Last summer, Hope Church in Richmond, Virginia embarked on their eighth trip to Ethiopia to share God’s love at a Sports Friends camp. They served at a discipleship camp with youth who have heard of Christ before but desire to pursue Him more.We interviewed team members Alyssa and Ellie (mother and daughter) on their experiences.
When you’re not away on a missions trip with Sports Friends, what do you do?
Ellie: I am a rising senior in high school.
Alyssa: I am a nurse.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Ellie: I would say Jeremiah 29:11 “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ “ because it comforts me while I am transitioning to a new school soon and knowing God has a plan for me.
Alyssa: One of my favorite verses I have prayed for Ellie ever since she was a little girl is Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
How did you end up serving on this missions trip with Sports Friends?
Ellie: We went to Dominican Republic the past two years with our church, but our church was not going this year. One of the trips our church was going on was to Ethiopia, and I really wanted to go. I attended all the informational meetings and initially was going to go on the trip without my mom.
Alyssa: I had recently started a new job and was concerned about taking the time off. Ellie was in all along, but I got on board relatively late in the game, waking up on a Saturday morning with God impressing on me “Why wouldn’t I go?”. Well, the Sunday morning before we left I I heard from the news of some political unrest in Ethiopia and woke up in the grip of fear thinking the exact opposite “Why would I go!?!?”. I knew fear is not from God and that He cleared the path and opened door after door for us to go on the trip. Our friends and family were praying for us, and we really felt it. We felt safe the entire time during the trip. Praise God!
What was your favorite part of this trip and why?
Alyssa: This trip was different because it was a discipleship camp, so the youth had been to camp before and they were returning to strengthen their faith. This spoke to me a lot that these children were pursuing faith, and Sports Friends was there continuing to support them to deepen their relationship with God.
Ellie: It was amazing to watch the Ethiopian coaches, staff, and campers all step in and experience love that they shared for each other as they gathered together. These people were super close to each other by the end of the week.
Alyssa: Ethiopia is a demonstrative culture: friendly. Us going there to be a part of what work was already being done well was an honor. We brought encouragement to the staff there and spent time with them. We were there to bear witness to their faith and lives.
Ellie: These kids professed their faith at a high cost, some of the kids who professed their faith were not supported by their families.
Alyssa: On the Thursday of camp, we washed some of the campers’ feet. I washed a girl’s feet, who was probably ten-years-old. Tears rolled down everyone’s faces- almost the sound of wailing- it was a sound of sweetness as we shared in this love.
Ellie: In the background while we washed the feet a worship team was singing. The entire experience was so beautiful.
Alyssa: In fact, before we left for the trip, we had actually had our feet washed by the prayer team at our church, which was something I had never experienced before. So then to be able to do this for another in Ethiopia was really an amazing and humbling experience.
What were some things that were different or interesting about Ethiopian Culture?
Ellie: The Ethiopians eat with their hands, which took a little getting used to. They eat a crape bread called injera, which is basically used as a fork, knife, and spoon. To do this, you break off a piece with your right hand and use it to scoop up meat and vegetables.
Alyssa: It was very time-consuming for the Ethiopian women to make the meals and took a lot of effort. The Ethiopian women would work all day on wooden stoves and fire ovens preparing a meal for a hundred people. I can’t imagine cooking for that many people without an oven or stove I am used to in the USA.
What story stands out to you when you remember back to this trip?
Ellie: Thursday night, after the foot washing, we had our small group, which was called family time. Some of the Ethiopian girls were asked how they felt about taking what they learned back home the next day. Their answers were eye-opening because some lived on the street, or were in difficult relationships. We had a translator so we could understand as the girls responded. The leader of the group was so taken aback by this that he left to gather himself together again, because he was crying for what the girls were going through.
Alyssa: What stands out to me is probably how honest the kids were in their situations and how they put their trust in Jesus for their future. It brings to light that our hope is in Jesus.
Ellie: One of the boys, who had lost contact with his parents and was on my mom’s team, gave his testimony to the campers saying, “I know you don’t get along with your parents and you may have fights with them or wish you could leave them, but at least you can always go home.” This made me realize how thankful I need to be for my parents and their love for me.
In what ways did you see God at work during this trip?
Ellie: I saw God by how the kids chose to follow the Lord even when they didn’t have a lot of support in their homes. Often their family saw the change in their character and learned about God through the faith of their children.
Alyssa: I saw God at work by seeing these kids in their situations that could not be easily changed, and how they still saw a bigger picture of how deeply God loved them. One boy was asked what he wanted for his future, and he said he doesn’t have any hope for a future. But His heart softened through the week, and at the end, he believed he did have a hope for the future.
How has your faith from this mission trip?
Ellie: There were hard parts and easier parts on this trip. I did think about if in my life it cost that much to follow God, what would I do? I thought it was cool that I have a relationship with the same God. It made me see God in such a higher light.
Alyssa: It was really encouraging to see the faith of the coaches, staff, and the kids. We all believe the same things across the world and faith is what unites us. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow for all of us.
What was your biggest challenge on the trip?
Ellie: Having no electricity, plumbing, air conditioning, nor clean water at times was hard, and the language barrier was a challenge too– these were all challenges in getting used to those comforts not being there. During this adjustment, all the people poured love onto me.
Allyssa: Not having your creature comforts was hard, but in the end it was part of the beauty of the trip.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Alyssa and Ellie: It was amazing how well coordinated the trip was. Sports Friends is a very good model for ministry. We were able to go and partner with the work that was already going on there. It was a great experience for us both! God really came alive for us both in new ways during this trip!
Interested in serving with Sports Friends on a short-term trip? Check out www.sports-friends.org/go for more information.
Written by Callie West, Sports Friends Communications Intern