God’s Grace

God’s Grace

I want to tell you a story about yesterday. 

The story finishes with lightning and thunder, and four boys sitting on the marble steps looking out at the looming clouds’ edge towards the courtyard of the Safari Academy. 

The reason why I have not started at the beginning is because I do not know what it looks like for the other three boys sitting next to me. Dawit was to my left, a boy who is so exceedingly smart and intuitive but aims to please. Akele was to my right, an actor with his emotions but also superbly compassionate when he wants to be. Next to Akele was Seid, the classic silent but strong type; a powerful calm that his friends lean into and rely on. 

The beginning of their story is something that I can’t quite imagine— abandoned life at a government orphanage in an overcrowded, underloved place. 

But fast forward to yesterday afternoon, the last afternoon of our first week with the kids. A time of unwanted goodbyes looming like the clouds to be, but also the most relationally comfortable time with each other as well. 

Yet often with comfort, comes conflict. This is exactly what happened. During our lunch, while the kids of Bring Love In were playing in the classroom and the courtyard, a fight broke out between a few of them. 

My aim is not to highlight the fight or add detail to it but to explain that though this happens in all schools across the world, the aftermath is always the same: Everyone is affected, whether it is emotionally, physically, or mentally. 

It created a tension that was palpable for our last afternoon. The metaphor of the mood in the classroom to the dark clouds outside was like a fiction. 

Yet this is real. 

The tension broke with a spoken word, a thrown bin of supplies, and resulted in myself sitting with three boys outside looking internally. 

All I could say to try and provide any solace to one of the boys was an apology, and all I could do to ease any pain was to gently rub a back.  

Though this story is not for the light of heart, God revealed to me this morning in reflection that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:3-5‬

These boys and girls of Bring Love In have a beginning that is unimaginable to all of us except God just as the end of their story is unknown to all of us connected to Bring Love In through stories, donations or trips to Ethiopia.  I am just so proud and thankful to be in a chapter of their lives.  

The hope they have for a positive future that comes from the Holy Spirit poured into them, would have never have been without the suffering they have endured and the characteristics it has built.

Thus I sat there with those three boys on the top step, we sat and were silent. I was enamored by how Dawit could smile after such a dramatic conclusion to the day. I was impressed how Akele could take his anger and release it without aggression. I was in love with how Seid could exude his calm onto Akele and how a few softly spoken words could change his friend’s entire demeanor. But mostly I was in awe, of God’s grace towards his children.

Carl

The Blessing Behind it

The Blessing Behind it

It is so much like God to give to us what we need when we need it most and to do the unexpected.

To say that this journey has been difficult for me would be to understate what I am experiencing. The difficulty is not so much a physical struggle, but the mental and emotional, which has affected the physical. If it’s true that “the school of suffering graduates exceptional scholars” there must be hope for me. So there are multiple things that are contributing to my present state. At this moment my wife is at home dealing with the news that her mom has only a short time left to live. Just being without her on this trip alone has been more difficult than I expected because we are seldom apart. Not being with her when she needs me most has compounded the situation. While working with the team we are all pouring ourselves into teaching and loving on the kids. This alone is exhausting, but also full of joy.

The experience is full in every way imaginable. Because of living in both ends of time, both here and at home, my mind has no time to shutdown. As a result, I am existing on an average of four hours of sleep per night at best. This never entered the expectations that I had before the trip. My point is that God does the unexpected. My takeaway is if we are truly aware, we will look and see. If we listen with spiritual ears we will hear and our minds will be renewed and we will be transformed into His image.

This morning I was mentally spent but as I read the following excerpt from my devotional I was encouraged – “If you have surrendered yourself to Christ, your present circumstances that seem to be pressing so hard against you are the perfect tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you into shape for eternity. So trust Him and never push away the instrument He is using or you will miss the result of His work in your life.” I believe that these circumstances were in His plans and I am thankful that I have a great God who loves me, is faithful, and I can trust that He gives us just what we need.

Jeff

Comfort in the Unknown

Comfort in the Unknown

I can remember the day Jourdan emailed me back extending an offer to be a part of this team. A thousand thoughts rushed through my head:

“I don’t know any of these people.” 

“I have a long list of fears and am totally comfortable with my happy 12-mile bubble of Bozeman.” 

“I don’t like being uncomfortable or being around new people.” 

So many thoughts flooded my mind as I sent my response accepting the offer, solidifying this leap of faith. As I hit send, I immediately began shaking and crying happy tears, and my whole body filled with anticipation. 153 days of countdown days of overwhelming excitement—the excitement of new people, of a new culture, a new place, a new journey. 

During the 153 days of waiting, people would ask me how I felt and I could only explain it as being so excited. It was a strange feeling for me to be so comfortable with this unknown of what to expect, of what I would see, of the things I would do, and especially the people I would be spending time with. 

I couldn’t be more blessed to be on this adventure of growth and reflection with these six other “strangers” from Bozeman that I never met before. As each day comes and goes, they continue to teach me about seeking comfort in the crazy we are experiencing.

The first morning we were going to first meet the kids, a few of us were standing outside on one of the balconies at the guest house admiring the view. I looked over at Kelly and coined a new term for this trip, “This is wild.. but not weird.” 

It’s wild that we are halfway around the world from the 12-mile radius bubble that I thought I couldn’t leave. It’s wild that I feel so comfortable here—not scared—and completely welcomed…it’s not weird. It’s wild that I can pull up to a group of 30 children I’ve seen numerous pictures of and become engulfed in hugs, high-fives, love, and handshakes…it’s not weird. 

Members of our team that have come to Addis in years past have explained the feeling of home they get here and the comfort of the city. I’ve been here for 3 days and have found that same comfort in what was the unknown.

I just pray that moving forward our team continues to grow closer as each day passes. That I learn to be more comfortable around the unknown and new experiences that Addis and Bozeman both have to offer. 

Lexi

Growth

Growth

This is my second time coming to Ethiopia. The span of time between visits has “only” been 2 years. Stepping out of the airport, the piece of my heart that had been left here, was reconnected with the remainder that I had held on to. I was once again complete.

Addis Ababa has grown and changed in so many ways since my last visit—new buildings along the airport, new light signals at some of the busiest intersections, and speed limits. However, many things remain the same: The smiles and greetings are a permanent fixture of the Ethiopian culture, the green pastures plowed by a lone farmer and his oxen, the donkeys hauling their owner’s daily water, and people moving from place to place. 

Growth. It isn’t happening just within the city of Addis; it’s also happening within the children who thrive under Bring Love In’s tutelage, structure, and love. 

As I walked through the gate of the school to greet the children and grinning from ear to ear, I stood there in complete amazement as I saw the young girls and boys I left becoming men and women. They are the future of Ethiopia and I stand in awe of all the change. 

Yesterday, we began our English camp and the growth amongst the children is exponentially greater then even just two years ago. Some of the shyness has given way, and they are more bold and courageous in the knowledge that they have learned both in their schooling and in previous English camps. 

Not only are the seasoned students doing well, but I have been excited to watch the two new kids, adopted just one month ago, begin to bloom in just two day’s time! The love they are sharing, the willingness to begin their English journey has evolved and grown in a matter of just 24 hours time. 

This is why we come. We come to push these kids to be who God had called them to be. God wants them to continue to grow and learn in a safe and loving environment so that they can in return provide a safe and loving environment in the future for future Ethiopians. They are the change that is coming. The growth of Ethiopia is just beginning and I can not wait to see God’s entire picture!

The last part of this journey of growth is within myself. I am changing. These children are changing me. God is changing me, and I can no longer be satisfied with the standard American goals. My goals and dreams may differ from yours and that’s okay! God uses the growth of each of us in unique ways. How have you grown lately? I challenge you to allow growth to happen in your life as well.

Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Saumara 

Across the Threshold

Across the Threshold

Turning the corner and walking through the door, there is trepidation. There is a hope that the love will have remained regardless of the time that has passed, but also a thread of doubt that indifference of my return waits across the threshold. Then it happens. The sound of feet running across crumbling cement ground; the arms spread wide in anticipation of the embrace to come; the loving grin that shatters all fear from the distance and time that’s separated us. Bamlak throws her arms around my neck and kisses my cheeks as we happily revel in the reunion. 

I could stay in that moment forever. To me it is a clear image of a love that is pure and unreserved. No matter the time that has passed, Bamlak welcomes me home with unfiltered joy. 

Driving home after our first day back with the beautiful kids at Bring Love In, I was struck with a realization:  Doesn’t this welcome sound like our gracious and compassionate God? That no matter how much time passes or how much we let fear consume us and lead us to believe there may be no one who cares for our return, He is the one who welcomes us home. He is there across the threshold of doubt, anger, fear, or brokenness waiting with arms open wide, ready to sprint to us, wrap us up in his embrace, and kiss our cheeks. His love is unashamed. It is always present, and it is the purest of loves. His joy at our return is unparalleled. 

All of these kids are an image of that love and my heart cannot fathom how I have been given the opportunity to experience it for the third time. It’s a love I don’t want to take for granted. 

I pray that God continues to shed light on the moments and the interactions—like this one with Bamlak—that make His love more known to us. I pray that our eyes are opened so that we may see Him more clearly on this earth. And lastly, I pray that our hearts remain rooted in the knowledge that He is overjoyed when we come home to Him, no matter how long it has been or how far we’ve distanced ourselves from his love that is waiting across the threshold. 

Elise

A Fusion of Anxiety

A Fusion of Anxiety

And just like that, we’re off. I can’t believe it. 

People keep asking how it feels to be going and if I’m going to be honest, I’m not sure I can even convey what’s going on in my mind and my heart. There’s so much anxiety and anticipation stirring within. I’m anxious about our travels and anxious to see the kids of Bring Love In. They are two totally different feelings of anxiety, but they are synchronizing into this beautiful feeling of anticipation. It’s funny, because I’ve been before. If I close my eyes and really focus, I can find myself in the courtyard of the school during lunch time; I can hear the laughs and the random shouts in Amharic. I can feel Kalkidan grab my hand and usher me over with her sweet accented, “Jour-Dahn, come!” 

Not only am I excited to see the kids of BLI, but I’m so incredibly excited to get to know the team God has put together. There is no doubt in my mind that he has created the perfect team to go. As small as it may be, I’ve been praying the Lord would do immense work within us and around us. Friends, I ask that you’d pray the same—pray that we would be open to all that He wants to teach, show, and tell us. 

We can’t wait to share our journey with you. 

Catch you on the other side of the world,

Jourdan

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