Years ago my grandfather use to own a chair. It was HIS chair. He watched TV in it, enjoyed company while sitting in it, rocked his children to sleep in it, and eventually rocked his grandchildren to sleep in it. One day however, my grandmother bought him a new chair for their house. One that matched a little bit more with the decor. She offered the chair to me and I quickly said yes. . . I say all this because I feel like I've sat in my grandfather's chair long enough. My life has been comfortable for a long time.
Thank you for reading along with my blog posts over this past week. My trip to Ethiopia has brought up many questions and challenges in my life, and I’m praying that these questions change the trajectory of my life and the life of my family. I’ll be forever grateful for the impact that this trip has had on me,
“Being a part of TFC has re-centered our priorities and given us a new perspective on God as Father,” states Ed. “It’s made me realize, without God we can’t do a thing. It’s brought the scripture from Romans 6, the wages of sin is death, to life for me. It’s the stark reality of a little child dying due to our brokenness; we are all broken and I’m broken to the point when I don’t even have the answers. We all need the Lord.”
Hey! Hey ! Hey! From team Ethiopia to all our prayer warriors! We are FANTASTIC! No one is having any stomach issues at this time. Today was our last day of our VBS program with the children. It was awesome.
Church Day! This is a special day for us because we get to visit the International Evangelical Church (IEC). Most of us have been to this church before and all of us admit that we are able to see what the true Christian church should look like. You would not believe the number of nationalities and ethnic groups that are represented. A true taste of heaven!
As I sit here in the terminal at Dullis International Airport, I have a strange grouping of emotions. I've already seen God's amazing provision even before we have left the country. Our flights were pleasant and on time, or team slept well and we're in good spirits. All 14 of our checking bags are accounted for and ready to go. No one is sick, no one is tired . . . God is amazing.
Liz, Misty, and Anna are serving with our amazing Ethiopian team in Addis Ababa this summer. A key part of their work will be to provide training on basic counseling techniques to the men and women who work directly with the street children. The team will be blogging about their experiences, allowing us to get a taste of the amazing ministry God is using to rescue so many children from the streets.
By Anna Gray
It is no longer articles that I have read on street children, nor is it a population that TFC's Ethiopian team struggles to work with, but these children’s lives are beginning to become a reality to me.
In our first couple days of visiting the Drop-In Center, we were the “FERENGIES!!!” (foreigners) It was an exciting time as we were meeting these silly boys, and in the initial weeks, it was a time of utter and complete chaos as we attempted to reign in 20 young teenage boys. But as each day goes by, visiting the Drop-In Center each morning, leading English lessons, joining the boys in soccer games, creating with Legos…, I am getting to see each boy’s personality.
It is a transition in my heart from statistics into a unique set of boys that have chosen to share their lives with us...
Zeden loves to joke with visitors and Haptu is very shy but loves to participate in the programs, and Challa is a natural leader among the boys and tries each day to control his behavior before the younger guys in the group, and I have never seen a boy so hyped up as Yelgacho who is constantly smiling from ear to ear when we sing songs and dance. In getting to know these boys at the Drop- In Center, I am beginning to know their stories, which is giving a deeper, broader, and more extensive appreciation for the team of men and women who work with them each day.
Let me tell you about Abdisa. His mother died a couple years back and his father has remarried. There had been a financial burden within the family so Abdisa’s father made the decision to utilize his son's help by removing him from school and beginning him as a shoe shiner on the streets. Abdisa worked at this career until his father began to take the money Abdisa earned but he was not using it to feed the family. Abdisa soon took all the money in the house and abandoned his family to live on the streets. Abdisa had only been living on the streets for nearly three months when the Ethiopian team took him under their care in the Drop-In Center.
Abel, on the other hand, has found his home on the streets for 4 years. And, he's only 12 years old. Years back, his father was sick and was receiving treatment injections to aid him; meanwhile, his mother had found a new lover. It was discovered after the matter that the new lover was inserting poison in the treatment to end Abel’s father’s life. To escape this home after his father’s death, Abel ran away. Abel has expressed continual misbehavior throughout his involvement at the Drop-In Center, no doubt related to this family struggle. The multiple issues that the staff faces with this single child alone indicates the degree of their efforts on behalf of these children.
And Temazgay is one in the program who has not created an issue the entire 4 weeks I have worked with these children. His family experienced turmoil when his brother died, causing neither his mother nor his father to overcome their grief to provide the basic needs of the child they had left. Desperate to receive education, Temazgay ran. His ambition will melt your heart one second and the battle he faces will break your heart the next.
We were practicing praying and encouraged the boys to write letters to the Lord. Temazgay asked me what he should do because he could not write. I responded, “It doesn’t have to be in English, you can simply write in your own language between you and the Lord.” He states, "I cant. I don’t know how.” – I think, Nothing? Unable to read or write even the simplest statements? Taken back by this fact, I told him he can draw what is on his heart. This day the focus was thankfulness and I look over and see a vague image on Temazgay’s paper. Through translation, I ask and am told it is a book, because he is thankful for schooling. He is so behind at the age of 14 and the only education he is receiving is nearly an hour of schooling at the Drop-In Center in either English or Math and he is thankful for it.
These street boys are children battling against the environment and circumstances that surround them...
Whether it is a physical fight to defend themselves on the streets so that they do not return to the Drop-In Center with a new bump or bruise, or if it is a fight from the emotional distress that engulfs the memories of where they come from.
At this point, 4 weeks in, they are no longer just faces that greet us as we enter the Drop-In Center, but they are children with character and personality, strengths and weaknesses, and dreams and ambitions. Knowing their stories is a testament for how TFC's Ethiopian team works on behalf of these children to secure them a suitable environment that will allow them hope and a future.
Team Ethiopia, a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN, is now on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ready to serve! Here is an update from Meme on Thursday, day seven of the trip. Hello from Ethiopia!
Today was the last day for our program and sports camp. We still have two days of fun planned with the kids, but we finished our structured program with a bang!
The program began with a welcome from Howard and enthusiastic music. It felt like Camp Tsungani as 135 kids jumped and sang, pumping their fists in the air. Ben presented an amazing gospel presentation focused on forgiveness. Each activity picked up where that left off and pressed the total understanding of the forgiveness of God over and over.
In arts and crafts Lana and Lauren had the kids make Salvation bracelets. The materials had been put together in individual baggies by the campers at Camp Tsungani. They even had the meaning of each bead written in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia.
Joe, Joyce and Anna (one of our interns) had letters written asking God for forgiveness. Joe explained that in order to be accepted by God, we must ask for forgiveness for our sins. He drew a cross on the chalkboard and put a garbage can under the cross (credit evans). He had the students tear up their letters with their sins and put them in the trash, representing how God sees our sin when we have asked for forgiveness.
During devotional Cathy knocked it out of the ballpark, with Liz fielding questions, applying the principal of forgiveness to their salvation.
We did get rained out of our sports camp in the afternoon, but we still had a chance for some personal and loving interaction as we walked to the soccer field with the kids holding our hands as they flocked around us, soaking in the sights, sounds and smells of Ethiopia!
Our debriefing periods have been very inspiring, encouraging and always full of laughter and tears. This has been our true bonding time. Our group is so diverse, but we have molded together as one body, serving God as a unit, incorporating each gift that we have been blessed with.
Thank you so much for all of the cards, letters, and notes. We absorb them and read them over and over, laughing, crying (we do a lot of both) and sharing your meaningful words of encouragement. Joe reads the blog and all of the comments to us every morning at breakfast. You will never know how moving your comments are. They are the best way to start the day.
We miss all of you and can’t wait to see you, but God is not finished with us here yet!
Love love, love, Team Ethiopia/Meme
Team Ethiopia, a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN, is now on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ready to serve! Here is an update from Natalie on Wednesday, day six of the trip. We have passed the halfway point of our trip, and we are consumed with mixed emotions. Today was a fantastic day full of laughter and tears.
We started the day with Liz leading us in a powerful devotion about how Christ is giving us the ability to truly influence the lives of the children we are here to serve. Together we sang the song “Thank You”, and it really put it into perspective for us that we might not always see the reward of our influence here on earth. Everyone - from the ones who are sent, to the ones who financially support, to the ones who pray - will reap the reward in Heaven. Howard then made us all laugh at by wearing his ponytail hat.
After a filling breakfast, we headed to the church for another day of activities and worship. Candice continued to do an outstanding job leading the kids in songs. It continues to amaze me that the kids know every English lyric and hand motion to each song.
Following music Meme gave a devotion that captured everyone’s attention (including us). She read the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and taught the kids the importance of praying for themselves. Three of the kids even got up and said what in their life they wanted to pray for. It was definitely an emotional moment for many of the team members.
The kids divided into their groups again and went from station to station. Candice and I (Natalie) took the kids outside for jump rope games. Lauren and Lana helped the boys make shakers out of plastic eggs and rocks. They also truly exemplified Jesus by getting on their knees and washing all of the girls’ feet and painting their toenails. Kelly also got the chance to help with this. Liz led a lesson to the children about praying for themselves where she opened the door to the presentation of the Gospel (credit elaine). At Joyce’s and Joe’s station they had the opportunity to write letters to God filled with their prayer requests.
Sadly, we were unable to play soccer after lunch because of the rain. We headed back to the guesthouse for quick showers and debriefing. I am not kidding when I say quick showers… Liz, Joyce, Lana, Katie, and I literally raced to take the fastest showers so we would all be able to have warm water and be ready in 25 minutes. It was a close race but Joyce was the winner.
After debriefing we loaded up the vans and headed to an Ethiopian culture restaurant. We did “buffet style”, which means we ordered 3 large platters that we were able to share. The food was delicious, but our plates did have some things that were not familiar to us. Lana, Joyce, and Cathy were brave enough to try the intestines. Dinner was served with a show. We all watched and danced in our seats while a group of performers danced cultural dances. There are no words to explain it; you must simply watch one of the many videos we took.
Exhausted and full we headed home for a good night’s rest before another busy day tomorrow. It’s past midnight and technically the next day, so it is no longer my job to blog! Stay tuned!
Team Ethiopia and Natalie
Team Ethiopia, a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN, is now on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ready to serve! Here is an update from Katie on Tuesday, day five of the trip. It’s only our fifth day here in Addis Ababa, and I’ve noticed a change in each and every team member. I’ve seen hearts softened, tears shed, and, of course, heard many laughs. I can say, with a sincere heart, that these people that were once considered strangers have become family. We eat together, live together, laugh together, cry together, and, most importantly, serve together.
It seems as though with each day that passes we all experience something new and incredible. If I could give this trip a theme, as a whole, it would be God’s providence. Every time we turn around and suddenly panic that we may fall short when it comes to serving these kids, God provides, even in the smallest of details, like having enough pencils for the kids to write their love letters to God. If it were in our hands, this trip would be a disaster. We have no choice but to give all the glory to God.
If yesterday went well, then today was fantastic. Shout out to Meme for putting together such an incredible program the kids love! Today was all about praying for others no matter the circumstances. Howard started the day off with the story of Jonah. Cathy led a great lesson that ended with all the kids telling her who they were going to pray for. Joe and Joyce led writing love letters to God and came back with great news that a lot of the kids really took this seriously and genuinely.
We have had a hard time getting some of the older girls involved, but today was different. Lana and Lauren led the girls in making friendship bracelets during crafts, and it was a huge hit. They loved it. It’s funny how God can use something so simple to bring people together and build relationships. It’s very encouraging to watch Lana really connect with these older girls.
In the afternoon, we headed to the soccer field to play some field games. The girls jumped roped pretty much the whole time, and I think if we hadn’t had to leave, they would still be doing it right now. Watching Joyce and Candice try to double-dutch was…well…let’s just say I have some pretty great pictures that they probably wouldn’t want anyone to see. Ben had to explain baseball with your feet, otherwise known as, kickball. They aren’t familiar with baseball, and we don’t speak the same language, but they got the hang of it and loved it. And for everyone who knows Natalie back home, she played soccer and kickball today!
It was a great day for all of us!
Team Ethiopia and Katie
Team Ethiopia, a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN, is now on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ready to serve! Here is an update from Lana on Sunday, day three of the trip. I hate to admit this, especially being called to come on this trip, but in all honesty, I am not a pray-er. I do not pray much, and when I do, it is usually for others. I had a difficult time trying to decide on information to share with you. So while typing this, I asked God to help me push out my negative thinking at the moment and to help me organize my thoughts to share things about the whole team and not just about me and my selfish problems.
Thanks to Madison Frey’s and many others' prayers, the team was able to have a restful night, and we were all excited about the agenda for the day. This morning was sweet. Each morning we enjoy the sound of a an unknown man singing his praises, a lullaby of words that I do not understand, but from the cry in his heart and the depth of his tone, I know it is one of love.
After eating a delicious breakfast of thick waffles, fruit, fluffy eggs, and buttered toast, we met together for our daily morning devotional led by Liz from 1 Samuel 3:8-9. Joe and Kelly gave us the reminder to continue to challenge ourselves to focus on the reason why we are here and try our best to disconnect with the outside world, besides limited updates to family. I also discovered that during our morning devotional praise song, that Ben has a voice like Keith Urban.
The morning remained cool and crisp as we gathered together to attend worship service at the International Evangelical Church. We were all honored with the chance to see Dr. Ernie, Anne, Morgan, Meredith, and Madison Frey again. It was a joy to hear Dr. Frey speak the message to a church filled with different cultural backgrounds and walks of life; we met people from Australia, Asia, Europe, and other countries in Africa.
Dr. Frey’s message, titled, “More than Enough,” from Matthew 14:13-21, was passionately delivered and reminded us that we are “right in the middle of where God wants us to be.” “We have to conquer our lives with a childlike faith.” His message was perfect timing and just what Team Ethiopia needed to hear before we start our week of service and ministry to the children.
After service the team fellowshipped together for lunch. At our separate tables we were able to bond more with one another.
Afterwards, we headed on a search for a field to hold our bible school for the kids in tomorrow. The location God provided for us was more than we could imagine; a perfect size campus with two large play areas and several classrooms and a gorgeous sanctuary. This is my first mission trip, but I could feel Kelly’s excitement and thankfulness for God exceeding our expectations and needs for this mission.
After this amazing high, we returned to the guesthouse to rooms filled with our lost, late luggage. We finally had our supplies and equipment we needed, and we also received letters from our loved ones. We shared letters with one another, laughed and cried; the room was full of blessed feelings of love and gratitude.
After dinner together Ben led us in yet another emotional and reflective debriefing. These debriefings are the perfect part of the day; they are much needed. The team becomes organically honest and open to the questions asked each night. It’s a beautiful thing to see how different team members have been helpful towards one another during our journey with Christ. We are all on different spiritual levels but with the same purpose. Howard has been a father to all of us - his knowledge and encouragement has been instrumental to everyone on this team. The biggest inspiration to all is how amazing, the young ones (Lauren, Natalie, and Katie) are able to interpret their feelings and how awesome it is to see how mature they are in their passion and love for God mixed with their genuine bubbly personalities and laughter. During this night before our big day, we shared crazy moments, first time experiences, and heartaches. We were also blessed with three additional team members: Misty, Anna, and Liz #2; they will be joining us again tomorrow as we serve God and his children.
To end the night, we celebrated Meme, Ben, Ernie, and Nega’s birthday with a first class cake, baked by our one and only…Joyce!! We are now off to bed.... We are looking forward to loving on the kids tomorrow, allowing God to show his love through us. Thank you again for your many prayers and the ones you all will continue to say for us tonight. I am praying as well!
Team Ethiopia and Lana
Team Ethiopia, a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN, is now on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ready to serve!
They've spent the past two days getting to their destination and adjusting to their home for the next 10 days. Here is a report from Cathy on how they're doing.
Day 1: Friday
Travel went beyond smoothly!! Although we had short connections and our flight out of Memphis was delayed about 30 minutes, we prayed and ended up in Houston with time to spare for everyone to go to the bathroom and get some food. Our flight to Frankfurt was smooth sailing, and we arrived with time plenty of time to make our connection. We got a surprise on our way to Addis Ababa: we all got to check Saudi Arabia off of our list of countries to visit! We stopped there to let off about 90% of the passengers, and then we all got to spread out with entire rows all to ourselves for the last 2 hours of our flight. We began to bond more as a team during each flight.
When we arrived in Addis, we got 2 surprises: 1) None of our 26 checked bags made it to Ethiopia, and 2) we were greeted by a wonderful welcome committee of Nega, some of his staff and several of the girls from Onesimus! It was a joy to see their faces and their excitement upon our arrival. We were each given a rose by the girls and hugged (credit elaine). They offered to carry some of our carry-on luggage for us, and we were happy to get them out of our hands after 30 hours of traveling! We took some cold showers and were happy to be clean despite not having all of our toiletries.
Day 2: Saturday
We had a pretty relaxing day getting adjusted to the time change and newness of Ethiopia. Some of us were woken up by a call to prayer from the Muslim mosque in the neighborhood. After we all got up, we had a fantastic breakfast – it was so good it was the highlight of some people’s day!! We had french toast, eggs and fruit.
We also attended a soccer tournament this morning between some of the local teams, and one of the teams was comprised of street children from Onesimus, the drop-in center The Forsaken Children works with. We got to see so many of the kids that are beneficiaries of The Forsaken Children, Onesimus and our Central Church team. They were a joy to watch.
Natalie, along with another couple of Team Ethiopia members, enjoyed playing a little bit of soccer with some of the boys before the game started. Katie and Lauren now have a couple of new boyfriends in the group of Onesimus boys. We also learned that Liz has an extreme love of the game of soccer.
Many people recognize and remember the returning members of our team, like Candice, Joe, Ben and Kelly. And Howard had fun facts for us at every turn, whether it was about Ethiopia or translating a phrase for us.
We enjoyed rest time after the soccer games along with a game of Fish Bowl. Lana did an excellent charade of “photosynthesis”, which Meme put into the bowl! We celebrated Meme’s birthday today!! We had a wonderful cake in her honor. The Freys joined us for dinner, which was another nice surprise!
During our debrief at the end of the day, Joyce told us the highlight of her day was waking up in Ethiopia. My (Cathy’s) highlight goes along with that: walking upstairs this morning and looking out the window at the beautiful view of the mountains and seeing God’s handy work was so peaceful. Despite the poverty and sadness that we see with the street children and so many of the people here, God really is in this place and He sees the beauty that we aren’t always able to see. I was so thankful that was my first daytime view of the city.
As I am writing this blog, the leaders returned with our bags – good news is that Candice’s, mine and Howard’s bags made it, but the bad news is we are still missing 24 bags! Please continue to pray for the bags to arrive along with our team to be effective for God this week! And don’t forget to comment so we can read them in the morning as our “mail”! Thank you for praying for us!
Love you all,