Love. God’s love for us is so huge it’s unfathomable. Love is what should compel us in every action we take. Love isn’t always easy and it’s not always rainbows and butterflies – it’s so much stronger than that. Love changes lives.
Our month long trip in Ethiopia was all about showing God’s love to people. As we went into orphanages, feeding centers, prisons, and churches, it was with God’s love.
Three years ago I went to Hope Enterprise in Ethiopia for the first time. They are the only feeding center in Addis Ababa (the capital) and are able to feed about 1000 people every day. I loved serving there in 2009 and was so excited for the opportunity to go back again. In the last 3 years they have been able to expand their ministry and open a second location where they feed only women and children. As the women came in for lunch we sat with them, used the few phrases we had learned in Amharic, and played with their babies. One of the women in the group I was sitting with motioned to her ear at one point. I asked if she had ear problems, and she said no, but pointed to another lady and said she was deaf. Unable to really communicate with her, but wanting to bless her and pray for healing, I just sat next to her for awhile, smiled, and prayed. I didn’t see her ears healed that day, but I am believing that she was touched by the love of God. Whether or not her ears were healed isn’t the issue. The point is, God loves her. I am honored to have been a part of Him showing her His love that day.
When one of the other teams from our group was there during the kids’ breakfast, after a
student shared their testimony, one of the kids got up and began to speak to the others. We later found out he was saying, “Now we know that God loves us. He sent these people from far away just to tell us He loves us.” That is what we were there for.
Three years ago, we went to a government funded orphanage for the first time. They had extensive grounds that would be great for the kids, but it was covered in trash and shrubs. We spent a week there cleaning up, knowing that we weren’t allowed to talk about our faith with the kids. Our last day there though, the director gave us permission to sing and share whatever we wanted. We had seen such a transformation in the week we were there, both with the grounds and with the kids, and we prayed it would last. This year, we went back not sure what to expect, but were greeted with a transformed orphanage! They now have cows, chickens, and a garden to help supply food, and the school that was run down three years ago is now up and running. It was such a blessing to see the transformation there and to know they now have people who care about the kids working there.
The Body of Christ:
We got to minister in a number of different churches over the month as well. Ethiopia has such an anointing in worship and dance. Joining in their worship is always such a blessing. Every time we went to bless, we ended up leaving more filled than when we had arrived. God’s presence was so strong, that most of the time when we got on the bus, the ‘service’ just continued for us as we drove home. God had told me before we arrived in Ethiopia that I would see someone’s ears healed, and it was at a church service that I saw that word fulfilled. It was our first Sunday there, and as people came forward for prayer, I saw a man with cotton in his left ear. I went with another student to talk with him, and he told us he had pain in his ear. We began to pray for him, and afterward he said the pain was gone! Praise God!
One of my biggest highlights from the trip, was an unexpected encounter with a hotel waitress and manager. Despite having quite a few people in our group who were quite sick, we felt God was telling us to go on our scheduled journey to the north of Ethiopia….a 14 hr. bus ride one day, followed by a 2 hr. bus ride the next day. When we arrived we got to minister at, and be a part of two church services where God again amazed us with His presence. We saw a number of people delivered and had a wonderful time of rejoicing together over God’s love and healing. Ethiopia has a lot of witchcraft and demonic activity (alongside Holy Spirit activity), and deliverance happens a lot in services – kind of like in the Bible. That alone would have been worth the trip! But, on our last night in our hotel, we had the opportunity to pray for one of the hotel waitresses. I was blessed to be one of the five people who prayed with her. Her name is Almaz – which means diamond in both Amharic and Ukrainian! She used to walk with God, sang in her church choir, and led all of her siblings to the Lord. Through different circumstances, she hasn’t been walking with God for the past few years. She told us that the first day she saw us, she saw us with our Bibles and said, “God, you sent them here just for me!” She knew she wanted us to pray for her before we left, and all her co-workers tried to talk her out of it…but she insisted it was something she wanted and something she needed to do. It was such an honor to pray over her and encourage her, to see her heart that desired to return to God. And that’s just what happened that night! As we prayed with her, she recommitted her life to God!
As we went upstairs to share with some of the leadership, we found out that the hotel manager had told a couple of people in our team throughout the week that he also wanted us to pray for him before we left. He was standing nearby, so we called him over, and ended up going on the roof to pray over him as well! He was raised in the Orthodox church, believes in God, but wasn’t walking in the fullness of forgiveness through Jesus. We prayed over him and encouraged him as well, and then he prayed and received the forgiveness that Jesus was offering to him.
That night for me was the reason for the trip. It was amazing to think that, had nothing else happened on that trip to the north, God cared enough about these 2 people (there was also a 3rd lady that some others in our team got to pray for that night as well!) that He would have sent us all that way just for them. That’s how much God loves people!!
(children pictured in the banner at the top)
H.O.M.E is a ministry that runs a daycare program for disabled children. Every time I am there, these children teach me new lessons. They are rejected by society, yet they are so full of joy, welcome you in, and give their love freely with no questions asked. We can’t communicate with them because of the language barrier, yet their smiles say so much! These children are so precious. I’m not going to lie and say that it’s an easy ministry for me – snot and saliva aren’t my favorite things, and there is plenty of it when hanging out with kids. But that’s one of the lessons I learned from these kids this year – my worship doesn’t count for much in a nice church building if I can’t go and love on these rejected kids. God has showered me with His love, and that’s the love I’m called to love others with. The people who dedicate their lives to the children at H.O.M.E are such amazing people. Daily, they go and give of their time and lives to these children, placing value on those their society would call worthless. God’s love is so visible in that place!
Captives set free, and Shabbat with a Messianic Congregation:
In addition to these ministries, we also had a service with 100 prisoners (five of which got saved that day! – the majority were already believers), and we also ministered in 2 messianic Jewish communities. We had the amazing privilege in one of the congregations, to teach them the elements of Shabbat (Sabbath) and how to celebrate this day of rest. Five of their women came to our hotel, and 2 of our staff members taught them to make the traditional bread, challah. Then that evening, we gathered with them to welcome in Shabbat together.
This entire year and our time in Ethiopia changed me and touched other lives as well. Every story I’ve shared happened because you prayed and sent financial support. These aren’t just my stories, these are your stories as well. That’s how God’s kingdom works – some people give the finances, some pray, another goes, and we all are counted as faithful to the call. I am so blessed by all of you who gave towards my time at GTS this year. It was such an incredible experience and such a blessing to return to Ethiopia a second time. Ethiopia holds a special place in my heart. God’s blessings in my life overwhelm me, and I’ll never forget the things He’s allowed me to see and be a part of. I am overwhelmed by His love and so grateful for the work He has begun in me…
P.S. – I’ll be writing one last ‘school’ blog soon about what God did in me this year, and what the next steps are that He’s revealed to me.