Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ethiopia - February 2011

I cant believe it took me so long to post. I also cant believe that it has been three months since I returned from my second trip to Ethiopia. What a blessing it was - every step of the way.

Going into the trip, I was hopeful that I would be influential in all of my interactions with the people I met. I knew that I would be influenced, moved, etc. I was most curious as to what the Lord would do on this trip. How would the team members work together? Would we witness spiritual transformation? How was the Southern part of Ethiopia different from Addis? Would we encounter hostility from local Muslims? How well could I rough it?

Someone pass the Purell! Actually I took more than I needed (shocker). Anyone I have come into contact with knows I am a germaphobe. I was almost ashamed at my use of the stuff while I was there.

Who says being a Christian cant be fun? I think adventures like this is what makes our spiritual journey exciting and wonderful. I felt like I was witnessing the Lord work in all that we did that week.

I will spare you the details of the travel, other than to say that the direct flight from Dulles to Addis was wonderful and easy.

We arrived in Addis and were greeting by Joe and Kay Harding. They are both Ethiopian "natives" - Joe grew up there and Kay was a missionary with SIM and intitially was in Kenya before marrying Joe and heading to Ethiopia. I believe they spent 20 plus years there - raising their children and serving the Lord. It was comforting to say the least having them leading the group. They are officially based in the U.S., live in Charlotte, and members at Church at Charlotte. They make several trip each year to Ethiopia to lead church groups.

Getting to the heart of the matter, I was definitely moved on this trip and felt like I learned a lot about myself and evangelism in general. I knew the Ethiopian people would be smiling, happy, and generally wonderful to be around. What I was unsure of was how I would behave given my goal on this trip was to serve others versus the adoption journey that Sara and I were on last time we were in Addis in June/July 2009. I decided to follow the others on this trip that had been to Camp Langano multiple times. I was with a group of veterans that knew the lay of the land and how best to serve these wonderful folks.

Camp Langano is five hours by van from Addis. After a four hour drive on decent roads, dodging goats, donkeys, camels, and other vehicles, we turned off the paved road onto a dirt road. This road would lead us to Camp Langano - a soccer/sports camp established by SIM (Serving in Mission) many years ago. Within the past five years Church at Charlotte has poured financial resources and multiple trips to work on building a sustainable sports ministry to children from all over Ethiopia. The Camp also helps serve the local community through a free medical clinic and s school.

My tasks while at Camp included helping build a barn for the donkeys and building/pouring a concrete foundation for a local Muslim community (for a non-local teacher's home). The goal was to have the locals see us serving them and for them to feel the love of Christ in the process. Only the Lord knows if our efforts were successful.

A moment I will most remember was the worship service at the local Church. The people were definitely there to praise God and worship. There were no pretenses - no one looking to see what outfit someone is wearing, no one concerned about someone hearing their crappy singing voice, and no one worried about or looking at folks coming in late. The worship was pure and awesome as people came humbly before God.

Another moment was hearing the testimony of the SIM missionaries from Texas that have given up life in the U.S. to serve the Lord and the people of Ethiopia full-time at Camp Langano. With three kids in tow, the husband helps manage the Camp while the wife runs the local clinic - delivering babies and trying to take care of everything an American hospital would tackle. They have two beautiful daughters and one adopted boy from Africa (Zambia) - eerily similar to a family I am a part of!!! Watching them devote themselves fully to the Ethiopian people was inspiring and certainly made me look inward and question - am I doing ALL that I can?

Lastly, I was moved by a little girl that decided to leave the local village (along the dirt road close to Camp Langano) to move to Addis. Her mission (at probably 11 years of age) was to help care for an elderly woman in Addis (the mother of one of the SportsFriends workers at the soccer camp). The girl came with our group as we left Camp to head to the capital city to prepare for our departure back to the States. It was her first trip in a car and the first time she had left a 3-4 square mile radius of her home. It was the first time she saw a paved road. It was the first time she saw a market, or a city, or anything other than a hut, goats, and a small piece of God's creation. I was most impressed and moved by her courage to leave her family (her mother had an illness that took her life years earlier) and take the next step to find opportunity. She planned to learn Amharic (he native language is not spoken in Addis) and go to school in the big city. She was basically taking on life on her own, with no parental influence other than her new relationship she would be establishing with the woman she would be caring for. At just 11 years of age.

I am excited about what God is doing in Ethiopia. The Muslim influence is extreme, but the Lord is revealing himself to the local Imams. Conversion experiences with the Imams have been plentiful (claims by the Imams that they have literally been told by God to follow Christ) and have led to massive conversions to Christ in the Langano communities when the Imams share this with others at the mosques.

I look forward to heading back - what a wonderful country with great people!