Love so freely given.

Love so freely given.

Words don’t usually escape me when I put them to paper. I have been struggling for days as to what I need to express publicly about the remainder of my time here in Addis.

Last week, the energy in the classroom was always palpable. The kids were so excited that at times, it could be difficult to get them to focus on their studies. But the love they choose to so freely give was a breath of fresh air. How can you turn down love so freely given? (A question I often ask in regards to Jesus). 

Fast forward to this week, and the older teenagers are quieter and more reserved while in class; the main reason is because they don’t want to make mistakes while speaking English. But the deep thoughts and beliefs that they have already established in their identity as God’s children will blow you away! We come to teach them English but they teach us so much more in return. 

These are future movers and shakers within Addis, Ethiopia and the Heavenly kingdom! I feel blessed and honored to have the opportunity to see it in action. 

Bring Love In is an organization that has so many moving parts:  Counselors to help guide these kids through traumas, widows to help raise the children in a strong Christian home, and hundreds of volunteers. The concept that Jessie and Levi came to is amazing and so well thought-out. An organization that is lead by Ethiopian Christian professionals that know the culture and can help make changes will be a ripple effect for many generations to come. 

See you at home!

Moments

Moments

A moment full of gratitude. One that was experienced sitting at the back of a van as the landscape of Ethiopia flew past beyond blurred windows. Yet my eyes in this moment weren’t focused on the myriad outside but on the rear view mirror at the front of the van. Ishy’s eyes captivated me. These beautiful brown eyes are ones full of compassion, devotion, and love. Eyes that radiate with God’s love and are a window into his humble servant heart. 


A moment full of tenderness. One that was experienced as the ever present clouds let the sun pierce through. Leaning against the window sill, I welcomed the delicate warmth against my skin, keeping my eyes closed as footsteps came from behind. I opened them to find Miki resting his elbows on the edge next to me. I do not remember the brief conversation that took place but what I do remember is the gentle gesture of his hand as he reached out and moved one strand of my hair out of my face. 


A moment full of companionship. One that was experienced as the invigorating mixture of Ethiopian spices and onions permeated the air. For close to four hours, Yeshi and I sat in the same wooden chairs around a pot of simmering Doro Wat. We began with the sun beating against our faces and eventually found ourselves enveloped in darkness. Our time was spent enjoying the simple pleasure of one another’s presence. 


Moments like these are powerful because of the One who made them. Their transformative power may never be revealed, yet we need only pray to have the eyes to see and the heart to know that God weaves Himself into each moment. He abides in the ordinary day to day; He abides in our  relationships; He abides in our hearts; He abides in the moments. 

Beautifully Broken

Beautifully Broken

“I’m in Ethiopia,” I keep telling myself. The first few mornings I would wake up and remind myself of that. One day when we were in the classroom teaching, I bent over to pick up a piece of trash and I said to myself, “I’m in Ethiopia picking up scraps in a classroom just like I do at home.” The task was so basic, yet so profound. How is it I find myself in a classroom teaching English to students in Ethiopia? Life is a journey, and not always an easy one

In coming to Ethiopia it is so much easier to ‘see’ and experience the brokenness than it is at home. But, are we really that much different? When looking at my own life, the reason I’m even here is because God has been able to use my brokenness to get ahold of my heart. July 18, 2016 is the day sweet freedom and total surrender entered my life. It does not come as a coincidence that God has brought me here on that date 3 years later. His timing is so perfect and he is so faithful and good. When I had no control over things going on in my life, when I was at my breaking point, when I was totally broken and had no more strength, that’s when God broke through. It took God giving me the permission to let go of control and to totally and fully put my trust in him. I now live in his freedom. I am free to love; I am free to have compassion; I am free to be who he made me to be.

So, I’m in Ethiopia. Yes, I can see the brokenness, but I can also see the beauty in the smiles and hugs of the sweet children at Bring Love In. I see the beauty in the moms as they bring us lunch and make us coffee and popcorn. I see beauty in the lives of those who work with the kids and families year round and those who so graciously host and drive us. I see beauty in the lives that are changed through the love of others. 

I’m in Ethiopia, half way around the world in a completely different culture. Our lives are so different and yet they are so the same. We are all broken people who need the love, grace, and mercy from an amazing Savior! The more broken we are, the more God’s light can shine through us.

God is at work. I saw a beautiful display of his love and forgiveness in action. Yesterday as we were getting ready for lunch, some of the students who were a part of the altercation Carl talked about returned. They had time over the weekend to process all that had happened. They came to personally apologize to the team. They began to shake our hands and say I’m sorry. The handshakes quickly turned into hugs. One of the girls began to cry. How neat to see she had been broken and that love began to break through.

God is so good. It has been such a blessing to be a small part of these children’s lives. They have so much love to give. May I be able to love others so freely.

Kelly

“I just want to learn English.”

“I just want to learn English.”

Darik. Say that name to me and I have mixed emotions. On one hand I feel complete and utter joy. On the other, a feeling of anxiety begins to rise. 

Joy:  Darik was explaining something to me. I can’t recall what exactly we were talking about, but he was walking me through something—an explanation probably. Once I came to the realization he wanted me to find, I jokingly retorted, “Darik! What would I do without you? I’d be so lost. Thank you for helping me.” Darik tilted his head at me and wagged his finger, “No, Jourdan, you would be lost without God.” 

I just smiled and hugged him fiercely. You are so right, child. Joy.

Anxiety:  I am sitting at a table with Sitota, Aysema, Maye, and Darik. All of them except Darik are what I would identify as emerging English learners. They have a difficult time finding words to speak, so they resort to answering in Amharic. Needless to say, I try my best to help them one-on-one; however, Darik demands all of my attention even though he is the most advanced English speaker at the table. As I help Sitota and Aysema speak and write a list of animals in English, Darik takes Sitota’s notebook and puts his in front of me, proudly displaying his list of 25 animals, 15 more than what we tasked the class to find. “Jourdan, is this correct?” Sitota erupts and there’s a heated conversation taken place in Amharic between Darik and her. I try to save the situation but there’s no going back. Similar situations like this one continued to take place at my table throughout the day. 

It was an incredibly difficult day for me. I was so frustrated with Darik for not being patient, for not letting me help his sisters with their English, because he wanted all of my attention. 

Fast forward to the next morning during our devotion. The big idea for the morning was patience and Kelly said something that stuck with me:  I think about how God is so patient with me, even after all these years. 

Patient. God is so patient with me, so why can’t I be patient with Darik? I was convicted and humbled to the core. I prayed that God would help me be more patient with Darik. I prayed that prayer so hard. 

We finally made it to the school that morning and I pulled Darik aside, “Darik, I’m sorry for not being patient with you yesterday while I was helping Sitota. I want to be able to help all of you, but I can’t. Will you forgive me?” 

Darik just smiled and said, “No problem, Jourdan. I’m sorry too. I just want to learn English.”

All he wanted was to grow in his English. He desired to learn and that’s why he wanted my undivided attention.

I could go on and unpack all that happened in my heart, but I’m going to leave these stories as they are because I believe God is at work. He is at work here in Addis through Bring Love In, and he is whispering to us in the smallest of ways. What we’re doing here matters because God is at work indeed. 

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