Hey Sweet Friends, I wanted to post some pics I’m getting back from the team! I also wanna post a couple of thoughts I got earlier this week from my girl!
We are here!! We are officially one full day into our Ethiopian adventure and it has been amazing. The flights were long and travel was exhausting but we’ve managed to get some good rest. I’m so thankful we made it here safely, though without our bags. More on that later.
Today we went to our first school in Addis Ababa. It is a Buckner school and one of the first in Ethiopia to have kindergarten. We walked through the fence into the school yard and about 200 kids were all lined up and waiting for us. We barely reached the back of the school house when they kids rushed us all wanting to give handshakes, hugs and kisses. In a moment of pure and beautiful chaos, we all mingled with the kids and tried to hug as many as we could fit in our arms. After our extended greetings we sang with the kids and headed inside to start VBS. I was in the group with the youngest kids, all about 4-6 years old. We gave them coloring sheets and crayons and let them color their little hearts out. After about a minute of coloring, each kid would hold up their drawing and yell “Miss! Miss!”until you acknowledged them. When one kid did, the next immediately followed. They would yell to get our attention until we specifically addressed how amazing each painting was. Our translator taught us to say “Gobez!”which means “good job”and “looks great”. After another minute of coloring, the cycle would start again. Each one just wanted to be reminded over and over that they were doing it right and that we loved their masterpieces.
We broke for lunch and came back to our same groups to pass out shoes. I will never be able to describe the moment of cleaning a child’s feet and putting on a new pair of socks and shoes. It is so tender and beautiful, and heart wrenching all at the same time. The school collected the shoes sizes ahead of time so all we had to do was pick a pair and match them to a child. As we began and they started to see what we were doing, the shouting of “Miss! Miss!”started again. As we moved from child to child, I could see the panic in some of their eyes that their turn never would come. The joy that the last few children expressed as they received their new shoes was an amount of joy that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. They realized they were not forgotten about and they they too would receive a new pair of shoes.
After we passed out shoes, we got to take the kids outside for recreation time. We brought soccer balls, beach balls, jump ropes, balloons and bubbles for the kids to play with. One of the other volunteers, Allison, and I gave ourselves bubble duty. We started blowing them everywhere and instantly had a pack of kids jumping and trying to pop them. The laughter they had over soapy bubbles was contagious. I started giving them a chance to blow their own bubbles while I held the wand in front of their mouths. My hands were quickly covered in soap and spit and all the while we just laughed and laughed. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a group of people as joyful as Ethiopians. Every person I’ve interacted with has only been even kinder than the one before.
Towards the end of the day, one kid reached up and knocked my hand that was holding the container of soap that I would dip the wand into. The soap spilled all over me and I’m embarrassed to admit my first emotion was frustration. As I said earlier, we got to Ethiopia safely but our bags did not for three of us. I was one of the three. All I had was the outfit I wore on the plane, one extra shirt and one extra pair of underwear in my carryon. So to spill something on one of my two shirts was not what I was hoping would happen at the school. After a nano second of annoyance, I just started to laugh. The thought that popped into my mind was, “Of all the things that could have spilled on me today, it was soap. Not paint, marker, mud or dirt. SOAP. The very thing I could wash out and actually make my 1 of 2 shirts both cleaner and better smelling.God has the best sense of humor. As do Ethiopian children!
At the end of the day, the only way I can describe how I’m feeling is joyful. My heart is absolutely overflowing with joy and love to the point where I feel it could burst. I have fallen hard for these Ethiopian children and I cannot wait to spend this week hugging as many as I can.
I love all these pics!!
Please continue to pray for the team. They fly home tomorrow. They actually fly out late on September 11th. I know God has had them, has them, and will have them. He’s been in every crazy detail of the trip. I can say confidently someone didn’t want this trip to happen! But guess what? He did not win! And that just makes me smile! Of course that’s not to say that bad things don’t still happen; we all know they do. But I believe with my whole heart God had an intentional purpose for this trip. Did the enemy get a few shots across the bow? yeah, he did. Fear crippled some. Not all of the shoes showed up in time (they’re coming tho! And the kids will get them!!), and I could name a few others. But here’s the verse I’ve been meditating on all week. It’s from Isaiah 55:11 … “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” God sent his Word the past 10 days with our JOY family. What He ultimately intended, happened. Children were loved, the gospel was shared, and Jesus was lifted up! Even on the eve of the terrible tragedy that happened 13 years ago, we all know how the story ends….WE win in the END!
I’m praying this Psalm for the next 48 hours until they’re safely back on home soil. Thanks for praying with me!
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.
9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”