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Month: July 2017

Inner Beauty

Inner Beauty

Dear Lord,

Depth. Intensity. Longing. Confusion. Clarity. Joy. Love. Eyes. The eyes of your people speak wonders. They hold something our very mouths can not fathom at times; our inner beauty. Beauty that you have bestowed in each one of us. So much beauty. Such a sight it is to see the inner beauty of such diversity. Your work is magnanimous Lord. As I try and focus on the good, Lord, I can not help but to be consumed by the eyes in search of Your love. The eyes that long, long for something, something more. It saddens me Lord.

Eyes surround us. Everywhere we go. Eyes. Little eyes. Big eyes. All types of different eyes. All carrying a different background. A different story. Different emotions. Different hopes. Different dreams. All of which are created by Your hand, Lord. A hand that never falters.

As I continue to look deep into the depths of these beautiful people, I long to know the role You play within their lives. I struggle to separate my world from theirs. Two very different worlds. Worlds that contrast in just about every way. Reasoning is hard. Understanding is even harder.

I search for a steady heart. Reassurance.

Wondering what my eyes give way to. What do the eyes I look so deeply into see from mine. Do they see my struggle? My sadness. My frustration. My longing to help. In any way. Is It obvious that my heart breaks with every eye contact?

Teach me. Mold me. Continue to break my heart for what breaks yours, Lord.

Always yours,

Heather

Broken Things

Broken Things

How much of what we see in our daily lives do we discount and disregard as broken and worthless? How much of what we discount and disregard is priceless in God’s eyes?

There is no running water in the open air restrooms we use at the Safari Academy. The toilets have no valves or internal workings and the normal process we expect to happen when we pull the handle is instead performed by a remarkable group of ladies whose job it is to keep the school clean and presentable. They flush the toilets using a garden hose that is more plastic than rubber and has more repairs than anyone I know would contemplate making – it would have ended up in the trash long ago.

I was intrigued by the fixes; the amount of time, energy and thought that had gone into plugging the holes and fixing the defects caused by abuse to make it whole again. It was time spent on something most of us would have thrown away so it could fulfill the purpose it had be created for.

I believe that’s what God sees when he looks at the beautiful children broken by a broken world. Children abandoned by their parents to the streets or government orphanages where they are little more than a number on a tally sheet. Children who have no hope for a better tomorrow. Children whose only prayer is for safety and someone to love them.

But, where most pass by and look the other way, the people of Bring Love In step in, wrap their arms around these precious kids and put them together in new forever families where they are loved, cherished and given opportunities for a future free from fear and abandonment. Evidence of God’s work is everywhere in this ministry; it is both breathtaking and humbling.

Broken things can be fixed if we are willing. I pray for God to break my heart for the things that break his and to show me what he would have me do to help meet needs around me and serve where I am called.

So, as I looked at the hose and marveled at the time loving hands had spent making something so broken valuable again, I saw an old woman looking at me like I had lost my mind. I pointed at the repairs and in my pathetic Amharic said “thank you”. She nodded, gave me a knowing smile and said “welcome”. My life will never be the same.

– Chuck

Holy Language

Holy Language

It permeates the Ethiopian air. God’s presence that is like the visible smog that lays over Addis. Of course it would in a country where a biblical story is more than legend, but history. A country where King Solomon’s blood courses through the citizen’s veins. I learned this yesterday on the hour ride home from Ishy (our driver, history buff, and friend). As we passed guard huts of corrugated metal next to acres of hand farmed land intermixed with towers of unfinished cement block building frames. Yet, the reason I believe there is such a palpable spirituality is from the national language.

Amharic is nothing like I have ever heard; where English is a jumble of Latin, Germanic and hashtags. Amharic is beautiful. With the ebb and flow of back of the throat rolls, delightful inflections of tone and melodic tsks that a scolding mother in a musical would make; I find myself wanting to not just learn the language, but breath it in. However, don’t let me trick you to think this language is overtly simple. Because part of its angelic qualities are its complexities. I sought the best teacher I could to help me learn. A ten-year old girl named Bamlak.

During our lesson of animals where the kids thought of the English names for creatures like: dog, cat, mouse, giraffe and lion. They then had to come to the board and write the word in Amharic. Bamlak was too intrigued with thinking of more animals to list than writing her own ideas in her journal. So I cut her a deal. She had to write all the words in English and I would write them in Amharic. Though this strategy only half worked we did get to the word lion. Which in Amharic is ānibesa. Pronounced ah muh say. She would model what the first letter in Amharic looked like. I would fail to write it correctly. She would laugh. I would laugh. She would show me again. Then I would get close, and she would say it’s okay knowing full well it was definitely not okay. Yet in unpacking the four separate letters of ānibesa, I realized that here before me is a language that was heard by the people of the Bible. These sounds spoken all around us are holy from its history and godly from its usage in song and prayer. And even though God’s glory washes over me from the language of Amharic. My feelings can can only be expressed in English.

A line emerged from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden (the only book I brought on this trip) “He lived in a world shining and fresh as unexpected as Eden on the sixth day.” Addis may never smell or look as Eden did, but it certainly feels that way.

– Carl

The Kids

The Kids

Hi, it is the third day, and all I can say is I love the kids. That’s all – I love the kids. This will be short because that is all I can say. I love the kids. They are the most beautiful things I have ever seen, everything about them blows me away. The joy they have is like nothing I have ever found. They are treasure, everything about them is perfect and so unknown and new to me. Before Ethiopia my life was nothing, and it was actually completely nothing. I cannot feel any emotions which really irks me. My only need is to feel emotion, or to feel anything, and these kids have given me all emotion and all life back. Their life and love and their joy has filled me and I can only praise God.

One other thing I have to mention is the singing, or maybe the songs. Every day we sing after lunch, one song we learned was “Good Good Father”. This song has done nothing but break me and make me. Other than seeing the kids this is the thing I look forward to most. I love Jesus, I hope you love him too because he loves you.

Malea

Coming back wasn’t as easy as I thought

Coming back wasn’t as easy as I thought

I wish I knew what I wanted to say right now. I wish I could take the sights, sounds, and smells and bottle them up so you could experience them too. But on the other hand, I don’t. I don’t wish to do that because it absolutely breaks a person to see what you see in a world of broken, messy, and organized chaos. In fact, I feel that all I am doing is observing the world around me and taking it in, but my mind does not know what to do with these foreign, cluttered sights. I want to take each encounter of Addis and put it in a perfect box in my memory and stow it away for the rest of my life, but I am realizing that is not how this trip is going to work. Having experienced this trip last year, I thought I knew what to expect. I thought I had all the messy, dirty parts of Ethiopia seared into my brain so I wouldn’t have to work through it all over again. Boy, was I wrong. While I percolate on the brokenness of it all, let me instead tell you about a beautiful and precious memory I have so far.

If any of you followed our blog last year, you may have heard a thing or two about Kalkidan. Kalkidan is a fierce and wild soul that loves outrageously; and she loved my dad, Chuck. Needless to say, leaving her was tough. Yesterday was our first day of teaching English and seeing the kids. Miraculously, we arrived at the school before the busload of kids did so we unpacked and prepared for a whirlwind of a day. The next thing I know I see Kalkidan run into the room, jump into my dad’s arms, and scream, “Chuck!” with teeming delight. If I had to describe what it meant for your heart to smile, it would have been how I felt in that moment. She beamed with radiant joy as she gave me a hug as well. It was like I was home. It felt like I was right where I was supposed to be, lost in that moment, and loving the kids who have loved us so well.

I hope to have some grand “aha” moment by the time I get back, but that is not up to me. All I know is that I am standing here in Addis Ababa with arms wide open, praying that God would break my heart for the very things that break His. So far, He is answering that prayer like a flood. Until next time,

Jourdan

Change

Change

Five of us were here last year and we were all in shock at how much things had changed since a year ago.

First, nearly all of the roundabouts we went through last year are gone. They’ve been completely removed and paved, and in their place are new traffic signals with countdown timers. No more Bob Marley statue in the middle of the roundabout garden. Gone is the traffic circle with a memorial praising the country’s successful defense against foreign invaders during the First Italo-Ethiopian War.

Many of the villages that had been there along our drive around the edge of Addis have been bulldozed and replaced by 8 story, half-finished government apartment buildings where gentrification has been mandated by the government.

Ishy, our thoughtful driver who always gives us history lessons (and quizzes) as he chauffeurs us around Addis, has traded up his original van for a new, pre-loved Toyota that goes about twice as fast as his last van. His speedy new van plus the newly paved intersections has cut our 90 to 100-minute commute from last year down to about 35 minutes each way, a blessing which will allow our team more rest each day.

But what changed the most since last year are the kids. They have shot up in stature and confidence. During the first week of the trip, we get to teach ESL to the younger kids of Bring Love In. For them it is an English language immersion experience; for us it is seeing lives transformed. Having us here forces even the shyest kids to plunge into the deep end of the spoken English pool, and this year we have a slightly larger team in order to have even more individual discussion time.

This year we are lucky to have Luther Ramsey with us who runs the Bring Love In program from the states. Tonight at dinner he told us how nearly all of the kids in Bring Love In had biological dads who either died of AIDS or had just abandoned their kids, and many of their biological moms either died or were forced to put them into an orphanage because they couldn’t put food on the table. But 5 years after being adopted by Bring Love In and having new forever families, we see their confidence growing. They get their first picture of good, loving, godly dad from the men who are on staff at Bring Love In, replacing their experiences from the past, and giving them an example of biblical fatherhood. We see it when the boys and girls all run up to us with excitement and hugs for everyone. We see it when we ask the girls “Who braided your hair?” and they say, “my mom” with a big smile on their face.

We’re standing on the shoulders of the teams who went before us and the teachers, counselors and leaders who poured into these kids, who patiently cared for them and saw the image of God in them, treating them as His precious sons and daughters. It’s a foundation of love and hope laid by the prayers and support of the people who have financially committed to the kids of Bring Love In. When I asked the girls at my table what they want to study in college one said they want to be a counselor, another said heart surgeon because there are a lot of people with heart problems here in Ethiopia. I know 5 years ago when they were in a government orphanage they were more worried about where their next meal was coming from and didn’t have time to dream about their future.

At dinner tonight we went around the table and had each person tell us what they liked most about today. Jessica said, “the singing.” The kids had remembered all the words and parts we taught them last year for the song, “Beautiful Things”… a song that carries so much power in this context. The girls sing “You make me new; You are making me new.” All the kids sing “You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us.” He’s making them all so beautiful, filling them with love and healing, new hopes and dreams, and I’m forced to remember that he does that equally, for all of us, even for me. Thank you God for your promises and for your change.

– Brandon

Storms

Storms

Our team rolled out of the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport around the same time a sizable thunderstorm was rolling in. The cool mountain wind gave us a surprisingly “Bozeman” kind of welcome to Ethiopia. Our friends Ishy, Ephraim, and crew skillfully loaded our large pile of 50lb suitcases atop a van, and we drove off as the rain and lightning descended on us. As we tooled along the streets of Addis, familiar sights, sounds, and smells returned – familiar but not diminished. Bustling commerce living beside poverty, people in every stage of life, everywhere, doing everything. Sometimes I have no idea what they are doing. They seem to be waiting. We arrived at the guesthouse in a heavy rain and pulled all our bags inside. They had received a good soaking, but nothing that some time inside couldn’t dry out. Lightning was still crashing around us.

Not to be too clever here, but I think God has some more storms to stir up… if we let Him. The kind of storms that blow around inside a person… Pollution-cleansing rains (fresh starts), winds that mess up your hair (and plans), and close calls as the sky sends down cracks of lightning. There will be foreboding moments of darkness, uncomfortable downpours of water from the sky, and foggy van windows preventing us from seeing all that we think we should be able to see at that moment. Because God uses discomfort and uncertainty to bring things to our attention – namely Himself and our place in His world. And then, each day this week and next we get to see the bright young faces of the kids of Bring Love In. Some are hiding deep pains of the past while displaying genuine smiles that represent their joy of the moment. Pain and joy, dancing together in the rain, in the storm. Stay tuned.

– Logan

Anticipation: Ethiopia 2017

Anticipation: Ethiopia 2017

Anticipation and excitement filled The Commons auditorium on Thursday night as we went through the abundant piles of clothes donated for our trip. Everyone had a smile on their face as they packed up the suitcases and chatted with each other, eager to know each other’s hearts and desires. As I looked around, I could not help but smile at the new friendships being forged, and all I could think to myself was, “Man, they have no idea just how much closer we will all be in two weeks.” Even though I could feel the uneasiness at the prospect of immersing oneself in a totally new culture, everyone knows there is a messy, beautiful road ahead. I sit and close my eyes and I can see the bright, tattered walls of the school. I can smell the dirty air and hear the kids’ voices speaking sweet, broken English. My friends, I can’t wait. I can’t wait for you to read about our journey to Addis Ababa. I can’t wait for you to meet every wild and precious soul going on the trip; and finally, I can’t wait for you to hear about what God is doing in our lives and more importantly, in Bring Love In. Please pray for us. Pray that our hearts would be responsive to all that the Lord wants to teach us. Pray for goodness and healing. Pray for God to break down the messy parts of each of our lives so that we may have more room for Him in our hearts; and finally, pray for the kids at Bring Love In; that they would be fierce difference makers in a world full of chaos and uncertainty. Thank you to everyone who donated and to everyone who have been praying and supporting us along the way. This trip would not be what it is without your support.
See you on the other side,
Jourdan