It was a long day. But, it was a strong day. The medical clinic kicked into full gear, the DownLine Conference continued with a new group of pastors, and we were able to fellowship with some pretty amazing people this evening.
All in all, our day was filled with an abundance of God's passion and mercy. Shad Berry, John Ozier and I will try paint a small vignette of what each part of our day looked like from start to finish.
Medical Clinic at Drop-in Center by Nicci Feathers
Oh boy! Best day YET! The medical clinic began today and we were at the drop-in center all day!! I got to spend 7 solid hours with the kids!
First, I just need to say that for a free medical clinic this was the most organized event ever! In true Nega fashion, no stone went unturned. The medical team was able to see just over 130 patients in a 7 hour day! Beneficiaries and their families were invited to the drop-in center for care. Dr. Collier and Kelly pulled many teeth and Dr. Cattau and Dr. Scobey checked many patients and wrote many prescriptions. At the end of the day, many of our new friends were smiling and very appreciative for the help our medical team was able to provide.
In describing her first day at the drop in center Sylvia (our nurse) says, "This is a 1st for me- a medical mission in a foreign country. After today, God willing- it won't be the last! Amazing! Such sweet, wonderful people."
Eileen (our other nurse) added, " It was magnificently wonderful! The children are beautiful and have the most amazing and happiest spirits. I'm so humbled to be here serving the children of Onesimus and Ethiopia."
On a personal level, I was able to pick up the pieces of my heart for a moment today! In truth, all weekend I have struggled with not getting to see the children and I have had to pray for God to show me that this is not about me and my wants but it is about Him and His needs. But, our God is a gracious, giving God and today, He provided and my heart is so full. Seeing those sweet faces, hearing them call my name, and playing with them for hours was pure perfection. As I was playing with them, it dawned on me that this is so similar to my relationship with my Savior. When He sees me, when He calls my name, when I call out to Him, and when I spend time investing in Him, His heart must burst just like mine does here in Ethiopia.
I am so humbled by what God is doing in me through Ethiopia. Many times I have said, "Ethiopia changed my life." But this morning, as I loved on my sweet babies, I realized this was not a true statement. God changed my life. He just used Ethiopia as His hands and feet to me. Now, it is my job to carry out my mission for Him- with The Forsaken Children and beyond. Our mission field is endless.
DownLine Disciple Training with Pastors by Shad Berry September 19, 2011
The vision and purpose of our trip and partnership with The Forsaken Children and Onesimus came into full view today. Our strategy and hope is that through this partnership DownLine can play a role in helping support and build stronger churches in this community, which in turn will build stronger families, and thus a stronger Ethiopia. With the discipleship conference and the medical team in full affect, we were able to get a glimpse of how this partnership could support that effort.
DownLine kicked off our second three day conference with Pastors and Church Leaders at the seminary. Over 50 men and women came with the intent to gain a more in depth understanding of the New Testament standard of biblical discipleship. These pastors have influence over several thousand men and women throughout the country that attend their churches.
The more we get to know these students and pastors the more we understand the challenges they face as they seek to live out the gospel and make disciples. On one hand there exists a very real tension between the Evangelical churches of Ethiopia and the state run Coptic Ethiopian Church. On the other, many of these pastors are leading congregations and evangelical efforts in strong Muslim areas.
I couldn’t say that there aren’t any Christians in the state run church, though many of the testimonies of the pastors and students I have met indicate to me that there is a much stronger faith in the Orthodox Church itself as opposed to a relationship with Christ. Members of the orthodox church that leave the institution experience significant persecution and hostility for their decision. The church I spoke at on Sunday morning was new to that particular part of Addis Ababa and they have encountered threats and hostility from their Orthodox neighbors BUT have experienced a gradual sense of acceptance and remain optimistic things will continue to improve.
Other pastors and students are studying to be better equipped to reach their Muslim neighbors with the gospel and disciple them in Christ. There is sobering mix of conversion stories and hostile responses to some sharing their faith with their Muslim friends and neighbors.
In every case, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope, and the faithful process of making disciples is the strategy. The encouraging news is that these are committed followers of Christ with a love for their people and a desire to see them transformed by the gospel. They express their gratitude for our presence here daily and the importance of the training. We pray that everything we teach will prove to be useful for them as they seek to mature, make, and mobilize disciples in Ethiopia!
It is a wonderful privilege to witness their faith and love for one another and the Lord. They are a very affectionate people with tender hearts. They have an evident countenance of peace and trust that is contagious and admirable. Steve, John, Dr. Cattau, and myself will all teach at the conference tomorrow as well as spend some time with the medical team. Thank you for your continued prayers!
Dinner with a Legend by John Ozier
Wow, I'm not sure if there was ever a more encouraging ending to a long emotional and amazing Monday. If I stopped breathing in my sleep tonight and my mind be shuttled into the presence of the King, I feel there's a good chance He might say, "how did you enjoy meeting with my beautiful servants, Marta and Deme???". Truly, I'm not sure if I've ever met a couple who have LIVED such a dramatic and extraordinary LIFE with such humility, class, humor and grace. As I looked into Marta's near 80 year old sparkling eyes, I felt as though I were speaking with the best of both the queen of Sheba and mother Teresa. And Deme's rich life was portrayed to us in warm smiles, quick wit, and humble encouragements to keep following Jesus with compassion.....wherever He leads.
Their personal stories are encapsulated in a book that Marta wrote called Sheltered by the King. It's an amazing story that God is still writing as they are finishing strong with their increasing passion for what God is doing at their own Project Mercy ministry just a couple hours south of Addis Ababa.
Marta actually labored to cook us a traditional Ethiopian dinner while Deme told us stories and answered questions. Her humble elegance and class is unarguably without match. She and Deme gave up a quiet evening to entertain 15 strangers with less than 24 hours notice. They made all of us feel as though we were family and pleaded for us to visit again. Oh and by the way, she and Deme will be hosting US Senators and Congressmen this time next week.....which is a step down from all the world heads of state that they've entertained in that same living room over the last 50 years.
On behalf of the Team, John Ozier
We appreciate and covet your prayers more than you could ever know. Our days are long and our bodies are weary and your prayers carry us. Please continue to lift us up so that we may be most effective during the rest of our time here.