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Author: Team Ethiopia

Coming Home

Coming Home

July 31st: Today is a very special day for me.  Not only are we coming home but it’s also my 13th birthday. If I was Ethiopian that would mean 1/4 of my life would probably be over.  Why? Because of the unsanitary conditions, lack of medical care, unclean water, sewer drainage, poor shelter, etcetera. Even under these conditions, the people have more joy than many Americans. They appreciate the small things and friendships.

During this trip to Ethiopia my mom and I went to Uganda to visit our sponsored child. He and I share the same name; Moses. We’ve been sponsoring him for five years now and have been writing back and forth.  As we gave his family gifts, people from the village exploded with ululation (i learned what ululating means on this trip). Just like the Ethiopians I met, they were so appreciative, from barettes to soccer balls.

I won’t forget the sights I’ve seen these two weeks and the new friendships I’ve made. They’ve changed my life forever. I would like to ask everyone to pray for the 2017 Journey Ethiopian Team.  Please pray that we will hear what God has to say to us and be obedient to what He tells us to do.

Amasaganalo!!

– Moses

 

Beautiful Disaster

Beautiful Disaster

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

  – Colossians 3:12

This post is a conglomeration of thoughts, feelings and emotions from my journey in Ethiopia.

Two weeks has gone by incredibly fast. We just boarded our plane to Dubai, and I am sitting here thinking about the journey home and returning to “normal life”, whatever that will look like for me. To try to describe this experience seems nearly impossible. Attempting to put into words the sights, smells, sounds and tastes from this trip is indescribable. My life is forever changed!

Immediately upon arrival into Addis we were immersed into a new culture much different than that we came from. Evident poverty, abnormal driving, a language barrier, unfamiliar smells, trash lined streets filled with tarps and metal scraps for building structures and most importantly a welcoming of love from our hosts at the guest house. Anxiously we settled in and eagerly waited for the first day with the Bring Love In children.

Waking up and leaving for our first day of school I had no expectations but I was quickly amazed when the kids came flooding through the door with arms open wide, smiles and joy beamed in their eyes and it was so overwhelming. My eyes filled with tears meeting, hugging and falling in love with every single child that morning – and in this moment I knew God had brought me here with all of the best intentions. I was given purpose all over again.

Throughout my two weeks, I had many uplifting moments as well as my fair share of heart break and emotions. Each day was filled with a new set of emotions – but I can truly say God has broken my heart for the things that break his: The woman we drove past on the streets at 9 o’clock at night sleeping on a tarp with infants and young children, to the homeless man with one hand and no legs lying on a fence post unable to transport anywhere, the children selling odds and ends on the sides of the road just trying to bring in enough birr (Ethiopian currency) for food that day. That is what breaks God’s heart. Those are short glimpses of why I too, am left leaving Ethiopia broken hearted. Never before have I seen beauty and pain intertwined in such a powerful way. God, you truly take what is in front of you and you make it beautiful. The country of Ethiopia that I got the blessing to experience from Addis, to Meki, to the countryside at the Portuguese Bridge – it was all an absolute beautiful disaster.

I am sitting reading through pages of journal entries, pages of tear-filled thoughts, laughs and moments – moments of impact I will never forget.

Returning home I think of things, small things that I am excited and grateful for, things that I mistakenly took for granted:

  • Toilet paper (that I can flush!)
  • Personal hygiene
  • Drinkable water
  • Clean air
  • Easily-accessible medical care
  • Nutritious food
  • Clean clothes
  • Family and friends
  • Access to education

I did not fully realize the blessings I am so fortunate to have daily until I experienced those around me that have literally nothing but the tattered clothes on their backs – who still walk with grace and joy because no matter who is against them, God will always be for them. I did not realize the negativity an ungratefulness around me until my heart was broken for those I was surrounded by. The eyes, the smiles, the love, it is all burned inside of me and engrained in me forever. I am going home with a feeling of uneasiness knowing God has stirred something inside of me and waiting, praying and trusting to know his plans are better than I could ever imagine.

See you in the states,

Kirsten

Brick by Brick

Brick by Brick

Brick by Brick.

God has laid a lot on my heart this trip. Particularly, I’m struck how He uses ordinary people to accomplish impossible things.

Addis is a sprawling and chaotic metropolis of grey half-finished concrete skeletons stretching for miles. Seemingly everything is built of concrete using cheap labor and what would take months to build in America literally takes years here. The work schedules, or what passes for them, don’t align with what we would call “normal”. Nonetheless skyscrapers rise cinderblock by cinderblock with concrete buckets hand carried up ramps built of eucalyptus poles. Men hang off wooden scaffolding built of sticks nailed together 15 stories in the air hand troweling mortar over walls of blocks carried by others up those same ramps. OSHA and labor unions haven’t made their way to Addis Ababa. But, still, remarkable buildings take shape through sheer determination and years of effort.

In an odd way this scene makes me think how lives are transformed. God’s timing is His alone, not ours. Sometimes He works quickly and other times he works over years or lifetimes, but, he is always working to fulfill his perfect plans – if only we would listen. Gentle pressure relentlessly applied moves mountains and changes lives.

God, help me to never give up, help me look for opportunities to build others up, opportunities to affirm and to use whatever I’m given to show your love no matter how daunting the task.

So next time I visit, some buildings will be starting, some will be finished and some will not have changed. Just like all of us.

– Chuck

Beautiful Things

Beautiful Things

We all know the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This is Ethiopia: its land, smells and people in a nutshell. When I first arrived, smells were the first thing I noticed. Some were hard to place, a few were new, others were much more obvious. Since I’ve been here, I’ve grown accustomed to what I’m smelling and understand a majority of them. Ones I didn’t like or were hard to place now remind me of food and customs I’ve shared with new friends while bonding over mutual appreciations and smiles all around. Ones that I know, I can spot and brings back a smile to my face over memories made. Coffee for instance and invaluable memories made learning the importance placed on friendships and the honor bestowed upon us to be welcomed into their homes.

Beauty is everywhere in this land if you take the time to stop and appreciate it. Where there is a small flower growing next to a garbage pile, beautiful trees against dilapidated corrugated metal long forgotten or in bright green hills contrasted with the red dirt beneath. The beauty of the trees here are nothing like I’ve ever seen, well except for in iconic “this is Africa” in a National Geographic. This land is beautiful!

But the people steal the show and they steal our hearts. We were exposed to many ministries in Ethiopia while we were here, whose hearts all beat as one. Taking care of the widows, the sick and women and children. They are helping these people by giving them a hand up, not a hand out. These directors and leaders literally have a glow about them. The beauty from within is blatantly abundant and obvious. Their crowns will be amongst the most beautiful in Heaven.

In addition to the ministries, the people of Ethiopia are beautiful as well! I’ve noticed that it’s easy to make eye contact and keep it with them. In a world where I don’t know the language, I have absorbed the greetings they make with their eyes and eyebrows. I have really absorbed the looks, kindness and fascination that they have with making eye contact. I feel an immediate connection to them through that simple act and it’s one of the happiest moments of my day. The joy that spreads from their eyes to their lips knows no bounds, no class separation or language division. My prayer as we interact briefly as we pass by each other is that they will not see me, but see Jesus loving them. Like I see in my fellow Ethiopian brothers and sisters.

We sing the song Beautiful Things, with the children and it’s a perfect way to sum up Addis Ababa and all of Ethiopia.

All this pain

I wonder if I’ll ever find my way

I wonder if my life could really change at all

All this earth

Could all that is lost ever be found

Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

All around

Hope is springing up from this old ground

Out of chaos life is being found in You

If you have the blessed opportunity to come here, I pray that you won’t judge this book by its cover. Open it up and immerse yourself. I feel as if I’ve just begun to crack open the book and it’s titled, Ethiopia and its Beauty!

 

Be His Hands and Feet!

Be His Hands and Feet!

Preparing for this trip I read books, had discussions, searched the internet, and tried to prepare myself. I thought I was prepared. I was naive. Nothing can prepare you for how real this poverty is in Ethiopia. Nothing can prepare you for the beauty and joy you find in these children. The hope that lies in each one of them. God is working here in so many ways. He was here long before we came!

The school that the kids of Bring Love In attend is called Safari School. Safari means journey. They picked this name because they believe learning is a continuous process with no ending. I believe that this is also true for your faith. It’s a continual process of growing stronger and stronger. It’s so easy to become content in your faith and stop pursuing God. To unintentionally stop building your relationship because things are going okay and you don’t need to lean on Him as much, or at least think that. I will never be as close to Him as I want to be but will strive to bridge that gap while here on earth. This trip has been about so much more than helping the children of Bring Love In. It’s been about compassion, love, relationships, hope, heartache, selflessness, and growing in faith.

My favorite part of each day with the Bring Love In kids was the singing we did in the afternoon. Brandon always has a way of speaking to my heart during worship but watching these kids sing the words of Beautiful Things and Good Good Father when they don’t have a good earthly father reminds me that He is a Good Good Father to these kids and each one of us. He can make Beautiful Things out of all of our pain and suffering! My days in Ethiopia have been filled with joy, heartache, love, pain, and change. Change in my heart, change in my thankfulness, and change in the way I view all of God’s children. I have learned so much about the person I want to be and want to model to my kids and people around me.

God has blessed me in so many ways. I realize now it’s for the purpose to be a blessing to others. To serve Him and be His hands and feet. I have heard that said so many times, “be His hands and feet”, and can say that it truly resonates with me now. I was made for a purpose! God has broken my heart for the things that break His.

– Jessica

Bruised Reeds

Bruised Reeds

Drives to the Safari School, where we teach the Bring Love In kids, play in our minds like a blurred, disturbing video. When our eyes meet those of desperation, it’s as if they sear a mental tattoo into our minds. We are all asking “Now what?” in our own ways.

This is a difficult and delicate time of working out our salvation, being intentionally aware of the still small voice that whispers “Do you love me? Do you trust me? Do you know that I am a good Father?” Sometimes it’s hard and confusing to trust a God that allows such pain in our lives and those around us. And, yet, He promises in Matthew 12:20 that “a bruised reed He will not break.” We need only to surrender to Him alone.

These people are bruised. When a family who so desperately needs water is bombarded by a flash flood in their humble shack, forcing them to quickly hang everything on the walls, they are bruised. When a landfill resident and her children have to be dug out of a landslide of putrid trash that kills hundreds of her neighbors, they are bruised. When all the orphans at A-Hope For Children are abandoned by society because they are labeled HIV positive, they are bruised. When a family uses a dirty sleeping mat to serve as their home while our van casually passes by within 3 feet, they are bruised. When my son and I visit our sponsored child’s family in Uganda who continuously struggle to barely make ends meet, they are bruised. Life seems to continuously slap these precious people in the face without hesitation, without remorse.

A bruised reed He will not break.

Our Heavenly Father, in His love and infinite wisdom, permits this pain. Whatever His reasons, I know He is a good, good Father. His plans are profoundly perfect and multifaceted and, yet, often misunderstood.

If the walls of the counseling room at the Bring Love In office could talk, they would sob. They have a beautiful mural painted on them, bearing encouraging verses. However, one wall bares an image of swaying reeds and is the only wall lacking a verse. The director, Birhan, has informed me that he will have Matthew 12:20 painted on that wall. So when that child who has experienced almost unspeakable pain that most of us will never know, reads those words from our Heavenly Father, they will hopefully realize that He acknowledges their pain and is there to bring healing and purpose to a bruised soul.

– Jen

Compassion

Compassion

We are halfway through our trip and what an adventure it’s been! Nothing is as humbling as getting sick. I woke up this morning to a pounding headache and a nauseous stomach, after trying to eat at least some breakfast I called it quits and asked to stay home for the day. Let’s just say it was a good thing I did.

Yesterday was the highlight of my trip, as I got to go visit my Compassion child! If you don’t know about Compassion, I highly recommend you look into it. Check it out here: www.compassion.com

Nels and I decided to start sponsoring a child back in November. We picked Mekdes specifically because she lived in Ethiopia, so that when I went this summer I could go and visit her.

As the team was preparing to go to Ethiopia, we dedicated a day of our trip to visit Compassion children. Five of us on the team sponsor a Compassion child. My child lives in Meki, which is about a three hour drive south of Addis. So the morning of the 24th, Kirsten, Logan, Chuck, Saumara, Malea and myself loaded up into a 10 passenger van. The drive was fun being able to get away from the smog and rain of Addis. We headed to the plains of Africa and the heat.

Upon arrival, I got to meet Mekdes and give her a hug as well as her twin sister. They spoke no English. We proceeded to have a coffee ceremony which included popcorn and bread. I was given the honor of cutting the embasha bread (similar to cutting the first piece of wedding cake). I gave Mekdes her present which included nail polish, a water bottle, a back pack, and a solar flashlight/radio. I painted her and her sisters’ fingernails. We played games, which include an Ethiopian version of jump rope and hopscotch.

Abraham – our Compassion host – then took us to Mekdes’ home. Her home is located in a small community. They have a communal well, and a local mill where they grind maize. She lives in a mud hut 6ft by 12ft. Mekdes and her sisters as well as her parents all live in the house (5 people). They have one bookshelf and one corner is reserved for sleeping. Her father works in the flower beds (roses grow the best in Ethiopia) and her mother works by selling her own liquor. Their rent is 200 birr a month, which is equivalent to $10 a month. We had another coffee ceremony, and even though we knew the water was not bottled we participated anyway. Hence the upset stomach today. Mekdes then presented me with a gift, an embroidered shirt. There is a loss for words here. I was then able to pray over their family and their house.

Our fun part of the afternoon was then being able to take Mekdes, her sisters and her mother all out to lunch. We went to Ziway, which was about thirty minutes down the road. After lunch we walked out to the lake, and Mekdes and I held hands and skipped. The joy I felt is indescribable, it brings me to tears writing about it. We played Rock, Paper, Scissors and looked at the birds and petted the herds of cows we walked though.

We had to get back in the car and head back at that point, and Mekdes fell asleep on my shoulder. We dropped them off at their home and I received the biggest, tightest hug from the sweetest child I know. As we pulled away I couldn’t help but cry my eyes out.

To sponsor a child is only $38 a month. I hope you consider sponsoring, it will change your life as it has changed mine.

– Grace

Wandering

Wandering

Wandering.

What a state of being.

It is like floating.

Indifferent to the movement that flows around me.

Weightless in the current of life that pushes me.

Forward. Forward.

Never stopping.

 

Here I stand.

The current of life flows around me.

A blur of colors. Faces. Sounds.

I am in the chasm.

Distant from that which drives the current.

Pain. Sorrow. Joy. Love.

I see souls wandering as I stand in the silence.

 

Silence permeates this space.

A space only I reside in.

All else is lost.

I am lost.

Lord save me from this space.

I feel unsure of what I hold onto for strength.

Yet, in the silence I feel You.

 

Your steadfast love keeps my footing.

Your grace manifests itself in the children.

They no longer wander.

They bring me closer to You.

Your mercy knows no bounds.

You bring me in.

You hold me close.

I am still. You are here.

 

Wandering.

Alongside of the Lord I float in His grace and mercy.

He gently brings me along to show me who He is.

A whisper of love reminding me to be still.

Be still in who He is.

For He will guide my wandering feet.

 

– Elise

 

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