Monday – November 15 (part 2)

It’s hard to get back into my chair to work. I’m writing this post, back in America, reflecting on our activities on Monday. It’s hard… As my mind floods with vivid pictures of children’s faces living in poverty, rusty dirt-filled tin villages with thousands of people, mud huts, child led homes, pain… pain of mothers who do not look into the eyes of their newborns in conditioned fear that they might lose them. They simply go through the motions of survival – feed them, grow them and treat them medically if possible. This is simply their reality. Mothers cannot pour all of their love into their newborns because it’s very possible that they’re child will die. In Ethiopia, 1 out of 25 children die before they are 5 years old. This is their reality.

Monday, Part 2 – After our morning with 200+ children, it was time to shift gears to our final farewell with our sister church. Our team gathered in the church building with the church elders, pastors and church staff. Every event is treated as an official ceremony – opening with prayer, a few words to announce the agenda, ceremony, then closing thoughts and prayer. The project coordinator opened us in prayer, gave the agenda and called on the visitors to take the floor first. I shared my heart with these powerful men and women of God trying to express the wisdom, encouragement and deep felt bond that we experienced in these few days. As I looked them in the eyes, I saw a group of Christ-followers that have inspired me. Some who have lived through great persecution, others who have selflessly dedicated their lives to children and those who tirelessly and passionately preach the message of the gospel with honor, courage and dedication. I presented them with a gift for their church.

As the chairman of elders stood to share his thoughts to our team and to Tri-lakes Chapel, you could sense wisdom. He is a professor at a bible college, gifted in teaching, which is evident as he spoke to us. “Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” Psalms 68:31. He referenced this passage in several conversations we had and again during this time. He expressed his gratification of freedom and the opportunities that Ethiopia now has to live out this verse – Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God. A partnership bigger than we know.

They presented a hand crafted beautiful cross to our church, the solid symbol of our partnership. A reminder that Christ is the true source of our unity. They also presented us a group photo of our day on Saturday with all of the sponsored children specifically from Tri-Lakes Chapel – can’t wait to post those photos (soon, soon – I promise).

The floor was open for others to share a word. Darcie stood and shared a special thanks to the children workers for their commitment and hard work. Mark shared an US Air Force coin to the Major (who served in the Ethiopian Air Force). Others shared their grateful hearts to one another. A great time to a long lasting partnership.

We ended our time breaking bread together, enjoying a meal and conversing with one another. As Africa time slipped easily by us, I received a nod from our Compassion representative letting me know it’s time to wrap up. I stood and shared my final farewell until we meet again. We all embraced each other and said our good-byes.

Off to Addis Ababa. An hour long drive, time to reflect. As we drove toward the city, I watched out the window and tried to put together what all of this meant. Two different cultures, two different churches, coming together to accomplish one call – to advance the Kingdom by sharing hearts and reaching children in the name of Jesus our Lord.

We’re Home

Our team arrived safely into Colorado Springs yesterday afternoon. Throughout the next two days we will post more on the last couple of days on the trip – as well as some amazing photos! Thank you for your prayers. God is good!

Monday – November 15 (part 1)

Part 1 of 2
Today was our final day in Debre Zeit. Our final day with the children and the people of this wonderful church. Because of luggage and ministry bags, our team split this morning with Katie, Mark, Darcie & Nikki heading to the church first in the ministry van. The hope and anticipation was to have them set up for VBS between 830-900a before the 200+ kids arrived. Jay and I stayed back with our Compassion representatives to view the rest of the compound and consider options for future teams.

When we arrived at the church and hour or so later Patricia (our Compassion rep), Jay and I were mobbed by over 200 children that were waiting for us to come. Mobbed – is kind of a gentle way of stating it – these children were hanging on us from all directions, multiple ones trying to kiss our faces at the same time, multiple ones trying to get up into our arms, and many trying to hold our hands. Have I mentioned before that it would be really nice to have a few more arms/hands??? It was only later after the event was over, did we find that Katie, Mark, Darcie & Nikki arrived to a mob of children as well – and had been with these children for over an hour – ‘hanging’ out! One girl on the team struggled to keep her pants up as kids continue to pull on her and on the clothes, another was surprised to find that groping is just part of being in a mob – am I painting a picture yet of what this mob looked like?. Let’s try this picture – Beautiful faces, precious intent eyes, fine features, smiles, giggles and laughter…

Once we had everyone settled into the church, we began with our greetings to all of the children – from all of you – our supporters and their supporters. Nikki & Darcie did a great job of planning most of our VBS. We then went into our Bible lesson – the armor of God. Our fearless leader, Jay, was a wonderful model! More picture to come as he was ‘dressed’ in armor! Once the lesson was done we led them through several songs.

Finally, we split them into 3 groups – 2 groups for crafts, and one for English lessons. I believe Jay and I got the easy end of the deal when we took 40-50 children between 3 & 4 years old to teach English. And talk about smart! Children in this culture, if they have the opportunity (which they do through Compassion) go to school at the age of 3. Jay and I were amazed as we went through the alphabet, through their numbers all in English – and they almost all knew them. Not only that, but when writing on the chalkboard – they could recognize every letter – AND tell you a few words that begin with EACH letter. For those of us with 3 year olds back in the US – well, we have some work to do, to get our children to that place! 45 minutes with 40-50 children in a room about the size of a hotel room (slightly bigger) was a fun experience. As they continued to be excited in taking part, we found ourselves up against the chalkboard a couple of times having to take a moment to get the kids back into the room. We had one pupil in particular who was very proud that she knew several of the answers and could raise her hand and share – a mom! A mom, who probably is learning this with her child and never had the opportunity to go to school. I well up in tears as I picture her face so proud that she knows her ABC’s.

We then reconnected with the other group – the older children. Due to time – we could not rotate all sections, so we joined them back in the sanctuary to find – pandimonium. Our brave team members had the tough job of handing crafts out to all of these children. In a place where children have NOTHING = it is almost impossible to keep them in seats. They want to come and grab things out of your hands, not sure that they will receive anything. Reassurances of ‘there is enough for everyone’ does not measure up in their minds – and they feel the need to receive NOW to make sure they get something. A piece of paper and colors – is something that they can horde. It truly makes an impressions on each of our lives as we watch.

We closed with prayer, with singing, and then with much intimidation on our parts – we pulled out lollipops. Let’s just say – if we just walking in brought such excitement, if pulling out crafts brought this much joy, picture candy – a VERY rare treat! We stationed 2 of us at each door and then they had to ‘file out’. Picture orderly filing out – after you’ve heard mob! Needless to say – the candy was a hit!

It’s now Tuesday morning and there is not enough time to share – as we have another full day. More to come probably once we’re back in the US, and there will be many photos to come! Please pray for us as we fly out tonight – Tuesday night at 1130p.

Sunday – November 14

The experience of Sunday worship with our partnering church was amazing, with a surprise! We started our day off with a devotional from Kimberly sharing a word of encouragement as we talked about why God brought us on this trip and waiting in expectation as to what He will do in days to come.

So the surprise at the church service, a wedding ceremony! What an honor to be able to experience the joys of an Ethiopian wedding. We began with worship, passionate, heart felt worship. The Kale Hewyet Church is a thriving church with over a thousand members. Though it was all in Amharic, the worship was still incredible. In the midst of worship, the brides maids began to make their way down the aisle. And then the bride and groom made their way down. The Pastor spoke a message about marriage and unity. Then the bride and the groom publicly spoke their commitment to each other, a beautiful sight. There was much rejoicing, singing and praising God for His power and glory. After the wedding, we were invited before the congregation to give a few words, a greeting from Tri-lakes Chapel and introduce ourselves individually. The service ended shortly after, we greeted some of our sponsor children that came, met some of the people with warm hugs and appreciation. Even more exciting was to see some of our sponsored children who are not believers, brought to church by their parents.

Once the service ended, about 2 1/2 hours later, we made our way to lunch to a local restaurant with a few of the church elders, the pastor of the church and a couple Compassion staff. The food was excellent! Some choose from the ‘International’ menu and some from the Ethiopian menu. There were great conversations among the team and the church as we shared our lives – families, jobs, life’s joys and struggles. One of the evangelists from the church was pleased to report that one woman from our evangelism time on Friday came to church!

A conversation that I was eager to hear was one between Mark, a retired Lt. Coronal of the US Air Force and the chairman of elders, a retired Major of the Ethiopian Air Force. As the elder finished sharing about his experiences, with a smile, he told me that he had just “reported” to his boss about his life. We all shared in laughter. We a great time of fellowship with these mighty men of faith.

As the conversations continue, we decided to move on to our next agenda item – our leadership and strategy for future years. The meeting went well as it was facilitated by the Ethiopian Compassion project facilitator. It was a visual of the C2C program with Compassion being the bridge lived out. We opened in prayer, shared a few words of appreciation for each other, then launched into conversation around partnership growth and next steps as we move forward together as sister churches. We came away feeling closer, connected, clear on many levels and eager to communicate with each other our visions, goals, prayer requests and day to day lives that we live from a far. We serve an amazing God!

A few highlights from each team member:
– church service, wedding
– children who recognized us from previous days were eager to come up and connect. Our pew that held 4 – quickly held 7 as little kids ‘snuck’ into our row and jumped up in between laps.
– to see sponsor children with parents who do not usually go to church
– asked to pray on the spot for a sponsored child illnesses
– The eagerness of the elders wanting to communicate with us, to build our relationship
– sweet elderly lady with one tooth and thick glasses at church who loved on us
– passion of the church service

A few lowlights from each team member:
– raw chicken served for lunch for some, hard chairs sitting most of the day
– jealously about not having their sponsored children at church service while others were able to see theirs
– listening to the stories and struggles of the Muslim influence and the Orthodox lifestyles (we definitely witnessed and experienced the Orthodox as the chanted/sang literally 24 hours on Sunday over loud speakers)
– the realization that suicide is almost unheard of in Ethiopia – in a place where some people are utterly destitute and have no hope in the life here on earth, and yet somehow we see Americans who consider suicide as an option of choice

Yes, our days have been full. Full of highs, lows and hearts that are growing more in love with Ethiopia and God’s beautiful people on the other side of the world.

Saturday – November 13

Oh what a day! 80 children all sponsored by Tri-Lakes Chapel people showed up at the campground where we were staying – Kirufta Lake. To be honest – it is hard to explain what this day looked like. The unexplainable joy of being with these kids who hung on us, loved on us, kissed us and just wanted to wrap their arms around us and have them hold them was more emotional than can be expressed.

The first 40 kids (between 7-12 years old) came in and came running down the hill to jump in our arms. As we walked toward the pavilion you would not have seen a dry eye in our group. We greeted them – for all of you – the sponsors. We let them know on behalf of Tri-Lakes that we were there to love on them. And that love that you and us share – comes from God alone. We had each of the children draw pictures, write their names, and then we took a photo of each of them. Once children were done, they went to the field and began a variety of games, activities and singing. Our next group of children came and we were all eager to be a part of the greeting crew – as another 40 kids (3-6 years old) came running down to us to jump in our arms. We spent the next 5-6 hours playing duck, duck, goose, tug of war, singing ABC’s, saying our numbers in English, Mark & Jay – wrestling with the boys, hokey-pokey and much much more! We needed you all here – to play these games with us. We walked away wishing we had more arms/hands to hold more of these beautiful children’s hands and carry them.

A few highlights from each team member:
-recognizing & picking out their personal sponsor child out of the group after praying specifically for that recognition
-bear hugs from the kids
-“my sponsor child accepted me today”
-power of touch – “touching these children – they are impacted and so am I”
-no judgement between children in regards to what they wear – while one is wearing shoes WAY to big, another is wearing sweats with his tie and suit jacket, another wearing pants folded up multiple times
-as we took photos, I was able take a few seconds to study each face and look them directly into their eyes – as we spent time with them, they became individuals, not a mass group

Once these children left for the day, we had a very tired, very emotional group of individuals. We closed out our day with a devotional from Katie and time of worship.

Friday – November 12

Our day began, with a brief devotional from Nikki while we ate our breakfast outside at the campground conference center where we are staying. Our team knew that todays schedule was filled with a lot of anticipation. Today – we get to meet our sponsored children, their families and visit their homes!!

4 of our team members went and saw their 3 children they sponsor. The homes and families – varied greatly, from those filled with the hope of Jesus Christ and those who were in despair…. I’ll let them explain in another post about their experiences.

2 of our team members went to see their two children. Our two boys were precious. Neither family were believers and yet their children are receiving the Good News and they are blessed by God’s love. These two families were a blessing to us as they welcomed us with loving arms into their homes, offered a coffee ceremony at each home, and a snack – popcorn, roasted chickpeas and toasted barley & peanuts. What a joy to hold these boys in our arms, to find out about their hobbies, likes, family styles, education…  We also had the opportunity to encourage them in their faith, encourage their parents in their parenting and training, and encourage them to study well in school. We also made sure to invite these families to come to church this Sunday while we are there.

The afternoon also was filled with anticipation – to be honest, a different type of anticipation as we knew that we would be doing street evangelism. Our afternoon was a growing experience for all. We went out to the suburbs (aka: countryside). We had one evangelist from the church for each of us on the team. We then went out into the community and shared our faith with those who were willing to let us share and the evangelists interpreted for us. Here are just a few quick encounters we had with those individuals from our 3 groups.

Group #1: A lady we met was so concerned with the now, so concerned with her children and their education, the water for her donkey, only the needs of the very important – those of today were what mattered. As we continued to share – she was willing to listen to us share our faith, but she had no concern on whether she was headed to heaven, her concerns were of the here and now. What a sorrow to see.

Group #2: The spiritual warfare was ever present – a family was wiling to let us share with them and gave us the honor of asking us to sit (in the cow patty field). Sitting down was a sign of respect. While we were sharing with this elderly couple, their sons came and became indignant that we were sharing Christ. They had elevated their father to a ‘prophet’ role as he was filled with a Spirit, most likely demon-possessed, and wanted nothing to do with hearing about Jesus Christ. Again, what a sorrow to see people so opposed to the Good News.

Group #3: Another group of us came upon a family who were harvesting their wheat (teff) with their machetes. The dad, mom and two boys came to us and let us share. It became clear that this family knew about Jesus Christ – but when asked about their assurance of where they would go when they died, they did not know. We spent quite a bit of time sharing that they COULD indeed know and have that assurance. We prayed with them and they repeated the prayer to ask Jesus in their lives. A newer church (ran by one of the evangelists as an outreach center) is within walking distance and they were invited to attend. We encouraged them in their roles as parents to raise their boys with the intimate and personal knowledge about Jesus Christ. We left with hugs and kisses for everyone. The evangelists were unsure whether they truly made that commitment. And while we don’t know – we will pray that God and His angels were rejoicing that day and will plant that seed deep within their hearts.

As our Compassion guide shared – don’t be discouraged by what happened today – we planted the seeds, God will grow them. They might not have wanted to talk with us – and really HEAR what we had to say about our faith, but that night you can be sure, their community heard that these white people wanted them to go visit this church to hear Good News. We don’t know what will happen – but God is in control – and He knows the hearts that have been touched.

As each group returned to the van we had arrived in – we found a group of children waiting for us to come – and they came running to us to sing. We had a joyous time hugging and loving on them. These children were no doubt, the poorest of the poor – no education or schools in the area, living out on the land. Many had probably never seen a white person. These children were filled with joy and contentment and we enjoyed even this short amount of time. They were a big highlight for the team.

While coming out to evangelize was filled with a little nervous anticipation – truly stretching us out of our comfort zones, we left feeling like this was indeed a wonderful time.

Thursday – November 11

After arriving at the Christian guest house the night before, close to midnight we crawled into bed – hoping for sleep after many hours of travel. For many of us, we woke up from a sleepless night (due to jet lag and a huge time change) ready for breakfast. We enjoyed a good meal, an encouraging devotion from Mark, some time with a fellow believer we met (the owner of the hotel and previous Compassion employee), then loaded our van heading for Debre Zeit to meet with our partnering church.

As we traveled outside of Addis Ababa, we began to see the poverty and primitive lifestyles of some. A different culture from what we know in America, was definitely becoming more evident – from cattle and goats roaming freely to donkeys carrying supplies on their backs. There were many people roaming around the streets, some selling vegetables on a blanket as their means of earning a living, young mothers with their children strapped to their backs and many others sitting, walking or waiting for the day to begin or end.

We arrived at the church with a warm welcome from several young children presenting each of us with roses and a smile on their faces that I’m sure reached Colorado. It was the best welcome you could ever ask for. We greeted the children and some of the church elders and staff who were there while the others waited in a room for a formal and traditional greeting.

We continued to a room filled with elders, pastors/evanglists, program workers, church staff and volunteers. The presentation began with a warm welcome from the church, introductions from both them and us and a time of open discussion. We began to feel a partnership, a bond, as we freely discussed challenges and means to offer support to one another through prayer and encouragement. As time went by, we agreed that we would have more time in days to come to discuss how we can further our partnership. The coffee ceremony was next. A few women, in traditional dress began to roast the raw beans, grind them, then brew over an open fire. The smell was great and the taste of fresh coffee even better. They also prepared a big round bread set in a basket. When it came time to cut the bread they called on a “Priest” to come and cut the bread. Mark and I became honorary ‘priests’ and participated in the traditional cutting of the bread. We ate, broke bread, enjoyed amazing coffee with these God-fearing brothers and sisters.

After lunch we were honored to step into greatness and kneel down to the level of a child and enter into their world for several hours. This was a blessing as we played with some of the children from little babies to 3 year olds who are part of the Compassion Child Survival Program (CSP). This was a highlight for many on the team – smiles on their faces and giggles that could stop time. Priceless.

Along with other activities that day – Mark was able to talk with the CSP mothers about physical therapy, 50 pair of shoes were given to the children, and a few of our team members were able to share a word of encouragement to the mothers.

Dinner, an exhausted team and bed were calling after a great first day in country.

We’ve Arrived

Yes, after 27 hours of travel we HAVE arrived! Our bags have arrived as well.  For those interested, the current time in Ethiopia is 10 hours ahead of Mountain Standard Time. We have enjoyed a nice breakfast, a decent nights sleep with all the noises and smells of Ethiopia.

After our devotions together this morning we will be driving to Debre Zeit.There we will meet the pastors and staff of the Kale Heywet Church, and after lunch with them, we will meet those involved with the Child Survival Program – those young children from birth to 3 years old.

Thank you so much for your prayers for our team throughout the last day and half. We really did have a great trip – with no problems! We will continue to keep you posted – pending internet access.

The day has arrived and we will soon!

We are excited to see what God has planned for this trip. It is a quick trip, but a start as we lay the foundation of our partnership. Our current schedule (which we know can change at any moment) is this: one day of meeting church staff and possibly having some medical discussions (by those on the team skilled in this area) and painting (for the rest of us). Another day we will spend attending their church services and again spending more time with them. This will be a strategic time for us as we discuss how and when future trips will be done, what are the needs they have and what are the needs we have, working toward a 2-way relationship. (more…)

Compassion Children Sponsored by Tri-Lakes Chapel

We are SO excited that we have this opportunity to partner with a Compassion Program – C2C – Church to Church. Our church, Tri-Lakes Chapel, is partnering with Kale Hewyet Church in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia! The child sponsor program through Debre Zeit has 295+ children.

Currently our church sponsors 79 of these children. What a huge blessing – to them and to us!

On October 24, we will be meeting at the church at 1230p in Room 100 to spend time writing letters to our sponsored children. Those of us going on the trip in November will be there and are anticipating a great time of meeting you and then meeting your children while over there and representing you. Please join us that day.