But the HOPE is here.

But the HOPE is here.

This place is amazing. Even in unrest, even in a national state of emergency, even in poverty, even in addiction, and even in brokenness…the best work I can come up with is amazing. But that’s all of us, right? Completely broken, but amazing in the eyes of the Father?

Donor Spotlight - Ed & Liz Gillentine

Donor Spotlight - Ed & Liz Gillentine

“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.”

Team Ethiopia: He Provides

Team Ethiopia: He Provides

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.

Team Ethiopia 2014 Day Nine

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 Cathy on Saturday, the ninth and final day of the trip. Today is our last day here!! I can’t even believe how quickly the time has gone, but, at the same time, it seems like forever ago since we saw that first soccer match the day we got here.

Today was another day of sports and recreation! It was also another beautiful morning full of sunshine and breezes! God is good. We have had overcast days everyday until yesterday, and today was just more blessing with the beautiful sunshine.

We started the day intending to do a street race with the kids, but the traffic police wouldn’t allow us to close the streets for the hour or so that it would take to do the race. But, never fear, we improvised and did the race at the soccer field.

100_1261Before we started the race, Joe told all of the kids about the people in America that did the Run Your Street 5K in honor of this race. Then our race began. Four laps around the soccer field was enough to get my lungs burning!! Meme, Lana, Liz, and I all did the race with the kids. I finished 2nd to last and Liz finished last. But hey, we did our first race in Ethiopia!!


Following the race, we did the “real” soccer match of the staff against the kids (apparently, yesterday was practice). Candice and I played, and Candice scored a goal! I was on defense and just followed one of the staff member's lead because I don’t know anything about soccer! But I will say they did not score on me! Liz was back up for the goalie, but Fikadu did a good job as our goalie, so Liz was never subbed in (credit elaine). The staff won 2-1! The sniper that Kelly McGugan sent fulfilled their duty and doused Candice with water after the game. They also got me with one bottle, but I was definitely not soaked like Candice!


After that the kids played their soccer match. We were all yelling like crazy as each team scored points. Lauren got her hair done by a couple of the girls during the game, and it looked really cute. The game with the kids was wild!! The teams were tied 5-5, and then they went into a sudden death shootout! Each team scored 2 goals. The last player to shoot was an Onesimus player, and he SCORED!!

DSC_0089aBen, Kelly and Joyce were excellent fans of the soccer games and, of course, went WILD every time Onesimus scored. The whole crowd went wild when Onesimus won the game!

Katie took some fantastic pictures during the game today, and Natalie spent her time on the sidelines with the kids. We have all really grown to love these children in the short time we have been with them.


Unfortunately, Howard wasn’t feeling that great today, so he rested on the sidelines and in the car for a little while. But so far so good with him. Pray he is completely healed during the flight home.

A few of us tried our hand at bargaining at the shops to buy a few gifts and souvenirs. It is always a joy to haggle with the locals. Luckily, we had our trusty translator and driver with us to help us!

Pray for safe travels, no delays, no bag misplacements on our trip home. Also pray for our connection in Germany to go smoothly, customs to go quickly and easily, and that everyone stays well on the flights home!

We are all exhausted after this wonderful week. Thank you ALL for reading, supporting, commenting and praying for us during this journey of ours! You are all a part of it with us!

We are loading up the van as I type this, so I will sign off. We will see you Sunday night!!

Love from Team Ethiopia and Cathy

Team Ethiopia 2014 Day Eight

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 Cathy on Friday, day eight of the trip. Today was a FULL day of fun-filled activities, rain, a visit to the lake and TRAFFIC, lots and lots of traffic.

We started the day by getting up an hour earlier than usual so we could head out to Debre Zeit, a city outside of Addis Ababa, for a field day with the kids. We hit rush hour traffic in the morning and witnessed “fast food”, Ethiopian style - people on the side of the road were selling bread and waffles during traffic. It was definitely different.

On the road to Debre Zeit, we passed the dump. The dump is not only a dump, but also a community of people. They use the trash and trash bags to build little houses for themselves and their families. It was smelly and disgusting, but God reminded me that He loves those people the same as He loves us.

Once arriving in Debre Zeit, we made about 4 u-turns before heading to the correct location. Imagine 3 city busses full of city kids and a van full of a bunch of “forengees” (that’s what the Ethiopians call us foreigners) making u-turns on a 2-lane road that runs in the middle of a bunch of shops. It was quite comical, I’m sure.

We had around 130 kids come today, and they were beyond ecstatic. Imagine telling your kids you are going to Disney World, and that is what this field trip was for these kids. We planned a field day for them with games like volleyball, baseball, soccer and three-legged races. Ben, Joyce, Howard and I (Cathy) tried to teach the kids to play baseball. They seemed to get the concept after about 30 or so minutes, but all they wanted to do was bat, so we base coached and played the field positions to let the kids bat. We definitely each got a turn at bat, though.

DSC_0151a-smallJoe joined in on the baseball after awhile, but first he and Kelly started a round of volleyball with the kids. Apparently, volleyball is really big here in Ethiopia, so all of the kids really enjoyed that as well as the staff. Lana quickly joined in on the volleyball game and had a lot of fun scoring points for the other team! Kidding! She did great.

DSC_0287-smallNatalie, Lauren, Candice and Katie all played soccer with the kids, and I can only imagine how much fun they had with them. Katie continued to take fabulous pictures throughout the day as well. Liz played goalie during the staff vs. kids soccer match and was faithful to watch all of our stuff during all of the other games.

We have to give a huge shout out to Meme for planning the fabulous field day and being flexible when it didn’t go quite how she planned it, but it was the best day ever for those kids, the staff and all of us.

DSC_0041a-smallWe had another Ethiopian lunch at the compound and ate with the kids. It was our last traditional Ethiopian meal of injera (the big tortilla-like bread that Ethiopians eat with every meal) and tibs (meat in sauce). We played soccer with the staff against the kids for about 30 minutes after lunch and then right on cue it started raining around 2 PM.

Then we all loaded up on the busses and van and headed to the lake, which was another special treat for the kids. I am not sure what lake it was, but it was the most beautiful view with the mountains in the background of the lake.

JZ4A7775 copyWe played more games with the kids there, including a piñata type of game where the kids were blindfolded, spun around seven times, and then tried to hit the pot that has chalk dust in it with a big stick. The first one was broken by one of the kids, but our very own Meme broke the second one!

DSC_0038-smallWe had a wonderful send off from the kids and staff, all of them thanking us for taking the time out to come and serve and love on the kids. We were all very moved by the words the staff had to say to us. Then we got a special treat: the testimony of Fikadu, one of the boys who has successfully been through the program from life on the street to living in the halfway house. It was so amazing to hear the story of one whose life has truly been changed by the work that Onesimus does.

I know I am way over on the blog, but I have to give a huge shout out to our driver for the week, Tess. He has been phenomenal, but nothing compares to tonight. We hit traffic jam after traffic jam! And when I say traffic jam, it’s not an American traffic jam. There are technically lane markers, but no one follows them, so there are about 5-6 cars wide on a 2-3 lane road all honking and trying to get around each other. What should have been about an hour or so ride home was just short of 2 ½ hours. Exhausted from such a long day and stuck in traffic, we could have been jumping down each others' throats. But, instead, for the last 30-45 minutes of the drive, we sang praise and worship songs a cappella in the middle of the traffic jam. As much fun as I had with the kids today, that was the highlight of the day for me, imagining God’s smile as He listened to us singing praises to Him.

We finally made it home. Praise the Lord, the staff here at the guesthouse kept our dinner warm for us! Tomorrow is another early day, so I’m off to bed (and possibly to shower if we get the water tanks refilled). Thanks for reading and commenting! We read your comments every morning and love love love to hear the comments from you all!!


Team Ethiopia and Cathy

Team Ethiopia 2014 Day Five

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 2014 Day Four

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 Lauren on Monday, day four of the trip. We kicked off an amazing day with a wonderful pancake breakfast and headed to Emanuel Church where we were welcomed by all the Oneisimus children and staff. We were greeted with both signs and balloons. They also served us some authentic Ethiopian coffee and some interesting milk along with delightful treats and cake.

After the welcoming ceremony, we drove to the Lutheran church where we are hosting the program for the children here in Ethiopia. Candice and Natalie started off the program by pumping up the kids with music and corresponding dances. Afterwards, Howard spoke to the kids about the many things we can thank God for.


Then we broke the kids off into groups and our team leaders - Ben, Howard, Katie, and Misty - rotated the kids between four different stations to enjoy many different activities filled with fun and learning.

Candice and Natalie  led music and games at one station. The kids learned how to worship the Lord through song and had lots of fun dancing to the cha-cha slide.


Another station was arts and crafts. There Elana, little Liz, and I (Lauren) showed the kids how to make a bookmark in hopes that one day  they would be able to place it in their very own Bible.

At another station Liz and Kathy helped teach the children again about the importance of thanksgiving.

And at the last station, Joe, Joyce, and Anna taught the children how to directly communicate with God through love letters. Today they specifically asked the kids to tell God what they are most thankful for.


Overall, the team had a wonderful day, and everyone enjoyed playing and loving on the children. Some were even able to catch up with old friends. Also, special thanks to Meme and Kelly for helping the program run as smoothly and efficiently as possible!

Impact - A Conversation with Farm Hands


Yacob and Markos It is so exciting to see how the Kota Ganate Hatchery is impacting lives even before the first chick has been sold! This is exactly what the “Chicks for Change" campaign was all about.

Recently, we sat down and talked with the farm’s two hatchery technicians, Markos and Yacob, and asked them a bit about their lives and work. Both 22, their stories are common throughout the rural areas of Ethiopia.



Yacob with freshly hatched chicks.Yacob, as the eldest child, quit school to help his family financially. He spent years doing strenuous farm labor for just 5 birr per day (5 birr equals a quarter in American money) before coming to Kota Ganate. He has worked with the farm for three years and is enthusiastic about his new position as hatchery technician.

However, it isn’t all about the money for Yacob. He is seeing his spiritual life changed as well. In his own words Yacob said, “Now I believe this will change my life. Not only the money, we (the staff) also do bible study and pray together, which will also change my life. It makes me closer with God.”





Markos working with freshly hatched chicks.Markos also worked in agriculture before coming to Kota Ganate, and he prefers the atmosphere at this farm. He commented that because the work isn’t as laborious as what he has done before at other farms, he has strength for other activities and isn’t worn out at the end of the day. He enjoys this because it allows him time to read, both his Bible and other subjects of interest. Markos is excited about the impact the farm can have on the community. He sees the farm as a way to show God at work in the community. He commented, “Because the staff believes in God and pray, people who don’t know God from the community will come to know Him.”


Markos and Yacob showing off incubator.Yacob and Markos have learned new skills in their new positions that will serve them both now and in the future. They understand and are excited about the impact that Kota Ganate can have on the community both financially and spiritually. Here are a few responses they gave to the question, “How will Kota Ganate benefit the community?”

  • Direct support of beneficiaries – especially giving them access to education. (Something he missed out on)
  • Increased job opportunities.
  • People will learn about God through the example and witness of the staff.
  • Provision of better, cheaper supply of poultry products – Chicks to raise, as well as, eggs and meat.
  • Supply of other farm products – apples and seedlings, grass (used as hay for milk cows), electricity (we allow neighbors to tap into our electrical lines).


We are so thankful for the opportunity Kota Ganate affords us to invest in the spiritual and material lives of our farm hands as well as the community. And we couldn't do it without the support of people like you! Thank you for donating, and please pray for us as we share the Word and the love of Christ at Kota Ganate.

The Endless Thread of His Love

The Endless Thread of His Love

What happens when people—children—are denied this sense of permanency? When girls and boys are forced to make their lives in the streets where the only thing permanent is the deep ache of hunger, loneliness, and despair?



Recently some good friends of mine asked their kids, “What Christian do you know that should be famous?" One of their children answered, “Mommy and Nega Meaza.” This child had met Nega during his recent visit to Memphis and had heard him share many testimonies about how God is transforming the lives of street children through his team. She also has a mommy who has visited Nega’s ministry in Addis Ababa and is an amazing advocate for what God is doing there. So, from what she has heard and seen, she thinks Nega deserves recognition and fame.

Can I just say here that I agree with her! But I would add a few more names to the list…

Teaching BibleI would add Fetla, the spiritual mother to dozens of children who have left the streets. She has made such an investment in each child. You see, Fetla prays hard, serves hard, and, most of all, loves hard. She is a member of Nega’s team who sees things through spiritual eyes and boldly shares the Gospel to the lost children she serves.



I would add Mesfin to the list of Christians who should be famous as well. Mesfin has grown into the team member who knows each child’s situation, where they can be found, and what needs they have. I think of him as the worker bee who gets little recognition for all he does.

I would also add Taye to the list. Taye is the one on Nega’s team who swells with excitement at the prospect of equipping the church in Ethiopia with strong, biblical teaching and discipleship. He longs to see churches willing and able to join his team in caring for the children no one else wants anything to do with.

Metu and AbazuAbazu should also be on the list. She spent years being a mother to many children who otherwise were without a family. As a house mother at one of our halfway homes for children who have been rescued from the streets, she was the member of Nega’s team that showed many children that they were indeed worthy of love. So many children have seen Jesus in the flesh because of Abazu’s example.



I would add Jonathan and Jess Bridges to the list as well, a couple who have left the comforts of the U.S. and planted themselves in the remote village where the Kota Ganate Ag Project is located. They raise their two precious children in this place because they have seen how their skill sets can further the Gospel if they are willing to give up creature comforts and invest in what Nega’s team is doing.

And, finally, (I could actually go on and on!), I would add my wife, Karyn, to the list of Christians who should be famous. For years she has sacrificed her natural desires for putting down roots, for owning nice things (we do have some of those), and for so many other things so that we can pursue God’s call to minister alongside Nega and his team. Everyday she pours herself out for our family so I can focus on TFC and it can continue to impact Ethiopia’s street children with the Gospel. She’s amazing!

I love this pic of two of my favorite people, Karyn and Nega


Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me, because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them. ~ Job 29:11-12


The Permanently His Campaign needs your help to see Nega's amazing team establish a permanent drop-in center for the street children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Check it out!