I just returned from Ethiopia yesterday. Thank you for your prayers! God’s presence was felt along the way, and many prayers were answered in ways far beyond our expectations. The trip was amazing and I appreciate now more than ever that we serve a great and mighty God. I definitely need time to process all the lessons I learned, but I will try to put some of them into words over the next few weeks. I know blogs are supposed to be short and concise, so this will be a personal challenge.
One of my team’s specific assignments was to supply practical help and encouragement to the individuals we met. The venues varied—a women’s shelter, a juvenile detention center, a women’s conference, spiritual mentors for older girls at a government-run orphanage, the girls themselves, the caregivers at another orphanage, and a team of individuals who find and care for HIV positive men and women throughout Addis Ababa. A consistent story we shared was that of Hagar in the Book of Genesis. (For reference, I wrote about her in a blog dated June 26, 2017) Hagar’s story seemed more than appropriate for our audiences. To recap, Hagar was a marginalized woman living in a culture where she had little value. God found her wandering in the wilderness, called her by name, and then gave her direction. God also gave Hagar promise and hope—she would have a child named Ishmael. Hagar recognized God’s presence and named Him El Roi, which means the God who sees. Of all the attributes of God this one was the most important to her. She was not alone. God saw her.
One morning in Ethiopia I had one of those “ah hah” moments regarding the story I have shared and read so often. A wonderful man of God was giving us a presentation about his work among the HIV individuals he serves through his ministry. Throughout the slide show he showed us pictures of many of the individuals his team has served over the years. One characteristic that really impressed me was that he could recall every single name and story. Reflecting on Hagar, I remembered that God had communicated to Hagar through a messenger—the angel of the Lord (Genesis 16:9). Throughout the Old Testament, God often communicated through messengers. As Dr. Frew was sharing, I could see that God had chosen him to be His messenger today. Today, God uses His followers to share His Word and love to the lost, needy and marginalized. Dr. Frew has been used by God to see the HIV-suffering men, women and children, to direct them with practical aid, and to give them hope.
I realized that was the purpose for all of us on the trip. We were being used by God to see, direct and give hope through the Gospel of Christ to the individuals we encountered and spent time with. But moreover, in modeling God’s love, Dr. Frew, recognized that those he serves are not nameless individuals. Just like Hagar, they each have a name and a story.
I met many beautiful, yet hurting, individuals over the course of ten days in Ethiopia. They had names. They had stories. With the help of wonderful translators, we saw them, we listened to them, and we shared the hope that comes from knowing Christ. We didn’t offer a prosperity gospel. We didn’t promise that they would have a life without suffering. We didn’t promise them that they would one day have fancy cars and homes. But we did promise them that God sees them and will always be with them. And we assured them that we would never forget them. Our church is committed to finding ways to continue to help them.
One day at the orphanage many girls came to us to hear about Christ’s love for them and prayed to accept Christ as their Lord. Some faithful women on our team recorded their names so that we could continue to pray for them. We also wanted them to know we had seen them with God’s eyes. They had worth. They had value. They had stories: Eyerus, Yeabtsega, Frehiwot, Wintana, Meron, Tigist, Betti, Semira, Nigist, Asefu, Lelu, TsiguHana, Sintayehu, Hana, Obse, Birhane, Hirut, Belen, Seadia, Hiwot, Mesert, Yordanos, Martha, Destu, Serkalem, Hayat, Tigist, Mitid, Abersasi, Happy, Bertukan, Meskerem, Ketema, Hiwot, Eden, Seam, File, Selam, Zeleke, Sitota, Getu, Mandafro, Genet and Tinijne. Their beautiful names are now written in God’s Book of Life.
My trip to Ethiopia has been a glorious reminder that God gives us His eyes to see and to be His messengers of hope throughout the world. This is one lesson I never want to forget.
(To all the individuals that made the trip possible, thank you. I deeply appreciate the tireless hours you spent to put into place the details to allow 230 people to travel and then be housed, fed, and used at many different venues. This was my first missions trip, and I was nothing short of amazed. I am sure you would all say that God did the work through you, but I know that it took obedience and much perseverance on your part. I pray that you are now receiving some very necessary rest! I also want to thank my fellow women’s team!. I love each and every one of you. It was a privilege to serve alongside of you. I hope to devote a blog to all of you in the weeks ahead.)