Monday

This is a day filled with many emotions. The good-byes which started yesterday with church leaders, Compassion staff and our sponsor child will continue today with hotel staff and later this evening with Yosef, the Compassion country director that has been with us throughout the whole trip and our amazing bus driver, Eyob, who has safely navigated us through unbelievable traffic conditions everywhere we’ve gone. It has been a joy to meet so many of these dedicated, servant hearted leaders, gracious, hospitable people and precious, lovable children. It is sad to know that we won’t see them again for quite some time. But how thankful we are that relationships have been formed and developed, and the inexplicable bond that we have in Christ that unifies us and will forever keep these people in our hearts and minds cannot be broken.

We have experienced so much in such a short time that it is overwhelming and it will take time to process it all. Be patient with us as we try to acclimate back into life in America ☺ It is very different than what we’ve experienced and we are changed, prayerfully forever. We are also looking forward to reuniting with family and friends at home and sharing stories with whoever might want to hear them.

This day has also filled our senses. The sights and sounds and smells we experience on the bus ride from our hotel to Addis Ababa continue throughout the day as we try to take in all the contrasts that this city displays before us. People are everywhere you look. We enter a Hilton hotel that could easily be found in America to exchange our money for birr so that we can use it for shopping. Within close proximity there are makeshift shops that you can’t help but wonder how they stand. The roads are filled with cars, trucks, buses, little blue and white 3 wheel taxis and yes even donkeys with carts. They are all driving on roads with no marked lanes, no speed limit signs and no traffic signals or stop signs. (I think we may have seen 2 the whole time we were in the city.) There could be pages written about the diversity found in this developing city.

Today is also our shopping day and a very interesting cultural experience. Before we start we have one last cup of the best coffee in the world—where coffee originated. Quite a few little shops dot the two blocks we stroll up and down looking for gifts and things to remind us of this amazing country. An accepted practice, once you find something you like, is to negotiate the price—rarely do you end up paying the initial asking price of the shopkeeper. After lunch we head for a market to buy spices. It is difficult to describe that adventure of walking down narrow little passageways on ground with not one inch of flat surface in sight. There had to be hundreds of little shops selling everything imaginable in a square block area – this is their Walmart, where you find food, tupperware, clothing, fabric, fresh veggies, fruits, grains…

It is time to head to the airport. We pack our purchased items in the dark on a flat surface outside the airport, pray as a team one last time and say our final good-byes. Pastor Ed and Pastor Mike have taken off for Kenya that morning, Jay and Kimberly are now heading for Uganda and the rest of us will settle in for the 16 hour flight to Washington D.C. As we enter the airport, it seems like we were here just yesterday at the same time it seems like we were here an eternity ago.

Sunday

Sunday morning the team gathered for breakfast on the patio at the hotel.  Sharing a meal and round-table discussions were a great way to begin the day. We extended an invitation to some of the hotel staff to join us for worship in song—and they did!  Ron shared his daily devotion taken from Luke 4:18.  It clearly states in Luke 4:18 that the mission of Jesus should be our mission.  We are to preach good tidings to the poor.

By 10 a.m. we arrived at Mehale Ketema Church.  Again, we were warmly greeted at the gate by so many wonderful new friends and family.  We gathered inside the church for the early morning worship service.  The energy and strength from the harmonious music that greeted us was so culturally different–it was different in volume, tempo, rhythm, and style.  The church was full of believers, and you could really feel the Spirit of God moving through such glorious music.

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After the church announcements Pastor Ed Rowell and Pastor Mike Worley were introduced to the congregation.  Pastor Ed shared a powerful message about the rebirth of Christ and the message of salvation.  He also drove home the importance of trusting in Jesus to completely direct one’s life.  He concluded the service by initiating an altar call.  

At the conclusion of the service, the Mehale Ketema church leadership provided a traditional meal as part of our closing ceremonies.  We enjoyed injera (traditional sourdough flatbread) bozena shirro, (a spicy red stew with beef), irish potatoes, chicken stew, meatballs, pasta, lasagna, veggies and chips.  When finished eating, we enjoyed the traditional coffee ceremony.  

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Then, the closing ceremony began.  Beautiful gifts were exchanged between the two churches. Our gift to them was a stretched canvas photo by Herb Wetzel of vibrant snow covered Pikes Peak with the Garden of the Gods in the foreground. In addition, a flannel graph (sometimes called a flannel board–a story telling system that uses a board covered with flannel fabric and flannel accessories) was presented to the Sunday School’s Director.  Mehale Ketema Church then presented to us a really nice framed team photo which was taken on the steps at the front of the church with the pastor, elders and Compassion staff. Also, given to each of us were individually handmade cards for each team member which included a picture of the team on the front cover and our sponsored child or children on the inside. Our boys on the team, Uriah, Isaiah, and Matthew each received an Ethiopian soccer jersey/short sets and they were ecstatic!

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We returned to the hotel with time to reflect and refresh as we began to pack for our return trip home. Dinner in the evening on the patio was wonderful with a short time to debrief. God blessed us with a spectacular sunset before the electricity went off in the entire city.  We finished the meal, the debriefing session, and a closing prayer under the soft and magnificent glow of candlelight.

Saturday

We awoke to find our pastors, Ed and Mike, had arrived! How great it was to have them join us on this special day!

This morning, Tim and Randy spoke to the Youth Ministry about living out the greatest commandment.  They gave the youth practical ways to make choices in life as a Christian in today’s world.  They also challenged the youth to study God’s Word, keep a pure heart and to have accountability with one another. Kimberly and Shanna had the opportunity to address the Women’s Ministry at the church. As they spoke with these dear women, they longed to hear more of their stories, of their lives, of their moments when God Has Called Them to More. We shared a little of our lives and how God has called us to more… in the ordinary days of our life and in the extraordinary. God has called each of us to recognize the purpose He has for us…whether in raising our children, loving our husbands well, working with integrity in our jobs, or reaching out to our neighbors and sharing His love. We then had an opportunity to hear some of their personal stories, and be encouraged and encourage them to continue on in what He has called them to do.

Afterwards, it was time for the big day! Fun Day! This is a day we all look forward to, a time when we are able to spend time with our sponsored children outdoors, at Kariftu, a lake event center outside of Debre Zeit.

This year, we were blessed to invite the parents of our sponsored children.  The children love this day just as much as we do, so it was a joy to be able to share it with their mom’s and dad’s.  The boys on our team introduced their new friends to American Football!  “Coach” Randy assisted the boys with demonstrating how to hold and pass the football.  It was a lot of fun seeing the children and the parents learn a new sport.  And, they all really enjoyed it!  We also had soccer balls on hand and our Ethiopian brothers and sisters really know this sport!  Next was tug of war and the women gave the men a big challenge!  Let’s just say that the Ethiopian mom’s have some great strength!

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After some time of play, we shared a meal together. The staff at Kariftu blessed us with a delicious traditional Ethiopian meal.  Our team served our families and we had the privilege of joining them at their tables to share the meal.  Karen said it was just like Thanksgiving!  And, like Thanksgiving, we took lots of pictures, including family portraits, which we were honored to be able to join in. These are our extended families and we wanted to recognize that in a lasting way.

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After lunch, we worked together to decorate mattes to frame our photos in. The children loved this activity along with their parents!  It was fun see the examples of their creativity.  We spent the afternoon in fellowship with each other watching our children play together…just like we do back home!  The laughter and the energy from our boys and our sponsored kids was an overwhelming joy. It was a glorious day! Thanksgiving…Ethiopian style!

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Later this evening we sat together as a team to do some debriefing over dinner and celebrated with worship.  Our exhaustion was apparent but the praises to our King were heard throughout the area.  Our team was unified in our joy for the day but we still recognize the suffering of this country.  The sweetness of our celebration is mixed with the bitterness of the surrounding poverty. But, in all God will be glorified!

 

Friday

Today we had the opportunity to go to a new outreach project in the countryside, Sibra. This is the first year that our partner church has worked in this area. Currently they have 2 families that are a part of the congregation who are planting this church.

Driving out of the countryside to Sibra, we see many dusty roads/paths off to either side, suddenly, we stop at one of these desolate paths and are told it’s time to walk in. The path would not hold our 22 passenger bus, so we would walk on foot about 20 minutes till we reach the church, which is in someone’s home. We walk the rough terrain, in the hot sun, as the dry dirt and dust blow around us and many Ethiopians began to look at us with intrigue and some chose to follow us to see where we were headed.

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When we get to the home/church, we are warmly greeted by chickens, goats, and yes, the two gracious families that are planting this church. We spend time sharing a few words and then praying, followed by singing and a time of worship in each others respective languages. We then offered a few small gifts, we offer shoes for the church to pass to those in the community who have none, not in the name of us, from America, but as an outpouring of their love for those they come in contact with and work with. We also offer some soccer balls, beach balls and jump ropes for them to use while reaching out to the children in the area.

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When our time is done with them, we then split into 6 small groups with evangelists from our sister church, who become our interpreters as we go throughout the community to share the love of Christ. As we went on, we discovered that not only was the physical soil and terrain rough, but so were the spiritual hearts. Matthew 13:3-9 became alive and more vivid to us as we walked these paths and talked with many in the community. Some of us were chased off of properties, some had willing ears to hear, until others came and pressured them to leave our conversation, some saw the Bibles we gave them shredded and thrown to the ground. Others heard the Word, but did not choose to follow Christ, and a few young children came to accept Jesus as their Savior. While we do not know the full impact we might have had on this outreach, we can be assured that His Word does not go void, and He has used us and the evangelists from our partner church in a small way to plant a seed.

We had our final home visits of the week with a few precious children and their families. These visits are a highlight of each team member on the trip.

Shanna, Chad & Jay stayed at the church that evening for their prayer and healing service. Chad delivered the message on healing, and at the conclusion asked the congregation who needed prayer and healing. About 70 people came and lined up in 3 rows. For the next hour or so, we prayed for each request and saw miracles of God’s healing of asthma and chronic headaches, manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and many other miracles that can only can happen by the hand of God.

As we close out each day, we often take time to share our highs and lows. Each of us have processed so much on each and every day. Our eyes have witnessed so much – and we have seen different things with our own perspective. Many of the lows were seeing the Word of God fall on hard ground. I love the perspective of one, who shared that the ground has been tilled. It’s not easy work, but it has been tilled. We can pray that the soil will become ripe for harvest. One of the highs of the day came from one of the boys on our trip who is hear with his dad. He said his high was that ‘his dad inspires him’. He went on to share that he has witnessed his dad evangelizing and sharing God’s love with others, and that is what has been the ‘coolest thing’ on this trip so far, is to be inspired by his dad!

Thursday

What a glorious Thursday!  We begin this message with Thursday evening.  Chad and Tim had the honor of addressing the Bible School students at the Church.  Tim spoke about commissioning and Chad delivered a message titled “Winning Souls for Jesus”.  Chad gave the students 5 steps, that we are all challenged as Christians with, to help prepare God’s harvest.  These steps include:  plowing, planting, watering, reaping and thrashing.  These metaphors represent what it takes to prepare and feed the lost until they are saved.

We mention this lesson first because today in our home visits we saw the reality of this challenge produce the fruits of our labor.  We witnessed two souls won for Jesus!  Hallelujah!  This morning, Tim, Shanna and Isaiah, visited with Abel and his family at their home.  The Corum’s had been praying that they would finally have the opportunity to meet Degu, Abel’s father.  And, an answer to prayer…he was there!  Radiete, Abel’s mom, had explained in the past that Degu was not a believer.  It was an overwhelming joy to see Degu surrender to The Lord today!

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The Hartwell’s were excited to visit with Berehanu and his family for the fifth year.  Each visit, Jay and Kimberly have witnessed to Berehanu’s mom, Tiruk.  In the beginning she had no interest in Jesus but the last couple of years her heart has been softened and she has attended church with the Hartwells.  This visit, for Jay and Kimberly was different as they shared the gospel to Tiruk and she made a decision to joyfully accept Jesus Christ as her Savior!  We had no idea that today we would be celebrating with these two people as they entered the kingdom for Christ!

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Each of our home visits were a joy, even though some of the stories we hear from our sponsored families are heartbreaking.  The poverty here is apparent and illness is no exception.  Jason visited with Zekaryas and his family.  Jason had fun explaining to Zekaryas’ father “planking”, an exercise some of the members of our team have been challenging each other with.  The other home visits included:  Bereket with Matthew and Randy, Frezeer with Sherri, Helena with Tim, Shanna and Isaiah, Muse with Chad and Uriah and Elias with Karen and Ron.  Our sponsored families are proud of their homes and they show genuine hospitality for us as they serve bread, coffee and popcorn to their guests.  We were blessed to spend this time with them and always look forward to the opportunity to visit their homes.  It’s our responsibility to break the ground, plant the seed, nourish our spirit, bless the soil and understand that nothing will grow without the Son!

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Wednesday

Today we were so fortunate to meet with many of the great people of Debre Zeit on an outreach mission in the Kurkura neighborhood. When we arrived we split into small groups; and with the help of interpreters, we told the blessed story of Jesus to over a hundred men, women and children. In a very short time we prayed that each and everyone of them received a basic understanding of the plan of salvation and let them know of the small church plant in their area that would be available at any time to meet with them. Through God’s grace 19 individuals came to know Jesus as his or her personal Savior. Knowing that God is using all of us to encourage and minister to others, is such a blessing to each of us.

Later that afternoon the team met with 12 of the elderly from the neighborhood. There were many difficult and touching stories told by those who have lived in this level of poverty all of their lives. It was obvious to all of us that their lives have been extremely hard – mentally, emotionally and physically. We prayed with the group that God would fulfill their needs, continue to protect, give them comfort and bless them with health and true joy. Some of the elderly asked for individual prayer for current circumstances.

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In the evening we met with church leaders for dinner. The purpose of the gathering was to fellowship with them, to enjoy Ethiopian cuisine and to discuss the potential of new land for them and space issues as they continue to grow in size. We also were able to discuss their new program to the elderly and how we can come alongside them in this endeavor to share the love of Christ with them and help them to have dignified lives.

Tuesday

Our morning began with a return to the church with mom ans babies ready to begin their weekly morning activities as part of the Child Survival Program. we had the opportunity to join them ths day and hold and love on their babies. The moms were so proud to have us see their baby and take photos with them. The small room amazingly held about forty of us and was filled with toys . Babies, mom, and our team members. Throughout the morning. It was easy to lay with the children as there are no differences or language barriersin playing, with play dough, little makinas (cars) , dolls, sharing a smile or laugh or breaking up a little kids squabble.

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After our time with the children, we went into the church sanctuary where Sherri gave a presentation to the CSP moms on the importance of their position as mothers. She emphasized that God would help them in their job. We then enjoyed a delicious lunch that the CSP moms had prepared.

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In the afternoon we had our first set of home visits. Those of us who had never been on one before found it to be an experience beyond our wildest expectations. The joy of seeing our sponsor child with their family in their home was overwhelming. There is a bond that develops with sponsor child and family in that short period of tine that is indescribable. One of our prayers on this trip was that we would have the opportunity to meet the fathers of these children, the fathers who have such an influence on their family. For the one home visit today by team members who have previously visited, they had the opportunity to meet dad for the first time. What a great start to our time here and to just begin to see all the prayers that God has answered.

In the evening Jay, Randy and Ron were honored to teach in the Bible School about Spiritual Leadership. Jay shared about the transformation leadership cycle (personal leadership, one-on-one leadership, team leadership and organizational leadership) of leading like Jesus, the Lion and Lamb. Randy shared about the servant leadership and following the example  of Jesus who came to serve and not to be served. Ron spoke to being a coach, mentor and the great responsibility of spiritual leadership. What an honor to be able to share on this topic as these men and women grow in their influence to the people God has placed in their path.

Monday

We hit the ground running and prepared to meet with approximately 200 children for our VBS day! Our VBS began with traditional American worship songs and the children were excited to teach a few of their special songs in Amharic. The theme of our skit which each team member participated in was from Deuteronomy 6:5-9. Our three boys on the trip were able to help in our skit, by portraying our theme Scripture, along with showing how we honor our parents, and show respect. Our craft for the day will hopefully be hanging in homes and reminding them that we should all strive to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

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During our VBS time, Karen received a little tug on her skirt from a sweet little girl who excitedly was trying to get her attention. This little one continued to try to talk with her and tell her something. As her mother came over to Karen and a translator walked over the recognition hit Karen, that this was indeed her sponsored girl, Semira! The joy and overwhelming emotion of seeing her, touching her and holding her for the first time brought tears to the mother and Karen.

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In the afternoon we met with a few key staff members and joined in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the official opening of the new resource center. The Ascent Church has helped in funding this and the Mehele Ketema staff and congregation worked on the actual construction of the building. Upon entering the facility we were amazed to see a collage of photos that portrayed the history of our partnership. The photos covered two walls and included everything from our first 2010 trip to last years 2013 trip! What a display of what we can accomplish when we work together for His glory. We then heard the details of this program how much impact they have had on their community. The attention to detail on each individual child is a testament to the integrity of the Compasion program. We then had an opportunity to review our individual sponsored child’s files and see the reports an development of each child. This includes their immunizations, medical reports, family information, grades, etc.

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Sunday

We arrived Sunday morning to a beautiful sunrise welcoming us to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. One of the highlights this morning was getting off of the airplane onto the tarmac, and Wendy literally jumping and bouncing for joy that she had finally made it to Africa!

We got into town had a quick breakfast and drove through the countryside to Debre Zeit. As we arrived at the church some children were waiting to welcome us with roses, sashes and embraces. The opening ceremony was such a warm welcome. We had traditional dance from a choir, children, worship – some which was in Amharic and some in English, along with a presentation of the gospel from Sals, an LDP student (leadership development program). He was a child through the Compassion program at the age of 5 years old at our partner church, and has excelled spiritually, academically and is becoming a leader in his community.

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At the conclusion of the ceremony we were served a traditional bread and traditional coffee and had time to greet some of the staff and elders. This is the 5th trip our churches have met together and we celebrated and thanked God for this partnership. It was a warm welcome and we are thankful for the growth in our relationship.

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We Arrived

Thank you for all your prayers. Our team arrived early Sunday morning with all our bags in tow and everyone healthy. We have made it to Debre Zeit and have been able to meet with our partner church yesterday and today as well. We are so thankful to continue to see the growth of our partnership and relationships growing stronger and stronger each year.

Over the next couple of days we will try and post more specifically about the trip. Until then please pray for the following:

1. Tomorrow morning we will meet with our Child Survival Program moms and children. Sherri will be speaking to these precious women and their children. Pray that their hearts would be open to hear the great message of Jesus Christ!

2. Tomorrow we begin our home visits. These visits are impactful for both the sponsored children and their families as well as the sponsor that is on this trip. Pray for the hearts of all.