Our team returned safely back home to the U.S. on Wednesday after a long 31 hour trip home. Whew. I am happy to be back home but it feels odd to have my heart halfway across the world at the moment.
We arrived in Addis almost two and half weeks ago today. We were immediately greeted by the friendly faces of Ethiopia which I will never forget their warm smiles and serving hearts. The first portion of our trip was mainly spent with a program called 'Women at Risk' which brings women out of prostitution and into counseling, job training, Bible studies and into a community of people that love them. These women were incredible and their stories were hard to hear. By the 2nd day, our team literally forgot that these women were prostitutes because of their huge hearts and faith in God. We taught them how to sew, knit, washed their clothes and had a spa day for them! They taught us how to sing and dance Ethiopian style. :) To me, they truly represented God's grace and how he can take the worst of a situation and make it into something beautiful. I've never heard such passionate praying and praising!
The second portion of our trip we traveled to a town called Ambo. Remember at the beginning of this email where I said I left my heart? It can be found in Ambo. Each morning we taught English at a school for Compassion International children. If any of you know someone or if you sponsor a Compassion child yourself, let me say that it makes a huge difference in their lives! The children love learning English and they like to just love in general. It was RARE that myself and team members didn't have a little hand in each of our hands.
Then there were the street boys. The sweet sweet street boys. Their ages ranged from 6-19 and were completely homeless for various reasons. Can you imagine? It's still hard for me to wrap my brain around that thought. We spent a morning teaching English and provided lunch for them. I've said this a few times, but I keep imagining them as 'The Lost Boys' from Peter Pan. They are rough, dirty and the kindest children you'll ever meet.
The most impacting part of my trip was a conversation I had with two of the boys named Danny and Gautar. It began by me asking them what they'd like to be when they grow up (a common question here in America). Danny's answer was "I want to help people"...and then he proceeded to say through a translator "How can I help anyone? I am nothing". After a few minutes of myself and a team member trying to persuade them that they are smart and SO special, Gautar chimed in.."God has forgotten us. Its the cards we drew. We don't want money, we want someone to love us." I had to be honest with them and say that I struggle with why God allows bad situations to happen to really great people. I went on to tell them that the truth is, sometimes really hard things come our way but I've seen over and over again how God uses that to make something beautiful. I have to believe that although sometimes I question my gifts in life, I believe one of my gifts is to encourage and I encouraged the heck out of those boys. I was given a chance of a lifetime to hopefully convince them that they are amazing and that they haven't been forgotten. I know these two boys will make a huge difference in their community especially if they've already made a difference in our team's lives half way across the world.
To say thank you for your support would be a huge understatement. I am SO very thankful for your support of this trip and this experience. If it wasn't for you English wouldn't have been taught to hundreds of kids, meals wouldn't have been provided and Danny and Gautar wouldn't haven't known that we really really care. I'd love to make you some Ethiopian coffee sometime as a very small way of saying thank you!
With so much love and amesege'nallo' (Thank you in Amharic)