Break My Heart For What Breaks Yours

By Mia:

Allow me to be perfectly candid and honest about one of the more difficult and less talked about aspects of mission work: returning to life at home.

I can’t speak for others returning from short term mission trips, but I can speak openly and honestly about my own personal experiences over the span of this past week.

While in Ethiopia, we witnessed true miracles and saw God move in mighty and powerful ways. I personally witnessed miraculous healing and the casting out of a demon in Christ’s name. I personally experienced the joy of sharing the Gospel with someone for the first time and praying hand in hand with them as they accepted the gift of their eternal salvation. I met and rejoiced with families whose children were spared in miraculous ways from human traffickers. I was blessed to play with and embrace and run around with and share in moments of joy and love with countless children in the villages. I laughed more than I have ever laughed walking from hut to hut with our incredible Ethiopian translators and disciple makers. I experienced true fellowship with my teammates as we recounted all that the Lord had done in our daily team meetings, devotionals and debriefs. And in all of the moments in between I experienced true peace and an absolute sense of God’s goodness and grace.

And yet, while in Ethiopia, we also witnessed true and deep despair. We looked into the eyes and shook the hands of women who had been surviving on the streets of Addis with no other option but turning to prostitution to survive. We toured a museum commemorating the country’s rather recent and gruesome civil war, The Red Terror, in which hundreds of thousands of young people were brutally tortured and killed. We looked into the glazed over eyes of young street children in the city begging for food or money to survive. We met women at the fistula clinic who were cast out of their homes and lost everything they once had. We held hands with and played with street boys while at the Make Your Mark facility and said goodbye to them knowing that later in the day they would be back on the streets struggling to just survive another night. We listened to stories of true terror and horror about the realties many street children live in. We wept with and embraced mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters in their moments of grief as we educated them about the tactics of human traffickers and they realized for the first time the horror into which they had sent their beloved children and family members. We witnessed poverty on a scale that I had never imagined possible and prayed with families for rain and for work and for God’s mercy and providence in the midst of their extreme situations. We listened to people’s stories and looked into their eyes and saw pain and hardship and suffering in some of its truest and purest forms. And while we walked through some of the villages and past one large compound in particular we sensed true evil as we learned about the many practices of snake worship in the area.

And after experiencing all of those things within the span of about a week, we returned home and back to the nuances of our privileged daily lives here in the States. Despite all that we experienced and witnessed and the ways that God changed our hearts, things here at home remained primarily unchanged. For me personally, it has been an extremely difficult transition. After recovering from the exhaustion of traveling, trying to work through and process all that we experienced and witnessed brings about some highly charged and unpredictable emotions that often express themselves in unexpected ways. While it’s important to remember and acknowledge that our loved ones, families, friends, and coworkers have not shared in the same powerful experiences we were just a part of, it remains difficult to properly honor God and all that He accomplished on our trip in sharing what He would desire from us. It’s incredibly difficult to accept that those closest to us simply can’t understand all that we’ve experienced, and it’s disheartening when those you had hoped would be there to support you in the transition back simply aren’t able to. It all brings about extreme feelings of isolation.

But! In prayer and reflection and in seeking God’s purposes, it becomes clear that all of these feelings are a natural response to the mission experience and that the brokenness we might experience as a result is all a part of His great plan.

I am the first to admit that I am prone to being more sensitive than most and that witnessing certain things seems to stick with me and affect me on different levels than it might others. Having said that, I have personally been most deeply affected and burdened by the plight of and the struggle for survival that street children endure alone in the capital. I have been haunted by some of their stories and can’t shake the thought that many of the young children I know and love are the same age as the many thousands of street children on their own in Addis and across the world. Within the span of this past week back home I have cried countless times thinking about those precious children. And while my heart goes out to the many children suffering in severe poverty in the villages we visited, I have been particularly broken over the reality of the street children we witnessed. Their situations are absolutely devastating and should absolutely not exist in this day and age.

While it’s easy to fall into depression over the suffering of those sweet children and to wallow in our own apparent inability to do anything impactful enough to help them, the Lord has been reminding me of a prayer I prayed repeatedly before leaving on this particular mission trip. Hillsong has a line in their song Hosanna in which they ask the Lord to “break my heart for what breaks Yours.” That line and that prayer touched a deep place in my heart and I felt moved to pray it personally and repeatedly to God prior to and while on our trip. While I am completely unsure about how to proceed in attempts to reach those children with God’s love, one thing is clear to me: He has broken my heart for what breaks His.

I now have no desire to simply transition back into “normal” life here in States and to allow the memory of those dear children to slowly fade away. I also refuse to be defeated by the enemy and fall into great sadness and helplessness over the situation. I am reminded of and encouraged by the faith of those we met in Ethiopia like Cherry and Trent and Carmen who’s hearts were broken for what breaks His and who walked in faith to be instruments of God’s great love for those in need.

And so while I thank God for the experience and for opening our eyes and hearts to things unseen and for being so steadfast and true in answering my prayers and in breaking my heart for what breaks His, I now also pray for obedience and that He will make His will clear in the steps needed to extend his loving kindness and to help bring about a bit more of His Kingdom to His beloved children in desperate need.

He is so good.

May God bless, comfort and heal street children all over the world.

 

A Day of Contrasts

By Wendy

Yesterday was a day of contrasts. It was our last day visiting the village homes. So we spent the early part of the day in mud huts with no electricity or running water. Then we drove back to the big city, Addis, where we were able to have a warm shower and a comfortable bed to sleep in. In the village the families offered us the best they had- coffee, injera with beans, or cabbage and potatoes, or popcorn. We used our hands to scoop this off the large communal platter. In Addis, we went to a beautiful modern restaurant with a view. We could choose from a large menu and ate with fine plates, silverware, and glasses. The differences were literally day and night, in both time and circumstance.

Crossing from their reality to ours, I feel the greater sense of responsibility with what I have been given, and so thankful for the honor of sharing the hope of Jesus here. That morning Dave K and I visited 18 people, all of whom accepted the Lord. What a joy to know that we will all meet again in Heaven one day, where there is no more struggle or want, and we will feast together side by side. What a great party that will be!

Impressions of Ethiopia

By Dave Kendall

After three days of visits to Ethiopian homes in Oromo, the thing that stands out the most is the hospitality of the Ethiopian people. They do not have a lot but they treated us as honored guests and gave us the best of what they have. We were fed lunch in almost everyone home we visited. This means five lunches a day for us! They were kind, respectful and truly happy to see us. Most accepted Jesus after our discussions and were very excited to join the family of Christian believers.

We heard several stories of human trafficking that have happened in the area. Their stories matched the worst examples in our Priceless cube presentation. This validated the need to keep educating the people about this tragic business.

Ethiopia is a beautiful country. We are in a farming area that is composed of rolling hills of grassland and plowed fields. The elevation is roughly 9,000 ft. Water is the primary factor that drives the health and prosperity of the families we visited. They asked us to pray for good rain this year which should start in May. I would love to see hills turn green after the rains come.

I believe we are making a difference in the lives of these wonderful people and am very glad I came on this mission trip. The training we received and experiences we share during our daily team meetings makes all of us on the mission better Christians. I can’t wait to share the pictures and the stories with my church when I get home.

God is good!

Blessed Are The Persecuted

By Allison

A typical village day involves each team visiting five houses. A team consists of two Americans, one translator, one disciple maker, and one guide. In each house we share the Priceless Cube and the EvangeCube. There is also coffee, getting to know one another, sharing prayer requests, and sometimes a meal.

Today our team consisted of Dave K, Jax, and me. In our first home for the day four adults joined us in addition to the man and woman of the house. We quickly found out that they were already believers and have been meeting together in that house along with a few other families for church twice a week. Their home church consists of 20 people in total.

We asked if their community was open to the message of the gospel or if they faced much persecution. Sadly they said it was an extremely hard area to reach and that their neighbors rejected them because of their faith. Before leaving the home we prayed with them for strength to face persecution and for boldness to continue to share about Christ.

In our next four houses every single person who heard the gospel accepted Christ for a total of 30 new believers. Every time a household would pray to receive Christ I smiled and thanked the Lord for this gift He gave to that home church full of faithful believers.

Tonight at our team meeting we learned that throughout the day 137 people became Christians in that village. You might be reading this post thinking that we are all about the numbers, so please don’t get the wrong impression. If even one person came to faith today we would be celebrating, but can you imagine what a blessing it will be for those six people we met early today to learn that they won’t be alone any more? Now, including them, there are at least 157 Christians in that village, and God’s light will shine brightly through them all.

We know that as Christians we will face persecution. We also know that God hears our cries. John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I believe today He blessed the home church for their faithfulness in meeting together and staying strong all those years. I feel completely honored to have been able to be there to witness the radical change in this village.

Never Have I Ever…

By Lucy
Field Day #1

I honestly can’t count the amount of new things I’ve seen today. Today was the first village visit this trip as well as the first time ever for me. The team I was on included Erin Johnson, our translators, and our disciple maker. The first thing I noticed about the first house was how hospitable the family was. They made us traditional Ethiopia food as well as amazing coffee. I even got to help make the coffee as well as feed the animals. It turns out they also invited neighbors and friends to hear us speak. I have to admit, I felt really nervous especially since there was a 2 way translation from English to Amharic to Oromo. Erin asked me to share the evangacube which told the story of Jesus. Luckily the visit went smoothly and all the adults who heard accepted Christ at the end. I was overjoyed to see all the people hear the story of Christ and believe in him. One of the other houses we visited had one large family with an elderly woman who was mostly quiet the whole time. I did the cube on human trafficking and after the disciple maker did the evangacube after only hearing it a few times. The message was received well and they also all accepted. Seeing the work of God in people just made my day. Only He could’ve lead all these people to him. Afterwards we asked the elderly woman about herself and her family. She told us 2 of her sons had died because she did not make a sacrifice to Satan. Right after, the Ethiopians on my team talked amongst themselves and all thought she was demon possessed. We asked to pray over her so she walked to the middle of the room and we prayed over her that the demon be cast out. After the prayer she accepted Jesus and promised to proclaim him. She had this calm look on her face afterwards and Erin said the demon had been cast out. This was a pretty crazy thing I had just witnessed especially on my first field day. We visited one more house were I got to play with the children. Then Erin saw Tom and Dave and welcomed them in. Then Dave shared the gospel with two new women as well as the children. All accepted Jesus and then we made our way to meet the other teams. It really hit me on the bus ride back how blessed I was to get to see God work in the hearts of the Ethiopians. I can’t image how great it will be to visit homes for 4 more days.

Willing People

By Allison

There is no greater privilege than being a part of what God is doing. Last April my son Jax and I came to Ethiopia for the first time. On the morning of our first village day we were told that the people we were visiting would not be very receiving of us or the message of the gospel. As only God can do, He blew our expectations out of the water. The people we met not only welcomed us with open arms, but they eagerly received Christ. We saw over 100 people come to faith that day.

Today we had the incredible experience of visiting the same village and going into the home churches that have been planted since that day. Our team of fourteen broke up into five groups to go into each home church.

What an incredible gift to see what God has done in the lives of those people since we first met. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Immediately upon getting off the bus in the village we were greeted by familiar faces and embraces. Again in the home church we visited, I recognized people I met a year ago. I was able to pull up pictures saved on my phone from the day we first met and show them, and we joyfully caught up with one another and shared how God has been working in the past year.

There is nothing like fellowship between believers, even believers from different cultures who don’t speak a common language. The entire team and all five churches met up together before we loaded up the bus, and again I connected with men and women I saw come to faith a year ago. No translators were nearby at the moment, but no words were necessary. These are people I have been praying for the past year, and the exhilaration we felt upon seeing one another did not need translating.

The best part about today’s visit was seeing the growth that has taken place in one short year. It reminded me of Acts 16:5 – “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.” The new believers immediately went out into their community and reached out to others with the good news of Jesus Christ.

The home church our team of three – Jax, Wendy, and I – visited consists of eleven families meeting together twice weekly. Altogether our team visited five churches. We can roughly estimate that over 250 people in that village are meeting to worship, grow in faith, and learn more about the Lord.

Erin, one of our team leaders, said this morning at our team meeting, “God doesn’t need capable people. He needs willing people.” I have seen those words play out in my own life, because believe me, traveling across the world and going door to door talking to strangers is not something I am capable of doing in my own abilities. Today I got to see those words played out in the lives of these new believers. In one year’s time they have more than doubled. How is that possible? They were willing to be used by God. He did the rest.


Reunions

By Rachel

Today, we visited a village we went to last year when we visited Fiche. The team was visiting house churches that had been formed after we left. House churches are small groups of believers that meet together; not necessarily in a house. I was on a team with Tom and Lucy. The church members sang 2 church songs for us in their native language, Oromo. Lucy had brought her ukulele, so her and I sang 10,000 reasons to the church. Afterwards, we prayed for the church and headed to a large house to wait for the other teams. At that house, I actually saw someone that I had met the last time I went to this village: the little girl in the green shawl! I’m pretty sure she recognized me as well, because she didn’t want to leave my side. I didn’t want to leave hers either; honestly I just wanted to bring her back to America. My dad blessed her baby brother last year, and I saw him too. He grew a lot in one year! It was really cool to meet people I had seen last year, and to see how they’d grown, both physically and spiritually.


The girl in the green shawl, then and now.

F R I D A Y !

By The Emilys.

Today was a great day!

Our first stop of the day was Cherry’s ministry. Cherry’s ministry works to help get women off the streets. First, the staff goes out into the streets to meet women in prostitution and to get to know them. They identify women who really want to get out of prostitution and then run a one year program for those women. The program helps to enable them to find new ways to support themselves and also introduces them to God. Cherry’s ministry is currently helping about 90 women and almost all of these women will leave prostitution and come to Christ. How cool! After hearing Cherry tell about her ministry, we had the opportunity to meet about 20 women and their children that were in the one year program. These women had started the program this week so we just introduced ourselves and said hi to all of them. It was so fun to greet everyone. They were all very friendly and introduced themselves with big smiles. Then we went to the minstry’s shop, where we bought scarves and jewelry that some of the women made. The profits from the scarves and jewelry goes directly to the woman that made them. These profits enable them financially, so they are able to leave life on the streets.

Later today, we bought bicycles that the LifeBridge youth group raised money for. In order to raise money, everyone in the youth group was given a bracelet that had the word priceless on it. When we were asked about the bracelet, we told them about Ethiopia and the people that are trafficked and then asked the person we were explaining this to if they would give a dollar to the fundraiser. God was clearly present when we were trying to raise money for these bikes. For a long time, we were trying to raise money for them, but we did not raise a lot at first. A few weeks before the deadline for raising the money, a lot of money came in. We were able to buy 5 bikes for the disciple makers! These bikes will help disciple makers travel to the villages they will serve at. It will make their trips faster and easier. It was really awesome for us (the 2 Emilys), Lucy and Rachel to be a part of buying the bikes.

The day ended with us riding in a bus to Fiche. It was great to get to talk with everyone, play cards, and listen to Rachel and Lucy play ukelele on the bus. Tomorrow is gonna be great! Peace out!!

Make Your Mark

By Dave H. Day one in Addis. We made it! It is always a bit of a relief to be safely on the ground again, after 18 hours of flying. We made it partly rested, and mostly healthy. We are thankful for all your prayers and for God’s goodness to us.

We visited several places today, including the Red Terror (Derg) Museum, the Hamblin Fistula Clinic, and a much attended Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Just briefly for those first time followers…. The Derg Museum commemorates what is essentially the Ethiopian holocaust, a recent time of great internal strife and intense persecution. The Fistula clinic helps women who have/had fistulas become medically, spiritually and emotionally healed. In this culture, being healed from a fistula is a big, big deal. The Ethiopian Orthodox church is something we tour, to help get an understanding what it means to be Orthodox in Ethiopia. Today, a couple of us saw people kissing the steps leading to the church, I suppose to show their sincerity and devotion.

While multiple team members have very interesting stories about these, and I encourage you to tease those stories out of them, I’m going to tell you about another ministry: Make Your Mark (MYM). Started in Charlotte, North Carolina, this ministry focuses on getting and keeping young boys off of the streets. We heard first hand, and for a few minutes got to participate ourselves, in how God is using this ministry to change lives and share Jesus in an authentic way. God stirred this couple to move to Ethiopia several years ago to begin an MYM setting in Ethiopia, in Addis. They are living here ever since, working with local nationals to help change young boys lives who live on the streets homeless. God always stirs my heart when I listen to someone speak passionately about what God is doing in them and through them.

I’ll close with two quotes Trent, part of the founding couple, said today.

* God said here is a need right outside your front porch. What are you going to do about it?

* Your mission field is between your two feet.

-Dave

April 2017: God’s Calling and Confirmation- All for His Glory!

By Marela: I didn’t feel called to go on this trip until what some might consider to be “way too late.” The team was supposed to have already met their halfway mark for fundraising. I sent letters, made phone calls, posted social media statuses and yet almost a month later… I had made next to no progress. I had been struggling with wondering if I had signed up too eagerly. Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough. Maybe I wasn’t listening closely enough to God’s words. Continue reading “April 2017: God’s Calling and Confirmation- All for His Glory!”