What a day we have had! 24 hours of flying and we are here safe and sound. Thank you to all of you who prayed for safe and smooth travel because those prayers were answered. Every flight, every ticket, every security check, fell right into place with no problems. God didn’t stop at just our physical needs. He allowed us to experience His creative power in a magnificent sunrise at over 35,000 feet, above the clouds.
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
There is very little that life in the U.S. shares in common with life in Ethiopia. This makes it difficult to prepare our family for our life once we return to Ethiopia at the end of this year. However, we may be more prepared than not… You see, I have noticed something about my wife that is so cool. She really tries hard to keep us connected with aspects of life in Ethiopia.
Karyn’s attempts are subtle, but when I look back over the past few years, I see a very clear pattern of her efforts.
Ethiopian food – this is a big one. Food in Ethiopia is vastly different from what we typically consume here in the U.S.
In fact, Ethiopian food looks so different from what we typically eat that many Americans don’t even recognize it as food at first. For example, here's a shot of Karyn's chosen birthday meal last year from our favorite Ethiopian restaurant...
Karyn has intentionally put us in front of Ethiopian food over the past few years. From going to Ethiopian restaurants to cooking up Ethiopian dishes in our home, she is always helping to recreate that love for the food that we all shared (even our two oldest kiddos, Jack and Mac) while living in Ethiopia in 2009 and 2010.
Running – If there is one thing that’s true about Karyn it is that she LOVES TO RUN. I think her fondness of running only increased after living in Ethiopia… The land of amazing runners.
Her dedication to running over the past few years has often perplexed me – I’d much rather eat some Ben and Jerry’s and watch The Biggest Looser – but I think I get it now… it’s another way she stays connected with something that is very Ethiopian.
She even gets our kids involved...
Karyn came up with the concept for the Run Your Street 5K, which takes her love for running and matches it up with an actual race that our beneficiaries participate in each June on the streets of Addis Ababa. I know she would love it if you would register to run this virtual 5K!
Hospitality – Okay, you may think you’re hospitable, but unless you’re Ethiopian, you don’t know the true meaning of that word.
Guests are the most cherished and honored people in Ethiopia.
Ethiopians love to be together, to have guests over to their homes (even if their homes are nothing more than a 1-room mud hut), to feed their guests mass quantities of food (even if they REALLY cannot eat another bite), and to sit around a coffee ceremony to enjoy each other.
Hospitality is a beautiful part of Ethiopian culture and one that doesn’t come naturally to Karyn or me. You see, Karyn does love people and even guests, but she has this ingrained sense that she MUST be prepared (clean house, meal planned, kids presentable, etc…) before guests come (I know y’all can relate).
That is so not Ethiopian!
For Ethiopians, guests are welcome no matter what. I have loved how Karyn has stretched herself to not always have to have everything in order… She does love to have a tidy house, but she continues to push into having guests over – house tidy or not.
Ready or not, here we come. Our family is set to return to Ethiopia in November where we will serve alongside the amazing men and women who rescue children from the streets everyday. I am so blessed to have a wife who has tried so hard to get our family ready for this big transition.
Sharing life and ministry with Karyn makes the journey just a little easier than it would be otherwise!
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…
I 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.
Abazu 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!
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
This year's “Permanently His Campaign” has me thinking a lot about our work in Ethiopia. More specifically, I've been thinking about the Kota Ganate Agriculture Project - something we started almost six years ago - because permanency is what this project is all about. Where we're from, “putting down roots” means to establish yourself permanently somewhere - to make a place your home. You make friends there, make a home there, start a family there - you become part of the place just as much as the place becomes a part of you.
I guess you could say my family and I have put down roots in Ethiopia in more ways than one. With Kota Ganate we're “putting down roots” for a generation of children who desperately need the permanency TFC provides, children like Abel, Sossina, and Metu.
Kota Ganate provides long-term sustainability to ensure these kids and many others will find the permanency they need.
As we literally put down roots with each crop we plant, pray with us for God to deepen our financial roots through Kota Ganate so we can continue to offer street children in Ethiopia the chance to become Permanently His.
I am happy to report we have a very important flock of chickens at Kota Ganate right now. These chickens will be the parent stock for the hatchery we have been developing for several years. We received this flock at the end of June just after they hatched. For those of you who aren't in the poultry biz, parent stock are the chickens that lay the eggs which are then hatched to produce chicks for the hatchery. They are the mama and daddy birds, if you will.
By the end of the year, we will be able to start hatching chicks ourselves and selling them to local farmers! Our short-term goal is to hatch 1000 chicks per month. Then we will quickly increase our production throughout next year. Each chick sold will produce 75 cents in income for Onesimus (each chick bought and raised by a farmer will produce significant income for him and his family as well, helping the local economy).
Early next year we will actually be producing a profit at the Kota Ganate Hatchery! As we increase production, all of the profits will help fund Onesimus' ministries to children living on the streets. I'm excited about that - how about you?
Finally, I want to thank those of you who have been praying for me. For two months I've been struggling with a knee injury, which has kept me confined in my house for the majority of the time.
Despite being unable to do much myself, the work on the Kota Ganate Agriculture Project has continued. It is a good reminder that this is God's work, not my own. Please continue to pray for me as my knee is still weak.
By Kelly McGugan Thursday, June 9, I will be going back to Ethiopia for the third time in twelve months. While the previous two visits presented their own separate set of circumstances surrounding them, this trip will be the first of its kind for me. I am actually leading a group of short-term missionaries to work with our friends and partners in Addis Ababa.
Although this is my first experience leading a trip and the enemy is trying to attack me and lead me to believe that I am inadequate, honestly, I am not really that nervous about it. I have spent some time thinking over the trip and realize God has me right where he wants me. When we rely on the Lord to sustain us and guide us, He never gives us anything we cannot handle with His help.
Additionally, I can look back and see how He prepared my heart for this trip. My first time around, almost exactly a year ago, He sent me on a short term mission trip with my church and allowed me to see how I was not seeing the big picture (more on that in a bit). The second time, the Lord sent me back to Addis Ababa for a full month to learn the culture, develop relationships, and learn to rely on Him to provide.
Looking back on both trips, I could not have guessed what He had in store for me in the future. I certainly would have freaked out a bit had I known He planned to have me lead a trip and a full team back to Ethiopia. However, reading Matthew 6:34 (“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”) helped me understand I’m called to just focus on the NOW and God will take care of tomorrow.
"When we rely on the Lord
to sustain us and guide us,
He never gives us anything
we cannot handle with His help."
As we prepare to leave for Ethiopia, I pray that God opens the eyes and the hearts of the folks that are coming with me. I remember how my world was turned upside down by the Lord last year through my time in Ethiopia. There was a time when I thought I got it. I thought that because I went to church, put my family first, gave my tithe, sang the songs, was a good person, and here and there did some good deeds for the day, God would say – “Here is my son Kelly, with who I am pleased.”
That is what I thought was right. However, I was missing the point; I wasn't seeing the big picture. Much like the stories of how the people in Matthew 25 were missing the point, I was simply going through the motions of what I thought God wanted of me.
I was stuck in the mindset of “Hey God, I’ve lived a pretty good life, so what do you have for ME?” That kind of mindset that says I’ll do good for the less fortunate when I can, I’ll read my bible, pray, and go to church; but I am not doing that for God, because of my relationship with Him, or for the poor and needy ... I am doing that for me. Thus we serve out of narcissism, in the name of "good works", and we have not allowed God to work in and through us.
Jesus tells us whatever we do to the least of these we do it for Him (Matt 25:40). In that, He isn’t saying to help the poor because He identifies with them, He is saying HE IS THE POOR. God sent His son to save us in the poorest and most humble of beginnings. In knowing what He did for me, and all of us, I was able to see how I did not need to be given anything because of my actions or deeds. I was able to love for the sake of love.
While I can see these things in myself, what are the things in your own life that you're doing away from your relationship with the Lord? Are you stuck in religious habits? Or are you seeing the transformation work of Jesus Christ move in your life and those around you?
In saying all this, I pray that God moves in each and every one of the team members during our time in Ethiopia. I ask you to join in our adventure that God has called us all on, following on the blog and praying through our experiences and travels that God will reveal in someone’s heart, maybe even yours, that He wants more.