Friday, July 20, 2012

The First 10 Days in Africa - Part 2 - Ethiopia

On our way to the airport to head to Ethiopia on July 4th, we stopped for lunch.  Instead of going to a restaurant, we went to someone's house.  Florence, the same sweet lady who cooked lunch for us at Tara's house, made the 3 hour journey to cook for us again at her brother's house. The food was delicious as always, but God brought us all together again for a much different/higher purpose.

After we ate, we actually had some time to relax and socialize.  Jane, our guide while in Rwanda, introduced us to her husband (who had graciously rescued our missing luggage the day before and brought it to us) and to the homeowners & their family.  Lots of stories were shared, including some about the genocide. 

But also during this time, we learned that the sweet lady who had cooked for us was a struggling widow with 3 children.  Immediately, the decision was made for us to pool our resources and help her with rent.  When Florence was told we wanted to help, she fell to her knees in tears and in gratitude to God!!!  She worshipped Him unabandonly for His provision and for answering her prayers.  There was not a dry eye in the house!!!  James 1:27 says to take care of orphans and WIDOWS, and God allowed us to do just that in Rwanda.  ONLY GOD!

Our fierce team leaders Laura & Tymm with Florence

Our team after wiping our tears of joy
I am sitting next Florence and Faith is sitting next to Jane our guide

Faith is giving hugs to Jane's son Gideon one last time before we head to the airport.

At the airport, it was CHOCOLATE TIME!!!

On the flight, I had the privilege of sitting next to Chelsey and getting to know her better.  She is hooked on Africa and has an amazing servant's heart!

In the capitol city of Ethiopia, there were lots of people, construction projects, and means of transportation

This is the guest house where we stayed in Addis Ababa

Faith and Taylor 

When we arrived at the guest house, I started praying about room assignments.  I asked God to put me where He wanted me.  The 3 married couples each had their own rooms.  The remaining 2 guys shared a room.  The females were divided among 3 rooms (4 bed, 6 bed & 10 bed.)  Faith went with Tanya, Taylor & Meagan.  I went with Kelly B., Jen R., Missy, Carla & Jenny. 

I continued to pray as I took my things to my room on the 3rd floor.  As I was walking up the stairs, God made it very clear...He was putting me in the same room with Missy so I could hear her story.  Also, He laid another team member, Morgan, heavy on my heart and wanted me to pray for her constantly.

Later that night, Summer from Project 61 came over and talked with us about what we would be doing ministry wise the next 2 days in Korah (the city dump which is home to over 100,000 people.) 

Originally, we were suppose to do summer camp (Bible story, crafts, games, music, etc) with the children divided into 3 or 4 groups.  Most of our pre-trip preparation and supplies were geared towards doing this.  But Summer informed us that things had changed.  They had torn down the old shanti classrooms and were building new ones that needed to be completed in 4 days so they could start summer camp the following Monday. 
I was responsible for organizing the Bible story team and had cautioned them from the start to be very flexible and fluid.  If I've learned one thing (the very hard way) it's that things change all the time (especially on mission in other countries) and being able to give up our own expectations and plans to serve wherever we are needed is HUGE. 

God wants us to be completely surrendered and available to Him.  When our plans and hard work get sacrificed and discarded in the process, we have a choice to make.  We can either choose to be focused on ourselves and get upset & discouraged or we can fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, and get excited about what He is up to!!!  

I mean think about it.  The God of the universe actually invites us to be a part of what He is doing, and we want to get mad when things don't go according to our plans. Really?  I know this is hard, especially coming from an American mindset. But as believers we do have the mind of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us fight our fleshly thoughts and desires.

May you and I never forget that GOD IS SOVEREIGN AND 100% TRUSTWORTHY!  Even when things change, we can rest assure that God NEVER does.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  And His plans are far better than anything we could ever imagine.

Okay. Okay.  Back to Ethiopia.

On Thursday, we headed to Project 61 in Korah. 

Part of our team painted.

Some of the men helped with a concrete project for one of the buildings , and the rest of us helped another mission team do activities (face painting, fingernail painting, making cross necklaces, coloring and hanging out) with the children in the church.

Once my new friend and I met, she stayed by my side.  We sang together, laughed together and played lots of thumb war together - that she usually won.  If she could not find me, she would find Faith and have Faith track me down.

At lunch time, we were taken into a newly constructed building - the future dorm room for some of the children

Faith and Gretchen

Before we finished lunch, it started raining - HARD.  It even hailed for a few minutes.  It is the rainy season so showers and storms occur all the time.
I left my raincoat in the van by accident.  But my friend April shared her poncho with me as we walked through Korah to do a home visit.  THANK YOU APRIL!!!
Our team divided into groups and each group visited a family who has a child in Project 61.  My group went to visit a family of 6 because the oldest daughter is in the program.
Here is the father who is disabled, the mother and one of the young children.

Here is the daughter.  She is grounding roasted coffee beans by hand to make coffee for us.  She allowed a few of us to try our hand at grounding.  It's not as easy as it looks!
Here is Ameila, Jenny, Morgan, Missy & Tanya
It is a tradition to drink coffee and eat popcorn in Ethiopia.  The popcorn tray is on TJ's lap (whose face you can't see), next to him is Carla, April, me & our guide.  I do not like coffee, but this coffee was delicious!

Faith drank 2 1/2 cups of coffee herself and ate lots of popcorn.  Once you finish drinking your coffee, you use popcorn to scoop the sugar from the bottom of your cup and eat it.  It's really good too.

We spent about an hour or so talking with the family through our guide who translated for us.  We prayed with them too.  As we were walking out the door, the mother took hold of my arm and stopped me.  She uncovered a tray and pointed to the bread on it.  It was all the food they had left.  You see, she usually begs for money and food on the street just outside the dump, but begging is not lucrative during the rainy season.  The look of desperation on her face spoke volumes to me.  It was heartbreaking! 

Thankfully, our team was able to purchase a substantial amount of food for each of the families we visited.  Although this does not solve their long-term problem, it definitely eases their current situation and let's them know they are loved and not forgotten.

By the time we returned to Project 61, the sun was shining again.  I couldn't resist taking a few pictures of the precious children made in the image of God.

We returned to the guest house with very muddy clothes and very heavy hearts. We had a lot to process. And God graciously gave us each other to process with.

Later that evening, we went to a restaurant to eat traditional Ethiopian food and enjoy traditional music and dancing. A few of our team members even found themselves on stage! It was lots of fun.

Back at the guest house, Missy & I were in our room and I asked her a question - "How did you end up volunteering at the Passion conference in Atlanta?"  To answer it, Missy had to share what God has been doing in her life over the past couple of years, including battling breast cancer.  The parallels of our lives were uncanny!  We talked for hours!!!  It was quite amazing.  When we could no longer hold our eyes open, I had one last question for Missy..."So how did you end up volunteering at the Passion conference in Atlanta??!!!"
We only live one state away from each other but God brought us halfway around the world to introduce us!  Only God!

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9

Loving HIM with all my heart,

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