We made it to Addis Ababa!!!! WITH ALL of our bags!!! WOOHOO!!! Sorry for the long post, but a lot has happened in 3 days and I am a talker!!
--Short version: We had quite an adventurous trek out here, so thanks to those of you who prayed for an adventure! Lots of flight drama, God’s presence was very real and He is always in control, Jesus was preached and our bags came at the same time we did! We saw the Bridges, had amazing coffee, watched a Christian concert performed by our translator Biruk and ate at a Texas themed restaurant called Rodeo! If you want the details read on…. Day 1-2 (travel days):
We got to Memphis, almost all arrived by our target time of noon and we were totally checked in, taking our team picture and saying “see ya later” to our loved ones by 1 pm – I’m pretty sure that’s a new record for Team Ethiopia!
After some interesting security checkpoint hang-ups, we got to the gate only to find out we had been delayed by 30 minutes. No one was concerned, we had a 4-hour lay over in Chicago before going on to DC. The 30 minute layover turned into more like 45 minutes. We finally boarded the plane and got out to the tarmac ready to take off only to find out that we were being rerouted to go around the bad weather coming up from the south towards Chicago. This new route required more fuel, so we taxied back to the gate to refuel where we were allowed to roam about the cabin and get off the plane if needed (luckily none of our team members were misplaced!!).
We arrived in Chicago with plenty of time to spare, so after trekking to a new terminal and then back and forth through that terminal deciding on food, we all found dinner and met back at the gate. Around then, we noticed that our flight to DC was delayed by a half an hour. This bummed us out a little since we were already going to be getting less sleep with an estimated midnight arrival at the hotel for our overnight layover, but no one grumbled (much). Around the time of boarding we figured out somehow that our gate had been changed, so we all booked it (back to the other end of the terminal!) to get in our boarding zone section. Once we boarded (about an hour delayed at this point) and everyone was on and buckled, we had another adventure. The captain came on to make an announcement that a MOUSE had been seen running into a lady’s bag on the plane! They got the bag off of the plane, but the bad news is the mouse was not in it! So, rather than giving the stowaway a free ride to DC, they had to decommission the aircraft until the situation was resolved. This lead to A LOT of grumbling and a few of those were from our team. But in it all we trusted that God was in control. There was some reason for our delays, refuels and now this. As we were disembarking, they announced not to leave the gate area, as they would try to get a new plane. Well, if you know airlines at 10 PM, you know that there is likely not one available just at the drop of a hat. But God decided to show his hand with a miracle. Within 10 minutes of my getting off the plane (I was one of the last off) they announced a new gate (back to our arrival gate!) and all hundred and something passengers ran to get to the new gate. At this point, we had calculated we would likely get around 3-4 hours of sleep by the time we got to the hotel and had to turn around and leave again for our final 13+ hour leg to Ethiopia!! Well, praise the Lord there were no hiccups with this new airplane and we got to DC and our hotel around 3:15 AM, each of us had quite the comfortable nap and our last long hot shower for a week and arrived with time to get everything done we needed to for our Ethiopian Airlines leg of the trip (thanks to the foresight of our fearless leader).
I tell you all of this, not to complain, but to show God’s hand in it all. While it was annoying that we were delayed, God used that. He knew from the beginning that we would get here in one piece and our flights were scheduled so that delays didn’t affect our connections. And he USED it all…I had started a conversation with the lady next to me to find out her eternal security – with MUCH trepidation, but I did it – and since I felt such a strong pull to talk to that first seat buddy, when the 2nd flight had issues and a plane change I just BLURTED out to the guy next to me prior to deplaning “So with all of our flight issues, I must be on this plane with you for a reason, so DO YOU KNOW JESUS?” Seriously, I am still in SHOCK that I even said those words to this Indian man who it turns out is (non-practicing) Hindu. Not even THINKING that we would eventually be back in those same seats just on a different airplane! I mean, talk about awkward! Haha! But again, the Lord used it! In my odd boldness, I had opened up conversation about what we were doing in Ethiopia, which engaged the man on the other side of him and both heard about the work we will be doing and our reason being Jesus. I didn’t blatantly spell out the “Romans road” but I shared what Jesus has done for us, he has done for the world and those kids and they won’t know unless someone tells them. They won’t feel His love unless someone shows them. It’s all about Jesus; it’s not for our personal praise. Apparently the Holy Spirit was working on all of us separately because after I shared my crazy experience different team members were talking about how the Spirit was pulling them to talk to their seatmates as well! By the end of our 35-hour journey, 4 or 5 of us had conversations to determine (and possibly change) the eternal security of our seatmates on each of the flights (the others were sitting by teammates, so they weren’t given the opportunity…but there is always the return trip!)!!! Praise the Lord for His work and the Holy Spirit and the team’s obedience even in the seemingly awkward and uncomfortable situation.
Day 3, Saturday:
After arriving from the long flight, with all of our bags (have I mentioned ALL of our bags made it???) and the minimal amount of sleep, we were greeted by a welcome committee including several of The Forsaken Children (Onesimus) staff members and halfway home kids and our loving home-grown missionaries, the Bridges!! It was a wonderful reunion for those of us returning, and a pleasant surprise for those who have never had the welcome committee experience before. Much catching up with the Bridges, a few naps, some lunch, orientation with an amazing coffee ceremony and then we were off to see a concert of our wonderful and talented singer/songwriter/translator, Biruk. He has such a love for the Lord and an amazing talent. The room was PACKED full for the debut of his most recently released CD. The love of Jesus is so very present among those Ethiopian young adults! We ended the night with dinner at a Texas themed restaurant called Rodeo! Although, the staff was all wearing the wrong color (burnt orange), it was still wonderful to see reminders of my home state all the way across the world! And the food was pretty good, too!
Our debrief for these first three days included many, many tears of joy as we laughed about things that happened on different flights, things people said and did (that I personally had not been privy to sitting so far from the rest of the team!) and caught up with how we are all doing at this point in our journey.
As I sit here finishing up this blog, I am currently listening to the Muslim call to prayer. It is fasting season during Ramadan right now and so there are many, many calls to prayer throughout the day, night and at the crack of dawn. As annoying as the noise may be, I am also reminded that 30% of the population here in Addis Ababa is Muslim. They are devoted to a god that is not real or alive. They do not bow and pray to the One True God and their eternity is not secure in heaven with Him. It makes me really stop and think about how I am to think about this situation. I was sitting by a natural born Ethiopian man (now American citizen) on the airplane on the 13 hour flight from DC and after telling him a little bit about what we were headed to Ethiopia to do he very quickly revealed to me that he is a Christian. And his perspective on the lost was a wonderful thing. He told me that when he encounters darkness – whether an average annoyance or more blatant evil/darkness – he thinks almost pitifully of the person. He is sad that they are not saved and knows that their “lostness” plays a huge factor in the situation at hand, so he prays for them rather than reacting in a way that would be displeasing to the Lord (something, I’m ashamed to say, I personally struggle with…)
Now pray that we all get some good rest tonight (and all week - that’s a prayer with these Muslim calls to prayer going on round the clock during our stay here) and start the day tomorrow fresh and ready for Church!!
Love, Cathy and Team Ethiopia Street Kids
PS. Don’t forget to Comment – we read them allowed each day to one another for encouragement and reminders that we have a whole team of prayer warriors on the home front!!