by Kelly McGugan, TFC Sports Ministry Intern
I am back from my third trip to Ethiopia in 12 months and it seems to get more difficult to leave each time. I am always left with a lifetime of memories and this trip was no different. However, this visit allowed me to experience the journey to Ethiopia from a different perspective than the previous two trips and was without the comfort of my wife as she was forced to sit this one out due to school.
While this trip turned out to be
extremely busy, ... God was in it all.
The trip held a wave of emotions for me. Like Joe Bridges, Director of TFC, experienced leading our short-term mission (STM) trip last year, I was charged double-duty assignments. Not only was I leading a STM team, I was also overseeing another project that I had started back in December 2010 - a sports ministry program. I remember thinking last year that Joe never seemed to sit down and just relax, as well as spend much time with the kids. This proved to be a similar fate for yours truly because as soon as we made it to Ethiopia, I hit the ground running.
While this trip turned out to be extremely busy, we were able to get a lot accomplished and God was in it all. I’ll try and sum up the pieces of my journey, both the Sports Ministry and the short-term mission trip, giving an assessment of how each went.
As some of you may have read in previous posts, I helped start a sports ministry program when I was in Ethiopia last December. During the start of my time as TFC Sports Ministry Intern, we developed a soccer tournament through Onesimus with eight total teams, four teams in two age divisions. The matches were played on a small dirty, rock field and anyone who was around could run on the field and disrupt the match. Not many people showed up to the matches and because the field was so small, we were limited in how many players could play.
This time we secured a field from a local university in the middle of town which is a full-sized football (soccer) field with grass and no rocks. We doubled the amount of teams that played and had honored guests at the match ranging from government officials, university presidents, directors from Sports Friends, Ethiopian Premier League players from 3 different teams, and even one player on the Ethiopian National team. Players, coaches, and referees all received awards for character, MVP, most goals, and many other accolades. All-in-all it was a great finish to the tournament and a wonderful program.
I must admit, I came to Ethiopia this time around thinking it might be my last trip for a long time. With some important decisions to be made in the near future with my family, I honestly thought as long as I got this sports program off and running, I would not be needed anymore as the Ethiopians could take it and manage it. I’m seeing however, that this is not in God’s plan.
Although my Ethiopian friends are capable, I quickly learned through the conversations with missionaries there as well, as through relationships that I forged with local officials; God still has a lot He wants to do with me in this incredible place. Though we have seen great strides made with the sports program, there are still mountains of work to be done.
Short Term Missions Team (You can read more specifics about the experience of the STM team here.)
While you try and explain to people who have never been to Ethiopia what to expect, nothing can really prepare a person for the city until you actually see it for yourself. The first day we were there was fun because we were able to take in a football match through the sports ministry program, go to church, and go up the mountain for an Ethiopian welcome ceremony. Once the week started at the Onesimus Drop-In Center, God began His best work. The ladies, all seven of them, rocked the VBS program and started making what would be lasting friendships with the kids and staff. While there was a lot of fun, games, and laughter to be had, on the inside, a lot of hurt was also happening.
When one has lived a pretty comfortable life – easy access to food, shelter, medical care, technology – going to Addis Ababa can be difficult to comprehend. Seeing and hearing the stories of how the children there are growing up can be heart-wrenching. Many tears were shed by the team at each night’s debriefing sessions and in some instances, one would question where God is in all the muck. However, throughout the week, the Lord appeared and made His presence known countless times and allowed everyone to see that He does some of His best work in the muck. God, in fact, loves it.
In the end, most everyone on the team left with a feeling of sadness because their time in Ethiopia had ended and we all had to go back to the daily grind of our lives. I pray, however, that like I did last year, these ladies from the STM team will be ruined for the people of Ethiopia - ruined for the children and wanting to make a difference - ruined so bad that they countdown the days until the next trip to Ethiopia – ruined so bad that they realize their God wants more of them in all facets of their lives, even at home.
Ruined for the Ordinary