I have been home from Ethiopia just two weeks and save for the part about being with my family, the reentry has not been easy this time. Instead I go through my days with frustration, questions, crazy thoughts and a feeling of uneasiness that is different than I have experienced before. I go through my days feeling like I have been torn down layer by layer. I go through my days wishing I could give more of myself and more of our “stuff” away. I am certain these feelings are normal and as I type I am able to feel gratitude as I know that God has created a stirring and He is making way for more changes in my heart.
Each time I visit Ethiopia I am brought to my knees by the struggles I see women and children endure. I am wrecked and broken by my absolute lack of gratitude for all the protection and luxuries in my life. I am humbled by the freedoms and the voice I am openly able to share. I return to the land of plenty asking what are we doing all this for and what really matters when I have now seen the life and death plight of so many. Why do I get to live with every opportunity when many who we spent time with would do anything for just one? I can imagine by now I am annoying anyone still reading with my questions but I know the questions are valid and I dare say that God expects those of us who encounter life changing moments to ask the tough questions not only of ourselves but also of others. It’s the questions that drive me .
My personal story of doing all of this afraid in my forties as a busy mother of four is certainly not everyone’s dream. Frankly I never knew it would be mine. I love the call, but the mission feels so big and often I wonder if I will ever truly make a difference. That of course is the wrong question as this journey is not about me. My life has been radically changed by my journeys to Ethiopia, the adoption of our daughter and certainly through the sponsorship of a son who will soon graduate high school and seeks a future plan.
It is about the changes God has started in me so that my choices and my actions can better align with His needs. Some may think I am a bit nuts, lost if you will. Maybe I just need to get over it and get back on the ole American grid, the roller coaster of speed and doing it all no matter the cost, but oddly enough for the first time in my life I feel a sense of awakening and purpose that I never saw coming. I think I need a bumper sticker that says “Africa changes everything.” The brokenness, the tear down, the challenging things I witnessed. They all have purpose. They are relevant to the changes God is asking for me to make in my life. These are the very reasons more of us should go and see. Maybe more of us could stand to have our layers pealed away. There is a place for short term missions and for many, one trip may just turn into a lifetime of connections and a lifetime of trips. Only God knows what is next, but in the midst of my processing and the turmoil in my head I do know this for certain… All of my Africa days have been given as a gift. Each ministry we visited, each child we watched fall to her knees in worship, each story we heard from the mouths of young children, each family or young person we met who has designated their lives to the call, each child we held who waits for a parent to call his or her own. each beggar or prostitute we saw on the streets, their stories matter and their lives are valuable. This is true because to Jesus they were the very people He would have spent time with and they were the very people he sought to know, love and redeem. They are the very people near and dear to His heart. The Africa we saw was just where Jesus might have gone. It is where He would have found beauty and hope. We did too.
So as I continue to dig through so many images and notes I took while viewing both the beauty and the sadness of Ethiopia, I would invite you to journey with me. It is my hope that I might be able to use the awareness I have found to encourage others to engage and connect. Maybe more of us can partner to help right here at home and also in Ethiopia. Before heading to Ethiopia for the very first time I can remember asking God to break my heart for what breaks His. He has done just that and answered my prayers in so many bountiful and challenging ways. Maybe you wonder what going and serving might look and feel like in your life. It’s a valid question but I would invite you to look at it from another direction. What might it feel like for God to see you going and serving, be it in Africa or in your own needy community? What might it feel like for God to see more of us step outside our fears, schedules and safety nets to give ourselves away? We are the solution and we have been given the mandate to be His hands and his feet. Take it one step further and remind yourself that to that one woman, one child, one leader or one organization you may be the very person they have been waiting to meet. I will be headed back to Ethiopia soon through One Child Campaign and I would be delighted to have you join me to learn, serve, love and dream with those who need it most. You just never know what could be waiting for you around the corner when you take that first step. Like I said, for me, Africa changed everything!
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to learn more about upcoming trips go to the One Child Campaign website.
Peace and Grace to you,