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Month: July 2017

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