in the same language with those precious kids, I could lift my eyebrows and share a smile. The worship team began to play and the African music filled the whole church. It was so fun worshiping with the congregation. It was so lively and energetic and they sang praises to God with such enthusiasm and reverence. They danced, they clapped, they lifted their hands, they shed tears, and every fiber of their bodies was engaged in worship to our Savior. It was so much fun to share in their worship and feel the Holy Spirit fill the entire place. The pastor spoke with such passion and excitement for God’s word. His message was powerful.
The pastor spoke about the amazing son-ship we share with Christ. Focusing on the courage and boldness that comes when you know who and what you are in Christ. We are truly royalty because of what God has done for us. How easy it is to forget who we are in Christ and that we carry the freedom and the boldness that is often required to share the love of Jesus with others. This message floored me and brought such a grounding strength to my soul. Sometimes is takes such courage and boldness to share our faith with others, and sometimes all it takes is a pair of eyebrows. I will be forever changed and will leave Africa so much more grounded in my faith. I will leave with a new excitement to help those in need and I will leave with a boldness that only comes from knowing who God has made me to be! Blessings
All my love,
As we drove farther into the African jungle, now 3 hours into what was supposed to be a 1.5-hour drive I said aloud “this has to be it.” The girls laughed, as this was the third time I had said it. Myself, and three of my teammates were on our way to meet Lalise, my sponsored Compassion International child. Another half-hour on mud trails and we arrived in GoJo. Countless cows, sheep, goats, dogs, and baboons later we pulled into a place I pray we never forget.
Once we reached the Compassion site, I met Lalise (6 yrs), as well as her parents and other compassion staff members. After discussing what the program providers her and the family with we went through a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. This included them giving me the honor of cutting into the largest loaf of bread I have ever seen. Which I of course did incorrectly…several times giving all the Ethiopians a good laugh 😉
Following the ceremony we toured the church where the children prayed and sang together. I watched them sing and dance. Their love for Jesus and each other so evident, it was impossible not to smile ear to ear. They love the God with absolute abandon. In a place where people have so little, I have learned so much. Everyone we meet here has been so wonderful and just radiates joy. I’m forever thankful for such an amazing and supportive team to be here with. We’ve been embraced freely, without any reservation or skepticism. I am so thankful for the experience of being a sponsor, and that God provided me with the opportunity of meeting Lalise, her family, and her village. I pray that I carry with me all that these amazing people have taught me. They love God and people, and that is what really matters.
Sending lots of love and hugs!
God is good. It’s Saturday and the week has flown by. I’m amazed at how well things went this past week, and I know it’s only because God showed up and his Spirit filled in the holes that we weren’t expecting.
First of all, I have to start off by thanking God for our team. This team is full of amazing people who astound me everyday with their hearts for God and their surrender to Him. They are humble and loving people. Everyday I’m thankful for their flexibility and spontaneity. This is the first team to do this type of trip, and I’m grateful for their willingness to go with the flow and my sometimes lack-of-plan way of doing things. They are people that truly love to laugh, and I’ve never laughed so hard in one week ever. We are silly and joyful people, and I’m glad for the group I’m spending this time with and sharing these experiences.
Secondly, the camp this week has been far better than I ever expected. This week the group of kids we had were 10 and under, which means our oldest child was 9 and our youngest was 5 or 6. I really expected that the camp would wildly flop, that all the kids would be bored out of their mind, not learn anything and hate us. However that is hardly the case and I’m happy that we’ve had a different result. I’ve seen teachers make a genuine connection with their kids, and the kids love the heck out of their teachers. We’ve seen an amazing increase in the kids’ confidence in speaking English, and even the youngest can have a short conversation in English. It’s very exciting to see the kids grow and interact with us.
Next week we have kids 10 and older, and I have to admit that I fear we might be under-prepared. I came expecting the older kids to be at a basic English level, but based on the group this week, we will have to prepare new material this weekend to be able to offer a camp that will grow and challenge the group next week.
Keep praying that God’s Spirit speaks to us and fills us with His wisdom as we head forward into next week not knowing what to expect. I thank God each and every day for the people who have supported this trip both financially and through prayer. Your support means the world to me and the others on my team. Thank you for partnering with us.
Much love, Jackie
Hi hi hi! I don’t even know where to start. My life is completely being changed by this trip. After only having them for two hours yesterday, today was our first full day with the kids 10 and under. I’m now convinced that there’s nothing better than walking into a classroom and hearing 19 Ethiopian children chanting “Miss Lexi! Miss Lexi!” I’ve been super surprised at how well some of the children can already speak English and how compliant the rest of them are to try to learn. We spent the first half of the morning split into three classes working on different greetings, colors, numbers, and body parts. They’ve caught on to a lot so far, but during the Head and Shoulders song I could tell it was time for a break when we started pointing to our toes and shouting “HEAD!”
After classroom time and a break for snacks and lunch, we got a chance to play out on the playground with the whole group. SO. MUCH. FUN. The ten of us leaders spent more than two hours being pulled in twenty different directions to push kids on the swings, climb on the jungle gym, start games of soccer, or just sit in a pile of rocks. Hands down, my favorite part of the day was teaching the kids Red Rover. Not only did they catch on super quickly, but they absolutely loved it. Videos to come J
Really, it’s been unexplainable spending time with these children and seeing their love for life, Jesus, and other people. Their happiness is contagious and they are teaching me SO much. Beyond that, I’m beyond grateful for three major things. First, our safety and travel since we have been here has been absolutely seamless. Second, our translator, Aki, is not only one of the nicest, funniest men I’ve ever met, but he has been a huge blessing to us when working with the kids. Things would utter chaos at school without him. And third, the chemistry of our team is pert near perfect. The different personalities and strengths that all of the other team members bring to the table cannot be anything but completely orchestrated by God. I can’t imagine a better group of people to be over here with. I’ve fallen asleep three nights in a row with laughing cramps; the girls on this trip are out of control.
Thank you all for your prayers and support of this trip. We cannot do what we’re doing without it.
Well good morning from Ethiopia everyone!! Well I think its actually about 10pm there but here its about 8am and we are just about to eat some breakfast. Sorry I haven’t checked in earlier but it took us a couple days to get the internet set up. Needless to say, all the flights went about as smoothly as they could have gone and we all made it here safely. Tuesday night, we checked into our amazing guest house. Waking up bright and early on Wednesday we all took some time to go check out the neighborhood and were surrounded by curious children almost as soon as we left our gate. Playing soccer in the streets with the children was so much better then I could have ever imagined! Couple hours later, we went to the Bring Love In offices and were able to meet all the amazing people that keep it running. It was awesome to be able to see how much love they have for the children and the passion they have for Bring Love In. Then we went to the school, where we were able to meet most of the kids we are going to be teaching the rest of this week and some of next week. Basically my heart has been melted. Even in a couple short hours, the team and I were all able to see the incredible capacity for joy radiating from these children. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. We did names and introductions, and then proceeded to play some games and just get to know and love the kids. After coming home and then taking some scary taxi rides involving 16 people and 3 americans riding in a “Blue Donkey”, or a short van, we called it a night. Today is our first full day with the kids an I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us today. Amesaygnallo (Thank you) to everyone for your continued prayer and support!