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

More than a drop in the ocean

More than a drop in the ocean

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.”

– Colossians 3:23

In the words of Chuck, “What we are doing is only a small drop in a large ocean” so why are we doing this? There is so much more that can be done here to help those in need, yet we are only doing one thing. But what gives me hope in this is that I know we may only be making a small impact, but by helping these children, they can grow up to be who they want to be. Enguday can grow up to be a doctor and help so many people around her, while Seble can help fight for people’s rights as she is a lawyer. These children’s dreams are no different than mine or any other young adults. Heck, they will have a more demanding and time consuming career than I will. I have hope in myself that I can become what I want to be, but for the wrong reasons. The Bring Love In kids know that they can grow up to be whatever they want because God is guiding them. They do not worry about the finances of college, rather, they put their hope in God and know that he will provide. They know that they can become doctors, lawyers, pilots or teachers because they have faith. A ten year old told me here that he is going to be a pilot because God has told him to be one, and I don’t think anything is going to stop him from doing that.

The dreams that these kids have and how we have impacted them was truly apparent when said our goodbyes on Friday. Seeing the younger kids again was so amazing. They hosted a ceremony for us, which was filled with cookies, coffee, thank you cards, pictures, and lots of hugs and kisses. In many cards I received they would say, “don’t forget me, ok.” I know that I will never forget the memories with them, and I hope that they will never forget those memories as well. Saying goodbye to the children was both hard and also a proud moment.
On Saturday, we visited a couple lakes as well as hike/walked around one of them. It took us around two hours and was like no other hike I’ve ever been on. Cactus filled the sides of the trails and we spent a bit of the time crouched over, walking through thick brush. A few of us tasted the cactus plant and it was quite sweet, surprisingly.

On Sunday we attended church, went to our new favorite place, “Cupcakes Delight”, then packed, relaxed, got one more macchiato (so we don’t forget how great Ethiopian coffee is), and headed to the airport. We are currently sitting in the Germany airport, reflecting on all the things we are thankful for:

  • Flushing toilet paper
  • Clean air
  • Time to decompress
  • Safe tap water
  • Internet
  • Food
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Fruit
  • Clean streets
  • Ice
  • Common language
  • Being closer to home

Even though there were some political demonstrations going on in Addis, we all felt safe with our host and drivers.

I am very ready to be home, but I know I will truly miss it here. The impact that the people, children, and our team has had on me will never be forgotten and has definitely changed my life.

See you back in the States!

– Josie

Beautiful Things

Beautiful Things

I have taken a liking to keeping myself busy during our hour-long commute (it’s really more like an hour and a half) by either reading or listening to music. What used to be staring out the window in wide-eyed wonder is now tarnished by grief and guilt. I’m not sure when the breaking point happened for me but it’s absolutely overbearing to watch life go by as we drive to the school. It all passes by in an instant yet each frame is seared into my mind. Frame 1: Orphaned horses and donkeys whose homes are now in the middle of a busy street. Guilt washes over me as I am reminded of why they are there in the first place. Frame 2: Little children stand outside our trusty van in nothing more than tattered clothes, hands cupped, begging for even 1 birr (which is equivalent to 5 cents). Frame 3: A crippled man solely relies on a single wooden branch to hobble along the sidewalk. Frame 4: A man relieves himself into a bush, exposed, but totally oblivious because it’s normal to do so. 5: There’s the planks of meat hanging from hooks with a single man occupying the hut, waiting for a hungry customer to come so he can slice off a piece of the unrefrigerated, day-old ox. 6: Water bottles and bones litter the sidewalk. 7: Various huts sit empty, cluttered with the debris of cornhusks from the previous day’s business. 8: There’s the incessant head turning toward our van as the locals realize that “ferenge’s” (pronounced fer-en-ge) sit and observe their world like the foreigners we are. Some will smile widely and wave while others don’t and continue on with their day. Each frame stacks on top of one another and creates this overpowering, overwhelming feeling and I look down, trying to persuade my mind that the song I’m listening to is more important than what’s going on through the glass to my left.

I realize the song I am listening to is “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. The melody of, “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” has me nodding my head in agreement of all this pain and all this earth…this dirty, heavy, earth. I wonder where the good is. Being here is such a paradox. There’s this conglomeration of messy, dark, and heavy sights that are soon diminished the second we get out of the van and see the kids of Bring Love In running towards us. I swear I can almost hear the rest of the song play out as I hug the children I get to love for such a short amount of time. “You make beautiful things/You make beautiful things out of the dust/You make beautiful things/You make beautiful things out of us”.

He is truly making beautiful things, and we get to see those beautiful things in even the littlest moments. There are the precious smiles, the soft-spoken “Jour-dahn’s”, the memory verse recitations (I die every time they say “commandments”), and the laughter that fills the air. I am continuing to learn that there will always be darkness creeping around us but it’s the grand, little moments we have to treasure and store in our hearts. It’s those little moments that God uses to say, “I know it’s messy, but I am here and that is sufficient.” We have to trust in Him and let His light overcome the darkness of this world. This experience has been one I will never forget.

See you at home,

Jourdan

 

  1. Just wait until you see the video of the kids singing “Beautiful Things”. Oh. My. Heart.
Time

Time

“How long will it take to get there?”, I ask.

Our new friend and Addis road warrior, Ishy, gently shrugs his shoulders, tilts his head slightly and says “30 minutes.” We’ve heard that before. Time is different here and life moves at a different pace. Yes, there are clocks with numbers and hands that tick off hours, minutes and seconds. But here they mean something different and speak to a different sense of urgency. Every where we go takes 30 minutes. Some 30 minutes were an hour and some 30 minutes were longer, but we always arrive where we’re going and it’s always alright. We are in Addis and it’s all good.

I’m reminded of the Jimmy Buffett song where he buys a watch from a man on the street. The watch has no hands and his friends think he got ripped off. But he soon realizes the watch is never wrong; he tells his doubting friends to breathe in, breathe out, move on.

Something like that happens here. Time is not something to be a slave to, but rather an indication of what is, what was, and what may be coming next. Through it all I’m reminded we’re not in control; it’s God’s time and God’s place and we’re blessed to be here. Period.

This is not to say punctuality is not important or that we shouldn’t strive to keep our commitments. For me it’s a reminder to keep everything in perspective. Most of what I think is critical at the time won’t even be a memory in two months or two weeks or even two minutes.

Let me share an example that, for me, speaks perfectly to this – the coffee ceremony.

Every day after lunch at Safari Academy, the dishes are set aside and we have the coffee ceremony. A coffee ceremony is a centuries old tradition in Ethiopian culture. It centers around the elaborate preparation of a really great cup of coffee. At it’s core is the entire process: roasting beans over a charcoal fire, grinding the beans into a fine powder, boiling water over that same charcoal fire, rinsing the cups, boiling more water, adding the coffee, boiling again, testing the consistency of the mixture, letting it sit and then finally pouring the finished coffee into small cups, adding sugar and then enjoying. For our ceremonies, we have a gracious lady, Qelemua, who takes time out of her busy day to prepare our coffee ceremony, it’s done with love and smiles and nary a word.

The first coffee ceremony left me a bit skeptical of the process. Come on now, really? Surely we could fire up Mr. Coffee, or better yet Mr. Keurig. Both are simple, fast and relatively yummy. Besides, we have things to do; we need to get back to class on time ready to proclaim the importance of pronouns and conjunctions. Who wants to light a charcoal grill anytime they want java. Yeah, I admit to having more than a passing fancy with coffee. Alright, if I’m honest it’s a full on love affair. I love coffee and I’m used to my cup of black gold when I want it; no fuss, no muss, and no waiting, place your order, pay the money, or push the button and get your cup.

Not so with the coffee ceremony. At first it seemed like a lot of work and, even more concerning, very slow. Not to mention the cups were so small! No grande, no venti, no insulated mega tanker mug to last 200 miles, just a little teacup looking thing with no handle. After much discontentment and concern, it finally dawned on me that the coffee ceremony wasn’t about coffee after all, it was about time. Time with friends, time with family, time with coworkers. Time to chill and get to know the people you’re with, not with passing courtesies, but to really get to know them. Dig deep, share, learn and, yes, love.

All this is not to say that our time isn’t important and can be wasted with careless disregard. Nothing could be further from the truth. Time is to be treasured and what we do with our time is valuable. But, until my coffee ceremony revelation, busy and slow seemed mutually exclusive. Sure it’s REALLY good coffee, but more than that it’s time to be; be with friends, be with co-workers, and be with family. And talk.

So, as I prepare to leave this place. I pray that I take these memories, the many new friends I’ve met and the shared experience with me forever and always remember to breathe in, breath out, move on.

Chuck

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

DSC05453-med