Why did I go to Ethiopia at age 61?

Why did I choose to go to Ethiopia, not once but twice, when so many people here in our own country do not know the Lord? Shouldn’t I be focusing my efforts and time reaching them? This is a question I have asked myself. In fact, it is probably one of the major reasons I waited until I was 61 to go on my first mission trip! And it probably wasn’t until I completed my first trip last year, that I could fully articulate the reason and answer to this question. 

When I first became a follower of Christ at the age of 33, I joked that I was afraid God would send me to Africa as a test of my faithfulness. While in my heart I knew God did not send all His followers to Africa, I have been grateful that my path of discipleship has kept me on American soil! I have tried to live my life according to James 1:22—to be a doer, not only a hearer of God’s Word. And over many years I have taught women to do the same, which might include for them overseas missions work. My husband and I have also supported global missionaries and our local church through our giving and tithes. But all of this “doing” has been from the comforts of my own home. 

Last year, however, I began to check my heart. I began to ask myself if I was in fact “doing” all God called me to do. Jesus said:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 Matthew 28:18

Jesus has all authority.

Do I believe that? I have studied the Bible and read through the Old Testament many times. I have studied the Prophets. I have examined the promises of God to send not only a Savior to rescue me from slavery to sin, but One who is Lord and King. Who else in history fulfills that role? Jesus alone. From His birth to His death and Resurrection we see that He was the promised Lord and King. That means He has all authority—He has all authority over my life, which means I need to be obedient to all He has commanded. 

Go therefore...

Go. That simple word pierced my heart. Was it time for me to take the Word of God outside the comforts of my home? 

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? ...So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

 Romans 10:13-15,17

Still, many in the world have never heard the good news of the Gospel. Last year I learned about the orphan crisis in Ethiopia. I was told that many of the older girls and boys end up on the street when they age-out of government-run orphanages. How would they ever hear God’s Word? Could I be part of the solution—part of God’s plan to reach the nations? I could not ignore the command any longer. I knew God was sending me. Last year, in one day, our team led 67 of those at-risk girls to the knowledge of Christ. Over the past year many of those girls have been discipled through a mentoring program. Many blessings come from obedience, and I have experienced an incredible joy from seeing lives changed. I have also experienced peace from knowing that I am “doing” what God has commanded. 

And, I am aware of the irony. God did send me to Africa after all.