I have wanted to travel to Ethiopia for as long as I can remember. Even before I was a Christian I felt drawn there. So, you can imagine my excitement when that opportunity finally came. It was not a difficult decision to say yes to going to Ethiopia – I knew that is where I was supposed to be. The difficult and seemingly impossible part was raising support. It seemed impossible because my eyes were on my own ability and not on the ability of the faithful Jesus we have. I simply could not have done it without His provision.
All of the flights went well, Dubai was just a little toasty (and by toasty, I mean 104 degrees when the sun was down). When we got to Addis Ababa it was very clear that time ran differently. It took us over four hours to get out of the airport! But as soon as we stepped foot outside it felt like a piece of my soul was already there. Bryan and Josh, who live in Charlotte when they are not traveling with Sports Friends / SIM, and our Ethiopian brothers picked us up. Addis Ababa is such a beautiful city, with beautiful people, and animals roaming the streets. The thing I remember most about that day was the traffic – cars weaving in and out within inches of each other, but somehow not hitting each other.
Throughout our few days in Addis we went to a ton of cool places including the Holy Trinity Cathedral, ate amazing food, visited the market, and a sweet Ethiopian woman cooked a traditional meal with the freshest coffee possible. I am convinced that everything tastes better in Ethiopia, even the American food.
It was a short one-hour drive to the compound in Debre Zeyit, where camp was being held. When we got to camp, we were greeted by the Ethiopian staff, who were soon to become close friends. I remember when I first met them, I was fearful that the language barrier would make it difficult to get to know them, but again God is so faithful and tore those language barriers down. God is so good at taking our fears and anxieties and making them obsolete. They were so kind and loving, and they took us in as if they had known us our entire lives. By the end of the week, it felt like we had been friends forever.
The next morning, all of the young people came on a bus and we were so excited, wondering what it was going to be like. Throughout the week we played soccer, games, and team-building activities. Each day there was a different theme; love, peace, kindness, and honesty. The children got to learn about what it meant to do and be these things with Jesus in their life. Some had never heard the name of Jesus and to see them be so hungry to learn about Him was breathtaking.
Every evening someone shared in Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia), so we did not understand it but just being with the young people and the staff was everything I could have wanted. Getting to watch them laugh until they cried, dance until they could not dance anymore, sing until their voices were gone. Getting to be goofballs with them, listen to their stories (some of them heartbreaking) and just getting to spend time with these precious boys. I am forever grateful for everything that happened there.
There was so much dancing, singing, crying, laughing, and everything in between throughout this beautifully tough week. I had an amazing team by my side and amazing leaders who have become some of my favorite people. Jesus gave me these people to lean on, to laugh and cry with, and most of all people to love with.
God is moving in Ethiopia in a way that I had never seen in my life. It is common for Ethiopians to hear church music and be mesmerized by it and just sit in the church for hours, which I find so pure and such a gentle way for God to reach someone.
Many people say mission trips are “just another white person trying to fix things” but I, myself, can fix nothing. I alone cannot make anything better. But God called me to Ethiopia to learn something, to love on these children. Not because He needs me to but because He invites us to be a part of His work and His kingdom. When He invites us to take part in that we get a glimpse of what Heaven is going to look like. There is something very special about saying yes to God, and getting to be His hands and feet. I am in awe of what God is doing in Ethiopia and that I got to see a part of it. If you have a chance, go and see what God is doing there for yourself!